Photo Gallery | Independence Day 5K Road Race
PITTSFIELD -- As Kent Lemme made the turn onto Wahconah Street near the end of the Pittsfield Independence Day 5-kilometer race, he was hanging right behind Weyessa "Ace" McAlister.
But up ahead, Lemme said he saw a familiar sign and had to make a move.
"We got to that last hill and I didn't know if I had it," Lemme said. "I tucked in behind [McAlister] a little bit trying to recuperate a little bit.
"I saw the Tahiti [Takeout] sign and said it's time to go."
Go is what Lemme did, passing McAlister in those final yards to finish first in the 2014 race Friday morning.
Lemme finished the 5-k in 15 minutes, 47 seconds, beating out the runner from Monument Mountain Regional High School, who finished in 15:50.
The three-second margin of victory was the smallest in the recent history of the event. Two years ago, Klaus Schmidt beat Lemme by five seconds.
"It's been eight years" since Lemme last won on the Fourth of July. "Ten years since my first one. I was 37 when I won it the first time, then 39 and now 47."
Lemme becomes the first masters (age 40-older) runner to finish first overall in the Independence Day Race.
There was a familiar face crossing the line first in the women's competition. Emily Mareb of New York City, a former runner at Monument Mountain, won her second Independence Day race in as many years and her third in four years. Mareb clocked in at 17:19, nearly two minutes faster than Lee's Hayley Bowers (19:18).
"I definitely wanted to win," she said as morning rain pelted the runners at the finish line.
The one year in the last four that didn't have Mareb winning was 2012, when she finished second to Lee's Tara Dooley.
More than 1,400 runners had registered for the Friday race, but when all was said and done, 1,179 braved the rainy conditions to run along the Fourth of July Parade route in downtown Pittsfield.
It was 10 degrees cooler than it was a year ago, and rainy instead of humid. That made it a better day to run.
When the racers took off from upper Wahconah Street, the leaders pulled away quickly. Lemme and McAlister were part of a group that also included Mark Rabasco of Pittsfield, city native Stephen Dowsett of Newburyport and reigning All-Eagle boys cross country MVP Tucker McNinch of Lenox. And by the time they passed Wahconah Park, the top pack was well established.
That group of five started to be whittle down as they ran south on North Street. The last to lose contact with Lemme and McAlister was Rabasco.
"It was about a mile-and-a-half in," Rabasco said. "Kent made a move. It was a good spot for it. I was happy with where I was too."
McAlister, who won the 2-mile run at the Western/Central Massachusetts Division II high school meet and was fifth in states, said he was trying to go at his own pace. He said that the pace he and Lemme used helped him, but at the end, it was Lemme who ran the high schooler down.
"I haven't run for a week now," said McAlister. "I was still on my break from track season. It was good to be here. I never ran in this competition before."
Mareb's 11th-place overall finish was the highest for a woman since Allison Krol finished sixth overall in 2010. And to hear Mareb tell it, she was a little late to start.
"Unfortunately, I missed the start a little, so during my first mile, I didn't start my watch and didn't know my pace," she said. "I felt great and I'm surprised I ran that time because I felt really comfortable. I can't believe it was that fast, because it didn't feel like it."
Mareb's time was six seconds faster than her winning time last year, and 51 seconds faster than her winning time in 2011.