CAPE ELIZABETH, Maine — Erica Jesseman had a breakthrough run at last year’s TD Beach to Beacon 10K.
The former Scarborough High School and University of New Hampshire running standout topped one of her mentors, Sheri Piers of Falmouth, to win the Maine resident women’s division of the state’s premier road race for the first time.
And not only did Jesseman edge the only Maine woman to have beaten her in this race in both 2011 and 2012, her winning time of 34 minutes, 17.6 seconds was just 0.6 seconds off Piers’ 2009 Maine women’s Beach to Beacon record and more than a minute better than her previous best for the 6.2-mile route of 35:30.
But just as Jesseman finally conquered one friendly rival, a new challenge awaits Saturday morning in the 17th edition of the road race Joan Benoit-Samuelson built.
The 25-year-old Jesseman, who on July 19 set a women’s course record with a 27:34 clocking at the Pat’s Pizza Yarmouth Clam Festival Classic 5-miler, likely won’t even be the favorite in this year’s Maine women’s division.
That pre-race honor likely goes to 32-year-old Michelle Lilienthal, who actually finished one position ahead of Jesseman in last year’s Beach to Beacon when the Iowa native was still living in Minnesota.
Lilienthal, who competed in the 2008 and 2012 U.S. Olympic Marathon Trials and already has qualified for the same event in 2016, is a Maine resident, living in Portland.
Lilienthal and Jesseman — a two-time Hartford Marathon champion — already have raced against each other this year, most recently on the Fourth of July, when Lilienthal won the women’s division of the L.L. Bean 10K in Freeport with a time of 35:16, 30 seconds ahead of Jesseman.
Piers, a three-time Beach to Beacon Maine women’s champion, also remains a contender for a top finish, but two former Maine high school standouts running collegiately who were expected to run, Emily Durgin of Standish (UConn) and Abbey Leonardi of Kennebunkport (Oregon) were late scratches for the event.
On the men’s side, Will Geoghegan of Brunswick looms as the favorite to claim top in-state honors after finishing as the runner-up to Veazie’s Riley Masters last August.
Masters won’t be in this year’s event, as the former University of Maine and Oklahoma University All-American who races professionally for Brooks Running has been in Europe this summer racing at shorter distances.
Masters won last year’s Beach to Beacon Maine men’s division in 30:19.3, 14 seconds ahead of Geoghegan, the recent Dartmouth College graduate who will use his final season of collegiate track and cross country eligibility beginning this fall at the University of Oregon, where he will pursue a master’s degree.
Geoghegan was a two-time Class A cross country state champion before graduating from Brunswick High School in 2010. He also was a New England champion in the indoor mile and outdoor 1,600-meter run as a senior with the Dragons.
While at Dartmouth, the 22-year-old Geoghegan finished 14th at the 2013 NCAA cross country championships, and last winter, he ran an Ivy League-record 3:58.04 in the mile during an indoor meet at Boston University.
He went on to earn All-American honors by finishing fifth in the mile at the 2014 NCAA indoor championships.
Geoghegan is coming off a victory at the Pat’s Pizza Yarmouth Clam Festival Classic 5-miler, with his time of 24:29 edging second-place Jonny Wilson of Falmouth by 21 seconds.
Wilson, 26, will be another contender for Maine honors. He hasn’t finished third in the division in the last three Beach to Beacon races, placing third a year ago in 30:49.3 after second-place finishes in both 2012 (30:51.2) and 2011 (30:42).
The 2011 Maine men’s champion, Louie Luchini of Ellsworth, had planned to run in this year’s event, but race officials announced this week that a nagging Achilles tendon injury originally suffered in June would prevent the former Stanford University All-American from competing.
North Yarmouth native Ben True, who lives in Hanover, New Hampshire, set the Maine men’s record for the Beach to Beacon of 29:10.3 in 2009.