John Busque of Manchester, Connecticut, wins Bridge of Flowers 10K

  • Runners begin their trek at Saturday's 39th running of the Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic in Shelburne Falls. RECORDER STAFF/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Joni Beauvais of Wilbraham receives a high-five from runner-up Ben Roberts of Sunderland after Beauvais crossed the line first overall in the Steve Lewis Subaru Charity 3K Run/Walk on Saturday in Shelburne Falls. Beauvais topped the field with a time of 11 minutes, 55 seconds. RECORDER STAFF/JEFF LAJOIE

  • The runners make their way out of town at the start of Saturday's Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic. Eventual winner John Busque (5) is at the front of the pack. RECORDER STAFF/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Plainfield's Meghan Davis, a standout runner at Mohawk Trail Regional High School, crosses the finish line in 51st place overall during Saturday's Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic. Davis finished in a time of 42:19. RECORDER STAFF/JEFF LAJOIE

  • John Busque crosses the finish line victorious at Saturday's Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic. The Manchester, Conn. resident traversed the course in 31:48 to hold off defending champion and this year's runner-up Glarius Rop by 43 seconds. RECORDER STAFF/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Spectators cheer on Holly Rees of Cambridge, as she crosses the finish line as the women's winner in Saturday's Bridge of Flowers 10K with a time of 37:05. RECORDER STAFF/JEFF LAJOIE

  • John Busque of Manchester, Conn. builds a lead over defending champion Glarius Rop as the runners near the 2-mile marker in Saturday's Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic. Busque pulled away late to capture the title with a time of 31:48. RECORDER STAFF/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Cotton Hewes of Three Rivers (left) eyes the finish line with Hope Phelan of West Halifax, Vt. close behind during Saturday's Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic. RECORDER STAFF/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Timothy Jacanes of Northampton makes his way toward the finish line in Saturday's Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic. The 15-year old took 30th place overall with a time of 39:57. RECORDER STAFF/JEFF LAJOIE

For the Gazette
Published: 8/13/2017 7:21:48 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — John Busque had some issues registering for Saturday’s 39th annual running of the Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic. Those troubles did not carry over to the course.

The Manchester, Connecticut, native and former University of Hartford standout registered hours before the race Saturday morning and then won the event. He paced the field with a time of 31 minutes, 48 seconds.

Another first-timer also captured the women’s title, as Holly Rees of Somerville crossed the line in 37:05 to win the women’s race by over one minute.

Busque found out about the Bridge of Flowers race while running an event one week earlier. When some people began discussing the course, Busque thought he would give it a try.

During the week, Busque got in contact with Bridge of Flowers elite runner coordinator Dan Smith and was given a coupon code to enter the race, but the code did not work. When he checked his email on Thursday night, he found out he was not officially entered. He tried to register online again, but registration had closed, so Busque showed up on Saturday morning to register before the race.

Busque, who recently earned his doctorate in physical therapy, quickly established himself. As the race started, he — along with defending champion Glarius Rop of Agawam and first-time runner Scott Mindel out of Burlington — led the rest of the 569-runner field out of downtown Shelburne Falls. The trio remained together as they turned onto Maple Street and a pack of five more runners settled in behind them.

Busque opened up a 10-yard lead as the three approached Buckland-Shelburne Elementary School and the first mile-marker on the 6.2-mile course. Rop and Mindel ran side-by-side behind. The race weaved through side streets in Shelburne Falls, and Busque continued to maintain his slight lead. As the men hit Main Street for the approach back through town, Rop settled into second place. The leaders gave spectators their second glance as they raced back into town and crossed the Iron Bridge for the ascent up Crittenden Hill, the one-kilometer climb. Busque had heard about the hill and didn’t want to burn himself out prior to hitting it.

“I knew a huge hill was coming, so I was a little nervous. I was like, ‘Oh God, is this too quick, am I shooting myself in the foot?’,” he said. “The hill hurt, but I think I went out at a good pace.”

Busque maintained a five-second lead over Rop throughout much of the climb, and the two runners pulled well ahead of Mindel, who finished 23rd overall at this year’s Boston Marathon. Mendel settled comfortably into third place during the Crittenden climb. When Busque hit the top, he still had a five second advantage, but that quickly changed.

“Glarius is a good downhill runner, and he made a move on me pretty much right at the top of the hill,” Busque said.

Rop quickly closed on Busque as the runners went down the hill, and by the time they reached the bottom, Rop was in the lead by a second over Busque. After reaching the bottom, the course took runners onto the flat stretch of Route 112, which takes them past Mohawk Trail Regional High School, and Busque regained the lead.

“I looked at my watch and said, ‘I’m going to put in a good, hard five minutes and see what happens,’” Busque said. “I threw down a good hard five minutes, and I looked back and saw I had opened up a little bit of a lead.”

When the runners turned onto North Street for the final mile of the race, Busque had opened up a 10-second lead and was never challenged again. Busque won by 43 seconds over Rop, who finished second in 32:31. Mindel took third in 33:15, Nicolai Naranjo of Allston came in fourth in 33:25, and Dennis Roche of Springfield was fifth in 33:44.

“It was a fun race,” Busque said. “I’m excited to come back and do it again.”

Rees, the women’s champion, was running in the event after meeting Smith at a previous event.

Rees was at the front of the women’s field to start the race, (the Iron Bridge is divided in half with men on one side and women on the other to start) and she never relinquished the lead. Currently working on her PhD in Chemistry at Harvard University, Rees said that she came into Saturday’s race with one goal, and it wasn’t to win.

“Some of my friends who had run this race before told me about the hill, so my goal for the race was to run slow enough up the hill that I didn’t have to walk, and I was so happy that I managed that,” she said. “The hill is absolutely crazy. I don’t think I’ve ever done a hill — especially on a 10K — that is so long and so difficult. I think that powered me through the rest of it.”

She said that once she hit the top, it was smooth sailing.

While Rees did not break the course record of 35:21 set in 2004 by Tatyana Pozdnyakova, she did clock in with the fastest winning time on the women’s side since 2008 when Buzhnesh Tarekgn won the women’s crown in 35:59. Her time was nearly two minutes better than last year’s women’s winner Semehar Tesfaye’s 39:03. Since 2008, only two women had managed to break 38 minutes on the course.

Busque also turned in one of the top performances in the past six years, as he easily eclipsed Rop’s winning time of 33:15 from a year ago. The last person to have a better winning time than Busque’s 31:48 was Brian Harvey in 2011, who won in 31:33.

Emma Spencer of Cambridge came in second in the women’s race in 38:10, while Westfield’s Apryl Sabadosa took third in 38:20. Karen Berstasso of Albany, New York, who won the event in 2015, was fourth in 39:10. Jenna Gigliotti of Northampton was fifth in 39:12.

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