Hermin Garic and Yen Hoang win Beach to Beacon Wheelchair Races

Hermin Garic crosses the finish line to win the men’s wheelchair race. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

CAPE ELIZABETH — Hermin Garic had come close to winning the Beach to Beacon 10K wheelchair division more than once. Finally, after a longer than usual wait, it was her turn.

Garic, 32, earned his first wheelchair Beach to Beacon victory, reaching Fort Williams Park in 23 minutes and 11 seconds, more than five minutes ahead of runner-up Jason Robinson. The Utica, NY native had his best time in the five years he competed in Cape Elizabeth.

“I was a bit of a jumble around second and third for a while there with (12-time champion) Tony (Nogueira),” said Garic, who finished second in 2016 and 2018 and third in 2019. “Just a bunch of mishaps and stuff that happened. I learned from that, and you just have to keep moving forward.

In the women’s race, Yen Hoang won her first Beach to Beacon title with a time of 26:51. The Vancouver, Washington native, who trains at the University of Illinois, posted the second-fastest time in event history, 12 seconds shy of Katrina Gerhard’s record time of 26:39 .

Yen Hoang won the women’s wheelchair division. Shawn Patrick Ouellette/Staff Photographer

Hannah Babalola was second at 32:41 and Benton’s Sidney Knox was third at 1:06.23.

“I’m really happy to be back at this race,” said Hoang, 25, who ran her third Beach to Beacon. “It’s been a few years, and it’s actually one of my favorite races. I couldn’t wait to come back and experience that.

Garic and Hoang each won $1,000 for their wins.

There were just two competitors in the men’s field, which attracted nine athletes in 2018 and 2019 and seven in 2017, but Garic’s pace would have been hard to match. He learned from past frustrations, including crashes near the finish in 2017 and 2018, the latter of which cost him a win over Nogueira.

This time it went well.

“It comes from experience,” he said. “I felt pretty good and in good shape the last few years. I felt like I had a shot at breaking the course record.

Robinson, 19, had his chances of winning a Beach to Beacon title dashed when one of his gloves started to come off at the second mile.

“It wasn’t my best race,” he said. “I couldn’t give my best. … Eventually, I had to slow my pace just to be able to finish. Hope for better circumstances in the future.

Garic made sure he was ready.

“I recorded this course on a Go Pro for me (in 2018),” Garic said. “I wanted to make sure I knew all the ins and outs and turns. I also did it for future riders who want to compete here. It’s a nice course.

One of those runners was Hoang, who watched Garic’s video before racing on Saturday. The studies paid off.

“I was entering the zone,” she said. “It was nice.”

The Beach to Beacon route can be tricky, but Hoang understood that.

“I wanted to break the course record. … I was trying to go for it,” she said. “And I was really trying to work on the control of the chair also on the descents, to be comfortable in those fast speeds, as well as in the turns. I was just focusing on myself.

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