Ryan Smith of Farmington, Maine, celebrates as he approaches the finish line to be the top Mainer in the 21st annual TD Beach to Beacon 10K road race Saturday, Aug. 4, 2018, in Cape Elizabeth, Maine. Credit: Robert F. Bukaty | AP

Maine’s premier road race is set for Saturday in Cape Elizabeth, with the 22nd TD Beach to Beacon 10K expected to feature numerous 2020 Olympic hopefuls contending for overall titles while many of Maine’s top distance runners battle for unofficial Pine Tree State supremacy.

More than 6,500 runners are expected to compete in the race, which begins at 8 a.m. near the Crescent Beach entrance on Route 77 in Cape Elizabeth and ends in Fort Williams Park at historic Portland Head Light.

That throng will be paced by nearly 40 elite runners, including 2018 Beach to Beacon women’s champion Sandrafelis Chebet-Tuei of Kenya and top American Olympic hopefuls Scott Fauble and Amy Cragg.

The elite athletes will compete for more than $90,000 in prize money, with $10,000 awarded to winners in the men’s and women’s open races and payouts to the top 10 runners overall. Also included is a $23,000 purse for American men and women to be split evenly among the top five American men and women with a $5,000 first prize.

Defending men’s Beach to Beacon men’s champion Jake Robertson of New Zealand — who produced a winning time of 27 minutes, 36 seconds last August — will not run in this year’s race, leaving the field wide open among runners with a longer-term goal of qualifying for the 2020 Summer Olympics in Tokyo.

Among the favorites in the international field are Kenyans William Malel Sitonik, 25, who ran a personal best this year in the half marathon, and 21-year-old Gilbert Kimunyan, who has notched a personal best at 10,000 meters this year.

Brett Robinson, a 5,000-meter runner for Australia in the 2016 Summer Olympics, has stretched out his distance running and finished this year’s London Marathon in a 2:10:55 — the fastest marathon time by an Australian in 15 years.

Fauble, 27, ran a 2:09 at April’s Boston Marathon and is one of the favorites to make the American team for the 2020 Olympics.

Bashir Abdi of Belgium and Callum Hawkins of Great Britain are on track to represent their countries at the Tokyo Games based on strong performances at April’s London Marathon where Abdi set the Belgian record with his time of 2:07:03 while Hawkins is bidding for his second straight Olympic berth in the marathon after his 2:08:55 finish.

The 21-year-old Chebet-Tuei, who won last year’s Beach to Beacon women’s competition in 31:21, will be back to defend her title against a field that includes fellow Kenyans Joyciline Jepkosgei and Caroline Chepkoech-Kipkirui, who currently is ranked No. 2 in the world in road running.

Great Britain’s Charlotte Purdue already has earned an automatic qualifying berth to represent her country at this year’s world championships in Doha, Qatar, based on her 2:25:38 clocking at the London Marathon.

Cragg, a bronze medalist from the 2017 world championships, is one of the top Americans in the women’s field and is expected to make the U.S. Olympic team. Another American contender is Emily Infeld, who won a bronze medal at the 2015 world championships at 10,000 meters.

Among other runners in the women’s field is 28-year-old American Molly Bookmyer, a former track athlete at Ohio State who recently qualified for the 2020 U.S. Olympic Trials after undergoing brain surgery twice and taking time off to be at her husband’s side as he battled cancer.

Storylines within the Beach to Beacon in-state competition will include an attempt by Portland’s Michelle Lilienthal to defend her 2018 Maine women’s title while seven months pregnant.

The 37-year-old Lilienthal, who finished last year’s race in 36:15, is expected to be challenged by Tracy Guerrette of St. Agatha and Bangor, who was third in the 2018 Maine women’s field in 36:54; as well as Leah Frost of Portland, Erica Jesseman of Scarborough, Christina Berkow of Portland and high school standout Sofie Matson of Falmouth.

Ryan Smith, 24, of Farmington is back after winning the Maine men’s competition in 30:50 a year ago. Other top contenders in the in-state men’s field include two-time Beach to Beacon Maine winner Jesse Orach of Auburn, Dan Curts of Ellsworth and Will Geohegan of Brunswick.

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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...