LINCOLN – During her four years as a distance specialist for Cumberland High, Hilary Dionne made her mark. It's something that she carried over to Dartmouth College, where she excelled at the Division I level.
Three years later, not much has changed.
Back in the fall, the 25-year-old Dionne broke the three-hour barrier in her debut to the marathon distance. On Sunday morning at Twin River, she also demonstrated she still has some speed in her legs, too.
Running with an elite field at the 12th annual Rhody 5K - a USATF-NE Grand Prix event - Dionne finished an outstanding fifth overall, covering the 3.1-mile distance with a time of 18 minutes, 7 seconds. Former Providence College great Stephanie Reilly led from gun-to-wire, defending her title with a winning 16:41 clocking. Brett Ely of Natick, Mass., was second at 17:23. A total of 324 finished the race.
“I wasn't really sure how I would do because I have been running longer distances. I haven’t really been doing speed workouts,” Dionne said. “I want to kind of stay relaxed but go hard with some people up in the front. I really wasn't sure how I would do so I am happy with the time, considering what I have been doing.”
Dionne, a 2003 graduate of Cumberland where she was a three-time all-stater in cross country and earned a state outdoor title in the 3,000-meter run her senior year, posted a PB of 16:48 for 5K and 34:50 for 10K while at Dartmouth, where she was an All-Ivy League competitor. She dabbled with the grueling 26.2-mile distance this past November at the Philadelphia Marathon, running an impressive 2:55:30.
“I have been getting more into that,” she said. “I was going to run the Vermont City Marathon last week, but I hurt my hamstring so I have been taking it easy. I haven't run a 5K in a while.”
In fact, the last time that Dionne did run a five-kilometer race was in 2010 when she finished 36th among women at the CVS/Caremark Downtown 5K with a time of 18:02.
At the Rhody 5K, Dionne went out fairly hard, covering the first mile at 5:40. She was 11:30 at two miles. The former Clipper standout was fifth at the mile mark, maintaining that position to the finish line of the new, point-to-point course.
“It was hard to know how fast to go when you are training for longer races,” admitted Dionne, who now resides in Charlestown, Mass. “It was a good feel to go out with a lot of the teams here and the good competition.”
In winning her second straight title in the Lincoln race, Reilly bolted from the start and was already 50 meters ahead of the field by the time she reached the mile checkpoint, passed in 5:15.
“I kind of wanted to go faster, but I didn’t feel good from the start,” she said. “I just kind of tried to find a comfort zone and stick with that as best as I could.”
Reilly, who earned a bachelor’s degree from PC in 2001 and a master’s degree in 2004, is focusing her attention on the World Championships in August where she’ll be competing in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.
She is leaving for Europe in a couple of weeks.
“Everything has been going well,” Reilly said. “The training is good. I am keeping in great shape. I needed a good, hard run today because I haven’t raced in a while. It was hard. On your own is always hard.”
The men’s race turned out to be a battle between Ethiopian natives and good friends Abiyot Worku and Derise Deniboba. The two runners, who make their home in the Bronx and compete for the Westchester Track Club, ran in tandem the entire distance on the flat terrain. The 26-year-old Worku was the first to break the tape with a course-record time of 14:25. Deniboba, 29, placed second, matching the existing mark of 14:27 set by former PC standout Mark Carroll in 2007.
Kevin Johnson of Ludlow, Mass., also cracked 15 minutes, taking third overall at 14:59.
Eric Narcisi, 31, a onetime star at Smithfield High, was ninth in the field of 374 with a time of 15:23. Former St. Raphael star Chris Magill was 29th overall. The 38-year-old Magill averaged a 5:06 pace with his time of 15:51.
Sponsorships for the Rhody 5K, hosted by Twin River, earned a total of $71,000 for local charities. The Tomorrow Fund, an independent non-profit clinic that provides financial and emotional support to the families of children stricken with cancer, received $53,500. The Lincoln Days Committee, a Lincoln community program that emphasizes town unity through entertainment and civic activities, received $17,500.