2016 Race Story

DSC06471​First-place ​Bridge of Flowers Classic 10K winner ​Larius Rop (center) from Agawam, MA, with second​-place ​winner​ Eric Blake (right) ​of West Hartford, CT, and ​third-place ​winner Matt Brooker ​of ​Albany​, NY​, on the winners' platform after the 2016 race.​

New winners at 38th Bridge of Flowers Road Race: Rop tops men's field; Tesfaye, women's

By Christian Avard
Special to The Independent

 SHELBURNE FALLS – A two-time winner from Agawam and a first-time runner from the Boston area were this year's winners in the 38th Annual Bridge of Flowers 10K Road Race on Saturday, Aug. 13. 
Larius Rop, 32, won the men's division with a time of 33:15 (pace of 5:22 per mile) and Semehar Tesfaye, 25, of Everett won the women's division with a time of 39:03 (pace of 6:18 per mile). This was Rop's third time winning the Bridge of Flowers 10K. For Tesfaye, it was her first.
  A total of 635 runners ran in this year's classic race. The hot, hazy, humid weather was overbearing as soon as the mist burned off the hills, which it did early on. Several runners fell to the ground after the finish line and some heat exhaustion was apparent, but race volunteers were helpful, plentiful and quick to provide lots of water and chairs for runners along with a congratulatory handshake. A misting tent was also set up outside Greenfield Savings Bank where runners could cool off quickly.
Race founder and Director Mike McCusker commended sponsors and volunteers for their efforts to once again help the race go off without a hitch. 
Steve Lewis Subaru 3K Run/Walk
  Two hundred-seventy-six runners and walkers took part in Saturday’s Steve Lewis Subaru 3K Run/Walk.
The weather was hot and muggy at the 8:15 a.m. start, but it did not defeat the runners' and walkers' spirits or perseverance — notably that of 3K runner Joanne Beauvais of Holyoke.
Beauvais, 31, stress-fractured her tibia when she ran in the College Town Classic Road Race in Amherst in May. She was sidelined for eight weeks and recovered just in time for the Steve Lewis Subaru 3K. 
And she ran this 3K eight months pregnant. 
“It's not easy running pregnant. A 3K is far as I can go,” she said with a laugh. 
Beauvais finished 23rd overall with a time of 15 minutes 38 seconds. 
“My doctors said to listen to myself, so I came back,” said the mother-to-be.  “I did this because it's my favorite activity to do. It was difficult for me not to run or walk for so long.”
Beauvais' baby, a boy, is due Oct. 4. She hasn't decided on a name for him, but when asked if he'll someday be a runner, Beauvais laughed and said “probably.” 
Male and female winners were both from the local area. Owa Hughes, 15, of Shelburne Falls, finished with a time of 10:58 (pace of 5:53 per mile) and Madison Boucias, 19, of Buckland, finished first for the women, in second place overall, with a time of 11:55 (pace of 6:24 per mile). 
Hughes is a student a Northfield Mount Hermon School and participating in the 5K is his legacy. When he was little, his parents pushed him in a stroller. As he grew older, he started running and, when he was 15 years old, he started winning. 
Asked how he handled the hot weather, the strategy, he said it was mind over matter . . . and good music. 
“I need to get into a mental place and just block out the heat,” Hughes said. “Listening to angry punk music helps me a lot, too.” 
Rounding out the remaining top 10 men were Tom Raffensperger, 51, of Greenfield with a time of 12:18; Benjamin Roberts, 15, of Sunderland (12:31); Aidan Lavalley, 15, of Arlington (12:52); Martin Keane, 45, of Sunderland (13:04); Toby Hughes, 12, of Shelburne Falls (13:10); Bryan Dole, 14, of Buckland (13:16); Owen Zinn-Keane, 12, of Sunderland (13:16); Anthony Lombardo, 61, of Portland, Ct. (13:28); and David O'Byrne, 17, of Norfolk (13:35). 
