We won’t call him the new sheriff in town just yet, but Fairhaven’s Taylor Days-Merrill is looking awfully good on the roads lately.
Days-Merrill put running buddies Michael Vaz of Dartmouth and Jason Eddy of East Bridgewater, via Rochester, in his rear view mirror a little over halfway through the race on his way to a 17-second victory in the Mattapoisett Fourth of July five-miler Tuesday.
It was his second convincing win in two weeks, having won the Fairhaven Father’s Day 10k July 18. It also gave him two-thirds of the Big Three in the SouthCoast area, the other third being the 4.1-mile Acushnet race on Labor Day.
In the women’s race Tuesday, 19-year-old Madeline Mondo of Marlborough, Connecticut, who runs for Central Connecticut University, was a little too fast for 15-year-old Meg Hughes of Rochester, who finished second for the second straight year.
Days-Merrill’s time of 26:30.2 in the men’s race was almost a minute faster than his second-place finish at Mattapoisett last year; 56 seconds better to be exact.
“And I needed all of it,” said Days-Merrill. “It was a tough race. I knew my time last year wasn’t going to be enough to beat Michael today.”
Vaz finished second in 26:47, which was 39 seconds faster than Days-Merrill’s time last year (27:26.9). Days-Merrill and Vaz are both 23 years old.
Defending champ Eddy wasn’t in this one as he fell back early and finished sixth in 27:53. That’s 34 seconds slower than his winning time last year.
“I haven’t been running well for the last few months,” said the 37-year-old Eddy. “I don’t have any injury, so I think I’m just in a rut that I’m going to have to work my way out of. I’d rather look at it that way than think I’m getting old.
“The young guys, though, are running really well,” he added. “That’s good for the sport. They’re a good influence on the kids. I’m happy for them.”
The men’s race was still a three-man race among Days-Merrill, Vaz and a newcomer to the local roads, Charles Berg, 18, of Mattapoisett, at least until Days-Merrill made his move a little before four miles.
“If I was going to have a shot (at winning), I figured I had to make a move there,” said Days-Merrill. “After that, it was a matter of keeping up my pace, but it was tough.”
He was tired at the end, but he still had enough left to sprint the last 100 yards of so and stretch the gap between him and Vaz to 17 seconds at the finish. Berg was third in 26:58.2.
For the second year in a row, Hughes was denied victory at Mattapoisett by a Connecticut college runner.
Last year it was Kim Bolick of Marion, a former track star at the University of Connecticut, who won the race in 31:14. Tuesday it was Mondo, with the impressive winning time of 30:24.8 (a 6:05 per mile pace). Mondo runs cross country and track at Central Connecticut, where she’ll be a sophomore in the fall and sometimes competes in the steeplechase.
Hughes stayed with her for the first mile, but it was see you later from Mondo after that.
“We did the first mile in 5:30, which is not what I wanted to do,” said Hughes. “Then in the second mile she went really fast and I slowed up. I could still see her ahead of me at four miles, but after that, I couldn’t see her.”
But Hughes still hung on to second place with a time if 31:52.5. Finishing third was Erin Lohrenz of Charlestown (31:59).
And if you’re wondering what brought Mondo to Mattapoisett, her folks bought a summer home in Mattapoisett. Madeline’s older sister, Olivia Mondo, 21, also ran the race, finishing sixth among the women in 34:22.3.
Finishing eighth among the women was 55-year-old Mary Cass of Westport, who won the 50-59 age category with a time of 35:24.7.
Meg Hughes’ younger brother, Harrison, 12, finished second in the 13-and-under division with a time of 34:39.5.
The race attracted a field of 1,036 on a beautiful sunny day.