Tracy Guerrette turns toward the finish during a road race in the Bangor area in 2017. Credit: Ashley L. Conti

Tracy Guerrette spent her 38th birthday Sunday on a training run, but it was one with considerable cache beyond just sticking to a fitness routine.

The former University of Maine basketball player, who is now one of the state’s top distance runners, won the women’s division of the Gorham Savings Bank Maine Half-Marathon in Portland. Guerrette placed 15th overall among 1,788 finishers with a time of 1 hour, 19 minutes, 7 seconds.

Guerrette, a St. Agatha native, is preparing for a December marathon in California with designs on qualifying for the marathon at the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.

“I had a pretty hard week with hard workouts back to back Wednesday and Thursday that left me pretty tired, but I’m never pleased, I would have liked to run faster,” Guerrette said. “I wish I could have run in the 1:18s, but it was a PR [personal record], so it was a good, hard effort, a good training run and that’s what I wanted to get out of it.”

Leah Frost of Portland was second in the women’s field and 19th overall in 1:20:12, while Erica Jesseman of Scarborough was the third-fastest woman and 24th overall in 1:22:26.

Stephen Njoroge of Toluca, Mexico, was the Maine Half-Marathon men’s champion in 1:06:33.

Winners of the accompanying 2018 Gorham Savings Bank Maine Marathon were Moses Gitau of Toluca, Mexico, in 2:27:36 and Christine Hein of North Yarmouth in 2:54:59.

Guerrette’s breakthrough on the marathon stage came with her 2:43:47 clocking while winning the 2017 Maine Marathon.

Not only was that 15 minutes faster than her previous best for the distance, but it also eclipsed the 2:45 required to meet the ‘B’ standard to earn a spot in the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials.

But a postrace check determined that while the Maine Marathon was certified as a qualifying race for the Boston Marathon and by USA Track and Field, times there did not qualify as Olympic Trials standards.

Guerrette then opted to run the California International Marathon for the first time last December. Despite deciding to run the event on short notice, she clocked a time of 2:48:40 to finish 352nd among the field of 7,288 runners and 53rd among 62 elite women’s finishers.

She placed 73rd among the 3,420 women overall in that field.

Guerrette’s most recent 26.2-mile test came at the Boston Marathon in April when she finished 25th overall among the 13,391 women’s entrants with a time of 2:54:02.

Her decision to focus on this year’s Maine Half-Marathon after winning the women’s marathon at the same event last fall was based in large part on her effort at the TD Beach to Beacon 10K in August, when she finished as the third-fastest Maine woman with a time of 36:55 for the 6.1-mile distance.

“I wasn’t really pleased with my buildup to the Beach to Beacon and wanted to continue building up my speed because once you get into marathon training you get locked into marathon-specific work,” she said.

The Maine Half-Marathon offered Guerrette the chance to add two months of speed workouts to her training before a return to marathoning. The California race also serves as the USATF marathon championship for the second straight year.

That means another opportunity to compete in a fast field that includes many like-minded runners.

“A lot of women and men go out there trying to get the Olympic qualifying time, and because of that you have a group of people around you that are all running at the same pace, which can make it a lot easier,” she said.

“They even have a 2:45 pacer so for those people who are really trying to get just under the 2:45 qualifying time.”

Guerrette, who lives in Bangor, works as the director of faith formation at the Saint Paul the Apostle Parish, which serves Catholic churches in Bangor, Brewer, Hampden and Winterport. She expects to be among a sizeable contingent of Maine runners making the trek to Sacramento.

She hopes to eclipse the ‘B’ standard for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials with time to spare.

“I don’t want to mess around the with 2:45,” she said. “I’m going to shoot to run close to 2:40, and then if I blow up maybe I can do that at around 2:44.”

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Ernie Clark

Ernie Clark is a veteran sportswriter who has worked with the Bangor Daily News for more than a decade. A four-time Maine Sportswriter of the Year as selected by the National Sportscasters and Sportswriters...