Rounding out the remaining top 10 women were Beth Roberge Friedrichs, 49, of Sunderland, with a time of 15:26; Johanna Guiod, 13, of Greenfield (15:35); Katie Huber, 18, of Bridgport, Vt. (15:38); Nora Burns, 11, of Havertown, PA (15:38); Joanne Beauvais, 31, of Holyoke (15:38); Megan Eldridge, 13, of Fort Mill, S.C. (15:46); Georgia Sackrey, 11, of Sunderland (16:33); Ava Shaw, 10, of Hubbardston (16:38); and Ivy Shattuck, 15, of South Deerfield (16:51).
The 10K challenge
  2015 men's winner, Matt Brooker, 25, of Albany, NY, led the race going into the first mile, but Rop passed him near the mile-and-a-half mark. Runner-up Eric Blake, 37, of West Hartford, CT caught Rop on Crittenden Hill and passed him, but by the time they reached the top of the hill, Rop took back the lead and never looked back. 
“I was feeling a little tired (at the hill) and I was concerned about the weather,” Rop said. “(Blake) looked good. I probably don't get to train on hills like he does, but I just took it easy and once the hill was over, I knew I was in the right place. The race was good and it was a pleasure to run it again.” 
Rop trains with the Westchester Track Club of New York City. His next race is Aug. 27, the Big 5K at the Eastern States Exposition, commonly referred to as “The Big E.” 
Brooker finished third overall. Although the weather was a factor for him, he was still satisfied with the result. 
“I felt super hot the whole time,” he said. “I went out at a pretty comfortable pace, but the other guys were just a lot stronger. It was a much stronger field this year.” 
Tesfaye came ready to run. The minute the cowbell rung, she went to the front and led throughout. She said she was surprised when she saw Crittenden Hill for the first time — which was during the race. She said she had never ran anything that steep before. 
“The hill is pretty tough,” Tesfaye said with a laugh. “I started too fast, jogged the hill and did what I could in the second half. I think one of the ladies caught me at the top of the hill.” 
Making it to the top and going downhill were Tesfaye's favorite parts of the race. She told The Independent that she plans to return next year to re-conquer the hill. 
“Next time, I will come back more prepared, start much slower, and do more hill training. Boston is pretty flat,” the winner said. 
Finishing second in the women's division was Heather MacLean, 20, of Amherst with a time of 39:23 (pace of 6:21 per mile). MacLean runs cross-country and track and field at UMass/Amherst.
“This was my first time. It took me two miles to get into it, then the hill. That was killer. After that it felt really great,” MacLean said. 
In third place was Apryl Sabadosa, 32, of Westfield. Sabadosa runs with the Western Mass. Distance Project and finished with a time of 39:48 (pace of 6:25 per mile). 
“(Tesfaye and MacLean) were very strong,” Sabadosa said. “It was a good competition. For me, it was about placing, and today I got lucky.” 
Rounding out the remaining top 10 men were Dan Smith, 38, of Shelburne Falls, with a time of 34:28; Mark Rabasco, 21, of Pittsfield (35:51); Nat Larson, 54, of Amherst (36:25); Arthur Besse, 43, of Templeton (37:21); John Stadtlander, 50, of Clifton Park, NY (37:44); Stephen Rathbun, 23, of Rawway, NJ (37:49); and John Herron, 33, of Shelburne Falls (38:46).
Rounding out the remaining top 10 women were Karen Bertasso, 32, of Albany, NY with a time of 40:17; Heidi Westover, 35, of Walpole, NH (41:30); Hannah Brooker, 25, of Albany, NY (41:40); Meghan Davis, 15, of Plainfield (41:56); Brittany Winslow, 22, of Queensbury, NY (42:17): Emily Bryans, 49, of Delanson, NY (42:58); and Hope Phelan, 28, of West Halifax, Vt. (43:01). 
Hilltown runners
  The hilltowns were represented with 87 runners in this year's Bridge of Flowers 10K Road Race. Michael Hoberman, 51, of Buckland, was among them. This year was his 10th running of the 10K here. Hoberman finished with a time of 47:30, 89th overall, 12th among hilltown runners and 11th among male hilltown runners.  
Hoberman is part of a local running group that runs year-round on Sundays. He said the race had a succession of good weather over the years and that this year’s wicked weather was “payback.” 
