Deep field set for Bridge of Flowers 40th anniversary

  • The runners make their way through town near 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

  • Defending champion John Busque of Manchester, Conn. and two-time champion Glarius Rop of Agawam battled throughout last year’s Bridge of Flowers Classic in Shelburne Falls. Both men return this season and will compete for the title in a very deep field. Below, last year’s women’s champion Holly Rees of Cambridge was a first-time runner at the event. She returns this season to defend her title against an impressive women’s field, which includes several returning champions as well as some strong newcomers to the race. STAFF FILE PHOTOS/JEFF LAJOIE

  • Spectators cheer on Holly Rees of Cambridge, as she crossed 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

  • Glarius Rop, of Agawam, leads the Bridge of Flowers Classic 10k as he turns onto Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls before crossing the iron bridge Saturday, August 13. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Glarius Rop (left) and Amos Sang will each compete to take home the men’s crown in Saturday’s Bridge of Flowers Classic in Shelburne Falls. staff file photo/paul franz

  • Karen Bertasso, of Albany, N.Y, is a two-time Bridge of Flowers champion and finished fourth last summer. She returns to compete in the new 8K course. STAFF FILE PHOTO

Staff Writer
Published: 8/9/2018 10:46:35 PM

The Bridge of Flowers Classic may be short on traditional length, but it certainly won’t be short on talent when the starting cowbell sounds Saturday at 9 a.m. for the beginning of the 40th annual road race on the Iron Bridge in Shelburne Falls.

The race will be preceded by the Steve Lewis Subaru Charity 3K Run/Walk, which begins at 8:15 a.m.

This year’s main event has been shortened from a 10K to an 8K race in order for organizers to cut out the part of the course that had competitors run along Route 112 in Buckland, which was the lone street that is not fully closed down for the race. While some folks expressed initial concern over the shortening of the race, the number of registrants was up as of earlier this week and the field includes many top runners from New England.

Last season, John Busque, of Manchester, Connecticut, showed up on the morning of the event, registered and won.

Busque tracked down defending champion Glarius Rop, of Agawam, on the stretch of course that no longer exists. He passed Rop and beat the two-time champion by 43 seconds.

Those two men are back this season and both will be among the favorites to win the race. The third-place finisher from a year ago, Scott Mindel, of Burlington, Vermont, also returns.

Rop is a member of the Western Mass. Distance Project, and will have four teammates joining him. One of those is Amos Sang, of Chicopee, who won the 2014 Bridge of Flowers. Sang won the New England 5-mile championship this season with a time of 24:36.

Northampton’s Ben Groleau, another Western Mass. Distance Project runner, is the UMass record-holder in the mile with a time of 4:01. Groleau was fourth at the New England 5-mile championships in 25:27. Dennis Roche, of Springfield, another WMDP runner, finished fifth last year at the Bridge of Flowers.

The women’s field will be just as deep. Last year’s champion, Holly Rees, of Cambridge, is returning. Rees ran an average of just under 6 minutes a mile in winning the women’s crown in 37:05.

Rees will be challenged by Semehar Tesfaye, of West Roxbury. Tesfaye won the Bridge of Flowers in 2016 in 39:03.

Another major challenger is newcomer Aisling Cuffee, who graduated from Stanford but now lives in North Grafton and runs for Saucony under coach Ray Treacy. Cuffee has a 15:11 personal record in a 5K.

The third, fourth and fifth-place finishers from a year ago also return in the women’s field. Apryl Sabadosa, of Westfield, took third. Karen Bertasso, of Albany, New York, is a two-time Bridge of Flowers winner. She was fourth last year. The fifth-place finisher from a year ago was Jenna Giglioti, of Northampton, who joins Sabadosa as two of the top female runners in the Western Mass. Distance Project.

Another person to keep an eye on is newcomer Kim Nedeau, of Leverett, who is a top hill runner in New England and placed second at the Mount Washington Road Race in 2016.

Ashley Krauss, of Easthampton, recently placed eighth at the James Joyce 10K in Dedham, which served as the U.S. championship for the Master’s (ages 40-49) Division. Sidney Letendre, of Florence, returns after running an 8:11 pace on the course last season at the age of 62.

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