UMaine’s Sam Mills cruises to title as top mainer at Beach to Beacon – Press Herald | Gmx Pharm

Biddeford’s Sam Mills celebrates as he nears the finish line at the TD Beach to Beacon 10K. Mills was the top finisher among the Maine men in 31 minutes and 8 seconds. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

CAPE ELIZABETH — When Sam Mills broke away from a strong group of Maine runners by around the 3-mile mark in Saturday’s TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race, he found himself all alone.

“I couldn’t really see anyone in front of me until at mile 5 I started to see some of the elite coming back. For the last three miles it felt like I was leading the beach to Beacon,” said Mills, 21, who will begin his junior year at the University of Maine. “I was like, ‘I’m winning.'”

Mills won the men’s race in Maine, crossing the finish line on a hot and muggy day with a strong time of 31 minutes and 9 seconds. As he approached the line in the last 200 yards to the cheers of hundreds of spectators, Mills celebrated with arms raised and a big grin.

“It means so much to me because it’s been such a long journey and being so closely tied to the Maine running community coming here,” Mills said. “Obviously, at this starting line, the elite (runners) are in front of us, but everyone I’m standing next to feels like my teammate.”

For Mills, the first step on this journey began in his senior year at Biddeford High. Summing up his high school career, he said, “I was a really good high school runner in Maine for two weeks, and it was the last two weeks of my senior outdoor season.” That spring, Mills won the 3,200 meters at the SMAA Meet and finished fifth in the Class A Championship.

“I wasn’t particularly talented. It was just that one outdoor season that got me over the hill to even go to UMaine.”

That spring, Mills posted a personal best 10,000 meter time of 30:40 on the outdoor course, the fourth fastest in UMaine history.

Matt Rand, 31, a Cape Elizabeth native who lives in Portland, finished second in 31:30 while Spencer McElwain, 33, a Caribou Native American who lives in Saco, finished third in 31:38.

Mills, Rand and McElwain finished 14th through 16th overall.

Both Rand and McElwain knew Mills would be hard to beat.

“I follow (Mills) training and he runs a lot of kilometers. He is very fit. I knew he was going to be hard to beat,” said Rand, who graduated from Cape Elizabeth High in 2009 and later competed at Tufts University.

“He’s a great kid, really talented, and he puts the work into it. He’s doing 100-mile weeks so it’s cool to see what he’s doing and it’s not surprising to see him running away with it today,” said McElwain, who is an engineer at Idexx.

As soon as Mills crossed the line, there was a steady stream of finishers from Maine. Camden Black Ingersoll, 28, of Yarmouth was fourth among the Maine men in 31:42 followed by Ryan Jara of Gorham (31:51).

“My buddy Ryan Jara and I went back and forth for the last mile, probably five times,” said McElwain, who ran his 11th beach after Beacon.

Jesse Orach of Auburn, the 2016 and 2017 Maine men’s champion, finished eighth among the Maine men in 32:55. “That was a pretty cool race,” said Orach, 28. “I kind of fell off at 2 miles, but there was a whole group of Maine runners running together. It was pretty awesome.”

As a colleague, Mills will not be able to accept the $1,000 award as a top Maine man. He said he hopes to donate it to A Running Passion, which established the Coach Will Fulford College Scholarship Fund in 2017 to honor former Biddeford high cross country and track coach Will Fulford, who died unexpectedly in 2016 at the age of 29 died.

Mills said he received a scholarship after graduating from Biddeford in 2019. “Now I want to be able to give back if I can.”

Mills, an English major at UMaine, said he plans to use his extra COVID eligibility year to start graduate school.

“I will spend as much time as I can applying to the University of Maine because it has given me so much,” Mills said.

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