Photo Gallery | 4th annual Steel Rail Half Marathon
ADAMS — Call it a hat trick. Call it a three-peat. Just make sure that you call Eric Ashe the champion of the Steel Rail Half Marathon — again.
Ashe won his third consecutive half marathon and set his second course record in as many seasons. The Boston runner covered the 13.1 miles in 1 hour, 9 minutes, 43 seconds. That was 23 seconds faster than his 1:10:06 winning time in 2015. His winning time in 2014 was 1:11:48.
"It was a fun race," said Ashe. "I'm gearing up for some track races, so today was just trying to get a good effort in and try to come away with some first-place cash, and not kill myself for track coming up."
Apryl Sabadosa, who finished third in the St. Patrick's Day Race in Holyoke back in March, was the first woman to finish. She was 13th overall and timed in at 1:21:31, some four minutes faster than women's runner-up Abby Mahoney. Last year's winner, Heather Mahoney, was 17th overall. Sabadosa's finish was the best ever for a woman runner.
"I definitely didn't have a plan. I knew it was a fast course and I was hoping I could do well on it," said Sabadosa, who won a 5K in Westfield on Saturday, running barefoot.
According to racewire.com, there were 700 racers who finished the half-marathon course, which began at the Berkshire Mall, and followed the Ashuwillticook Rail Trail into Adams.
In each of Ashe's previous wins, he hit the finish line all alone. In 2014, he won by a minute-and-a-half and last year, he won by two minutes. This year, Jake Sienko was with him the whole way, and Ashe held off the runner from Warwick, R.I. by only 4.9 seconds. Sienko's time was 1:09:47, while Craig Coon of Ballston Spa, N.Y., was third in 1:10:56.
"The past couple of years, it's been more of a steady from the gun," said Ashe. "Today, it was more of a relaxed 10 miles and a hard last three."
At the first mile mark, when the runners begin the second lap around the mall's perimeter road, Ashe, Sienko and Pittsfield's Mark Rabasco were basically shoulder-to-shoulder, with Chris Mahoney of Westford right behind.
As the group finished the second lap and headed for the Rail Trail, they were all together, with Coon just off the pace of the leaders.
"We were cruising," said Sienko, who finished 71st in the U.S. Olympic marathon trials earlier this year in Los Angeles. "We had a good group of guys, kind of rolling 5:20 paces from the start almost. It was great. Work with guys and relax early in the race.
"It's a beautiful road, too."
When the runners crossed Route 8 at Cheshire Lake, there was a new leader. Coon had crossed Route 8 first in about 40 minutes from the start of the race, Sienko and Ashe were right on his heels.
"It wasn't probably the smartest thing, but I knew I didn't have a kick," said Coon. "I figured I'd go hard in the beginning and try to hold on.
"I made it to about [mile] 13, and they started kicking it up a gear."
For the women's champion's part, Sabadosa said that her plan was to run what she could coming off the Saturday race in Westfield. The flat course did not hurt.
"I had a surge at mile 8, and I hung on. The last three, I did speed up because it was a downhill finish," she said. "It was a great course."
There were a handful of wheelchair contestants in this year's Steel Rail, and the first racer to finish made it a special day for all.
Steve Ferro of Cheshire, who won a Western Massachusetts cross country championship in 2006 while a runner at Hoosac Valley, was the first competitor across the line. He raced the course in 1 hour flat, with Naomi Clark of Ashfield following by five seconds.
In 2012, Ferro was paralyzed in a motorcycle accident.
"It was really a blessing to be a part of this race and to raise awareness for the handicapped and disabled community," Ferro said. "I'm very happy to ride along with my friend Naomi."
Race co-organizer Shiobbean Lemme said she has been trying to get Ferro into the Steel Rail lineup for a couple of years. He said he was glad to be a part of it.
"I definitely wanted to have someone do it along with me in the hand cycle," he said."
Top 25 Finishers
1. Eric Ashe, Boston, 1 hour, 9 minutes, 43 seconds; Jake Sienko, Warwick, R.I., 1:09:47; 3. Craig Coon, Malta, N.Y., 1:10:56; 4. Chris Mahoney, Westford, 1:13:17; 5. Mark Rabasco, Pittsfield, 1:15:38; 6. Nicholas Curelop, Housatonic, 1:15;46; 7. Mark Mayall, Maynard, 1:16:23; 8. Ed Waller, Newton, 1:17:43; 9. Joe Hegarty, Springfield, 1:18:38; 10. Stephen Foley, Pittsfield, 1:18:56.
11. Logan Wilson, Lanesborough, 1:19:30; 12. Matt Rabasco, Pittsfield, 1:19:52; 13. Apryl Sabadosa, Westfield, 1:21:31; 14. Jim Eaton, Castleton, N.Y., 1:21:36; 15. Mike Spitzer, Sheffield, 1:24:37; 16. Abby Mahoney, Holyoke, 1:25:14; 17. Jon Whitney, Andover, 1:25:41; 18. Greg Fournier, Pittsfield, 1:26:55; 19. Peter Fratini, Westfield, 1:27:10; 20. Jonathan Golden, Slingerlands, N.Y., 1:27:34.
21. Nathan Jones, 1:27:37; 22. Jackie Lemme, Sommerville, N.J., 1:28:31; 23. Stephan Ogle, Pittsfield, 1:28:44; 24. Mark Staples, Holyoke, 1:28:53; 25. Brian Gibbons, Dalton, 1:29:00.
Female Open winners —1. Apryl Sabadosa, 1:21:31; 2. Abby Manhoney, 1:25:14; 3. Jackie Lemme, 1:28:31.
Male Open winners — 1. Eric Ashe, 1:09:43; 2. Jake Sienko, 1:09:47; 3. Craig Coon, 1:10:56.
Masters — Female: Kate Sanders, Dalton, 1:33:26. Male: Mark Mayall, 1:16:23.
19-under — Female: Karli Manship, Pittsfield, 1:47:48. Male — Matt Rabasco, 1:19:52.
20-29 — Female: Elizabeth Gabrielson, Chelmsford, 1:34:49. Male: Mark Rabasco, 1:15:38.
30-39 — Female: Heather Williams, Pittsfield, 1:35:20. Male: Chris Mahoney, 1:13:17.
40-49 — Female: Ann Marie Swann, Williamstown, 1:38:08. Male: Jonathan Golden, 1:27:34.
50-59 — Female: Joellen Cameron, Conway, 1:37:08. Male: Mike Spitzer,1:24:37.
60-69 — Female: Cynthia Gardner, Pittsfield, 1:43:15. Male: Bob Dion, Readsboro, Vt., 1:42.54.
70-over — Male: Alex Silverman, Northampton, 1:49:25.
Contact Howard Herman at 413-496-6253.