Sporting a Cheshire cat-like grin down the stretch, Ben Flanagan leaped through the finish line and into the Falmouth Road Race history book.
The 23-year-old distance runner from Kitchener, Ont., continued to beat the odds Sunday morning, becoming the first Canadian — male or female — to win in the 46-year history of the event, contested in the coastal town on Cape Cod, Mass.
Competing in only his second road race since Grade 9, Flanagan outkicked American professional runner Scott Fauble to complete the scenic 11-kilometre (seven-mile) stretch from Woods Hole to Falmouth Heights in 32 minutes 21 seconds. He is also first North American to win since 1988 when American Mark Curp, who held the world record for the half marathon from 1985 to 1990, prevailed.
Fauble, who was the fourth-place finisher at the 2016 U.S. Olympic trials in the 10,000 metres, clocked 32:23 while Kenyan-American distance runner and 2016 Olympian Leonard Korir was third after finishing second the past two years. Fellow Kenyan Stephen Sambu, who was bidding for an all-time best fifth men's title at Falmouth, placed fourth in 32:32.
"I never go into a race expecting to win, but the goal is always to win, right?" Flanagan told the Quad-City Times last month before his second-place finish at the 44th annual Quad-City Times Bix 7 road race in Davenport, Iowa.
On June 7, the fifth-year senior at the University of Michigan used a monster closing kick to win the 10,000 at the NCAA track and field championships in Eugene, Ore.
Flanagan, who was seeded 23rd in the 24-man field and failed to qualify last year due to a foot injury and sacral stress fracture in his lower back, surged past Alabama star Vincent Kiprop over the last 150 metres of the 25th and final lap to win gold by 46-100ths of a second in 28:34.53.
After the initial shock had worn off for Flanagan, who shaved 39 seconds off his personal-best time, he was caught by cameras saying, "Where's my Mom?"
For the record, Michelle Flanagan was seated on the backstretch on the other side of the track from Ben, a graduate student pursuing a master of social work degree in interpersonal practice and mental health.
Sunday's performance was the latest in a long list of accolades for Flanagan, including:
- Division I outdoor track scholar athlete of the year by the U.S. Track and Field and Cross-Country Coaches Association.
- Recipient of three additional USTFCCCA All-Academic awards for cross-country.
- NCAA postgraduate scholarship recipient.
- University of Michigan male athlete of the year.
- Big Ten 10,000m champion.
- Michigan nominee for Big Ten outstanding sportsmanship award.
- 2018 Canadian bronze medallist over 5,000m.
The Falmouth Road Race was the brainchild of Tommy Leonard, a bartender in Boston and Falmouth, who shut down the Brothers Four bar in 1972 to watch Frank Shorter win the first Olympic marathon for the U.S., in Munich.
With the help of others, the first race in Falmouth was held the following year and attracted 93 participants. Shorter paid a visit to win the 1975 event, which now draws an international field of Olympians, elite athletes and recreational runners, with Sunday's race having 12,800 official entrants.
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CBC | Sports News