The pros knew what they were doing at the annual Aetna Falmouth Mile on Saturday, August 17.
Winners Josh Thompson and Cory McGee both used late kicks to score victories, in the men’s and women’s races respectively, to earn a $3,500 check for first place. The event was the final race to be held at the James Kalperis Track at Falmouth High School before an overhaul of the surface gets underway in the coming weeks.
Both the men’s and women’s races broke down similarly, with final lap moves making all the difference.
In the men’s race Riley Masters took the pace out quickly and set the tone over the first couple of laps, but faded after starting strong. While Masters did the work, Thompson laid in wait. He came through in third place after laps two and three and waited for the final lap to jet ahead. His plan worked well as he ran away over the final 100 meters to win with ease in 3:58.39. David Ribich was second (3:59.78), and Tripp Hurt (4:00.57) was third. Masters finished seventh.
“I had to make sure I had one more gear,” Thompson said. “This means a lot. It gets my confidence up. I’ve been struggling in the past and to come here and win this race. Falmouth puts on a great race and I’ve never been in this kind of environment.”
Katie Mackey, who had won in Falmouth three times already, made a move on lap three that she hoped would set her up for her fourth title. Her break to the front was strong, but did not open up enough separation to get her the victory.
Over the final 400 meters McGee turned on the jets and was able to slide up lane three to the front. With a burst to the finish she crossed the line ahead of the competition. She broke the tape in a time of 4:29.51. She said that the strategy was set before the start and the plan that was decided upon worked.
“I talked to my coach and we decided not to do anything early on and just race today. I’m happy that I was under 4:30, that seems like a good benchmark to me,” McGee said. “It wasn’t (planned) to go with 200 meters to go. It was if I felt like I had it for the finish (to take it).”
The decision to go outside was out of necessity, she said.
“I didn’t really see an opening,” she said. “I had to make an effort to get around her.”
Heather Kampf finished second with a time of 4:31.24 and Mackey placed third in 4:31.69.
“This race is really one of the most exciting miles in the country,” McGee said. “It has more history than a lot of the others and just has a really fun energy surrounding it. I’ve been in the mix a few times but finally winning it is really fun.”
By running under 4:31, McGee picked up an additional $1,000 in a winner’s time bonus.
High School Miles
The Tommy Cochary High School Mile boys’ race was the fastest one in the history of the race. Falmouth’s Caleb Gartner and summer resident Bobby Carew had said before the race that they planned on taking the race out fast and wanted to see if anyone else would go with them.
It turned out that they were not the only ones who had that idea.
The elite group of some of the best high school runners in the state were very loose before the start of the race. They chased one another around in a game of Duck, Duck, Goose and felt no big meet pressure at all.
Spurred on by the rock music playing and the large crowd in attendance, Walpole High’s Shane Grant charged to the front and led the pack through a record pace of just 66 seconds on the first lap. Grant faded a tad on the final lap, but held on for third place.
Tyler Brogan, the winner from Franklin High and 2019 MIAA Division 1 mile champ, said that Grant’s bravado made him realize that the race was going to be a fast one. Brogan shattered the meet record with a time of 4:21.62, which was nearly four seconds faster than Garrett O’Toole’s 2013 record.
Mike Griffin, the 2017 Tommy Cochary High School Mile winner, placed second in 4:22.16, with Grant rounding out the podium in 4:23.10.
As for the local representatives, Gartner finished fourth and Carew was fifth. Gartner ran 4:26.58 and Carew crossed in 4:27.35. Both times would have been good enough to win a majority of the previous races during the event’s decade of existence.
“The pace was really pushed early and there wasn’t much left in the tank to push it for the last 800 (meters),” Carew said. “It was so much fun, especially racing with the guy I’ve been training with all summer.”
Gartner, the lone junior in the field, said he was surprised by the pace early on, but that he had a lot of fun racing.
“They went out in like 65 (seconds), which was a little faster than I would have gone out,” Gartner said. “It’s great. Everyone’s out here, and the’re all cheering for you. We never get to race in front of a crowd as big as this, so whatever the result we’ll be happy. I’m going to be back next year.”
Winning for the girls was Makayla Paige, a Tewksbury High School junior, in 5:06.05.
Emma Kerimo, of Concord-Carlisle High, went out fast and led over the first three laps, but was unable to bury the field completely behind her. Paige came on hard late in the game and pulled ahead to win. Summer Bejarano, a sophomore at Silver Lake Regional High School, was third in 5:13.53.
“It hasn’t really set in yet,” Paige said of the win. “I’m mostly thinking about how much pain my legs are in.”
Brogan and Paige will each have a grant of $2,500 awarded to their school in their name to be used in a way that implements a change in athletics or wellness, such as new equipment, team uniforms, or after-school wellness activities.