When Riley Masters became the first University of Maine runner to break the elusive 4-minute barrier in the mile on Feb. 13, 2010, he accomplished a goal every distance runner dreams about.
The only drawback was that the Bangor native didn’t do it in his home state, as he achieved the milestone at Boston University’s Valentine Invitational.
“The Maine running community has given me so much, that’s something I wanted to do for them,” Masters said.
He will have a chance to do so Friday when he competes in the Elite Men’s Mile at the first Maine Distance Gala at Bowdoin College in Brunswick.
Events start at 5 p.m., and Masters’ race will go off at approximately 7:10.
The meet, which has a similar format to the old Maine Distance Festival which was run at Bowdoin until 2003, features a mile run for men’s and women’s masters runners, a men’s and women’s 2-mile run and 800, mile and 2-mile races for high school girls and boys.
Should Masters crack the 4-minute barrier on Bowdoin’s historic Jack Magee track, he’ll become the first Maine resident to run under four minutes on his home soil.
“Hopefully everything works out and I’m able to crack the 4-minute figure in Maine,” he said.
The race will have a home flavor to it as Masters’ former Bangor High School teammate, Casey Quaglia, is running, along with Portland native and University of Virginia standout Sintayehu Taye, the ACC 1,500-meter champion this spring.
In fact, Quaglia will be Masters’ pace man, or “rabbit,” in the mile.
“It’ll be sentimental to have him there,” Masters said.
Those two certainly have a history, as they were one of the top distance running duos the Eastern Maine high school scene has ever witnessed, leading Bangor to state championships in indoor and outdoor track in 2007.
With Quaglia’s outstanding speed, Masters is confident he’ll be able to set a sub four-minute pace.
“I think he’s going to be able to get the job done,” Masters said. “He’s playing a big role in this, and I think that he’ll have a big impact in how the race plays out. He has a lot of speed and he’s a tough kid and very determined. I know he cares about this race as well.”
After an outstanding winter in which he qualified for the NCAA indoor track and field championships in the 1,500- and 3,000-meter runs, Masters took the spring season off to rest. He turned to the coaching ranks in mentoring the track and field team at Leonard Middle School in Old Town.
“I had the time of my life and it was nice to experience running from a different perspective,” he said. “The kids just made it very enjoyable.”
Masters was fully aware of the history of the Maine Distance Festival when meet organizers Jorma Kurry, George Mendros and Brandon Bonsey came calling.
“I heard a lot of great things about that and there used to be a lot of great-caliber athletes that (went) to those meets,” Masters said. “I wanted to be a part of it. The moment that I got a phone call and an email I was all for it.”
He also thinks the races will have a great impact on distance running in Maine, particularly the high school athletes competing in the meet.
“I think it’s great for the state of Maine, so really I’m just going to get out there and have some fun,” Masters said.
Masters’ summer racing slate also includes the Walter Hunt Memorial Fourth of July 3K from Brewer to Bangor, which he said Ellsworth running standout Louie Luchini will also run.
Admission to the Maine Distance Gala is $3 for adults and $1 for students.