“This was the hottest and most humid race by far,” Hoberman said. “I've never raced in weather like this. My friend and one of the main organizers, Mike McCusker, his watch word is 'chill on the hill.' I did that. I'll definitely remember the heat this year.” 
Finishing first in the men's hilltown runners division was Dan Smith, 38, of Shelburne Falls. Running for the Western Mass. Distance Project, Smith finished with a time of 34:28 (pace of 5:33). Runner-up was Smith's teammate John Herron, 33, also of Shelburne Falls. Herron finished with a time of 38:46 (pace of 6:15). Third place went to John Schatz, 36, of Shelburne Falls with a time of 42:38 (pace of 6:52). 
Finishing first in the women's hilltown runners division was Meghan Davis, 15, of Plainfield. Davis finished with a time of 41:56 (pace of 6:45). Runner-up was Joellen Cameron, 53, of Conway. Her time was 48:32 (pace of 7:49). Third place went to Jackie Wells, 13, of Shelburne Falls with a time of 49:45 (pace of 8:01). 
Rounding out the remaining top 10 among the male hilltown runners were Al Ladd, 57, of Colrain with a time of 44:16; Matthew Lamontagne, 20, of Plainfield (45:42); Graham Warder, 56, of Shelburne Falls (46:00); Sean Dacus, 45, of Conway (46:00); Samuel Rode, 18, of Colrain (46:27); Aidan Sandivik, 17, of Shelburne Falls (46:55); and Sam Downes, 21, of Shelburne Falls (47:05).
Rounding out the remaining top 10 among female hilltown runners were Lilliana Wells, 15, of Shelburne Falls with a time of 50:15; Cara Davenport, 23, of Plainfield (51:33); Angela Schatz, 33, of Shelburne Falls (52:24); Paulina Baltazar, 37, of Shelburne Falls (53:25); Molly Cantor, 49, of Shelburne Falls (53:46); Samantha McCarthy, 30, of Conway (55:02); and Clare Donohue-Meyer, 23, of Ashfield (56:00).  
“Boston Billy” Rodgers returns to Bridge of Flowers 10K Race
  Legendary runner Bill Rodgers, 69, of Boxborough slipped almost unobtrusively into the crowd of runners and took part in this year’s race, finishing 203rd overall with a time of 55:05 (pace of 8:52). 
Rodgers, born in Hartford, CT, won the Boston Marathon and the New York Marathon four times in the 1970s and early 1980s. In 1975, he was an American record holder in the marathon and in 1979 he broke the record again. Rodgers competed in marathon at the 1976 Olympics in Montreal and was also ranked number one in the world in 1975, 1977, and 1979 by Track & Field News.
This was the fourth time in 24 years that Rogers has run the 10K here. Rogers said he first heard about the race from his longtime friend and running partner Joe Martino, formerly of Greenfield. 
He placed second overall in 1992, 1993 and won his age group in 1992, 1993 and 1994. On Saturday he bestowed many first-place medals to runners and after the award ceremony, signed copies of his book Marathon Man and took plenty of time to talk with folks who lined up for books, autographs, photos and just to chat.
“It’s a beautiful little place,” Rodgers said of Shelburne Falls. 
As for the famed Crittenden Hill, Rodgers said it is one of the most challenging hills he's ever run — “worse” than Heartbreak Hill in the Boston Marathon.
“It's exceptionally steep,” he said. “It's a physical experience and the race is demanding. It's just like a hiking run. This year was extremely challenging, especially since it was 87 degrees at the finish.”
This year's Bridge of the Flowers 10K run coincided with the Summer Olympic Games in Rio de Janiero. Rodgers, who ran two marathons in Rio in 1981 and 1982, said marathon running is the toughest in the world because the sport is internationalized. 
“Sports like baseball and football are just domestic,” he said. “(With marathon running) we're talking about everyone. Everyone has a track team and a marathon team, and that's tough competition. When asked what he thought of the Olympic marathon route, Rodgers said with a smile, “It won't be as tough as the Bridge of Flowers, let me tell you that.”

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