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Glarius Rop wins Bridge of Flowers 10k

  • Eventual winner Larius Rop of Agawam leads the Bridge of Flowers Classic 10K near the midpoint, crossing the iron bridge connecting Buckland and Shelburne Falls Saturday, trailed in the background by blurry-chartreuse defending champion Matthew Brooker. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Eventual winner Larius 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. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • West Hartford, Conn., runner Eric Blake has a slim lead over eventual winner Larius Rop of Agawam as they compete in the Bridge of Flowers Classic 10K Saturday in Shelburne Falls and Buckland. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Runners in the Bridge of Flowers Classic 10k begin the race heading up Bridge Street in Shelburne Falls Saturday. The woman at the front of the pack wearing No. 7 is eventual winner Semehar Tesfaye. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Mohawk Trail Regional High schoolmates Luke Viens of Colrain and Lily Wells of Shelburne Falls finish the Bridge of Flowers Classic 10K together with a time of 50 minutes, 15 seconds on a hot, steamy Saturday in Franklin County’s western hills. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Florence runner Matthew Rattigan finishes the Bridge of Flowers Classic 10K in 46 minutes, 56 seconds on a hot, steamy Saturday in Shelburne Falls and Buckland. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Runners compete in the Bridge of Flowers Classic 10K in Shelburne Falls Saturday. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Runners prepare for the start of Saturday’s Bridge of Flowers Classic 10k on the iron bridge on Bridge Street , Shelburne Falls. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

  • Defending champion Matt Brooker (21) of Albany, N.Y., briefly leads this year’s Bridge of Flowers Classic 10K in Shelburne Falls Saturday. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt

For the Gazette
Published: 8/14/2016 9:46:45 PM

SHELBURNE FALLS — More than 600 runners braved intense heat and oppressive humidity to run the 38th Bridge of Flowers 10K Classic Road Race Saturday morning, when Agawam’s Glarius Rop paced the field to win the event in 33 minutes, 15 seconds.

While Rop was a former champion, having won the event in 2013 and finishing second in 2014, the women’s race featured a first-time winner. Newcomer Semehar Tesfaye made her Bridge of Flowers debut a memorable one by besting a tight field to the top of the podium with a winning time of 39:03.

Rop almost didn’t participate in the race, deciding at the last minute to run. He said he has had a busy summer of running and wasn’t sure if he was going to again do the Bridge Race. But because the event is so close to his Agawam home, he made the hour trip north. The native of Kenya and former American International College runner had plenty in his tank, winning by 36 seconds over runner-up Eric Blake of West Hartford, Connecticut, whose time was 33:51.

“I ran last weekend and two weeks ago, and I felt like I wasn’t going to do well,” Rop said while cooling down after the event. “But it turned out good.”

Despite winning by a wide margin, the race was not easy for Rop. Defending champion Matthew Brooker from Albany, N.Y., led the field of 635 over the first mile of the race with Rop lurking over his shoulder. But as the runners made their way onto Main and Water streets, Rop grabbed the lead. By the time the runners were heading back into town, Rop had increased that lead to about 30 yards. He kept that cushion after crossing the Iron Bridge and heading onto Crittenden Hill, a one-kilometer climb near the race’s midpoint. Blake found himself in second place at the bottom of the hill with Brooker and Shelburne Falls native Dan Smith, last year’s runner-up, tailing close behind. During the ascent, Blake turned it on and passed Rop at the summit of Crittenden, but as the runners headed down the backside of the mountain, Rop not only regained the lead but opened up a wide margin, leading by the length of a football field when the runners hit the bottom of the hill. After that, Rop was never challenged.

“It was hot,” Rop said. “I felt like I ran strong. But, still, my time was not close to what I ran before, especially going up that hill. But I got a little relief so I could make it to the finish line.”

Blake finished second and Brooker settled for third in 34:14, collapsing after crossing the finish line. He then got hydrated and was fine afterward. Smith came in fourth in 34:28, followed by Mark Rabasco of Pittsfield in fifth at 35:51.

Tesfaye made her debut from Boston, where she now lives following a college running career at Division I North Dakota State University and Iowa State University. She was among the race leaders when the pack emerged from downtown Shelburne Falls after the starting horn and went on to win by 20 seconds.

“I didn’t know how hilly it was,” Tesfaye said with a big smile after the win. “Running up that hill, it was pretty steep, and I was like, ‘I’m never coming back.’ But as I think about it now I think I need to come back and try to break the record.

The women’s course record (35:21) was set in 2004 by Tatyana Pozdnyakova, while the men’s course record is 30:10 set in 1997 by Daniel Kihara.

Heather MacLean, an incoming senior who runs on the UMass cross-country team, also made her debut at the event and came in 13th overall and second in the women’s field in 39:23.

“The hill was bad. I had to slow down and was basically walking,” MacLean said with a smile.

Westfield’s Apryl Sabadosa finished third for the second consecutive season, finishing 15th overall in 39:48, while last year’s women’s champion Karen Bertasso of Albany, N.Y., was 16th overall and fourth in the women’s field in 40:17. Walpole, N.N.’s, Heidi Westover, who won the event in 2013, was fifth in the women’s field (20th overall) in 41:30.

Amherst’s Nat Larson, 54, took sixth and finished first in his age group in 37:31.

Northampton’s Sam Norton, 17, finished 33rd in 42:43.

Easthampton’s Griffin Lipman, 39, was 44th in 43:37.

Gareth Buckley, 40, of Southampton was 50th in 43:59.




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