By Dave Dyer
---- — Derry’s Peter Najem made his seventh run at Londonderry’s Millenium Mile special once again yesterday afternoon.
The 27-year-old Najem, a Pinkerton Academy graduate and former All-American at Keene State, placed first in 3:58.55, which is officially rounded up to 3:59, marking the third time he was won the race in its 15 years.
Najem first won the race in 2009 with a 4:04 and then two years ago he prevailed with a 3:57. He was unable to compete last year because of an injury.
“They’re all special,” said Najem. “The first one was special because it was my first one, the second one was special because it was my first time under four minutes and this one was special because I’m now the only three-time winner.”
This win was also the closest and most difficult. Najem trailed Dylan Lafond for three quarters of the race before pulling even. They ran neck and neck for several hundred meters, with Najem in a slight lead. Lafond took over a narrow lead with less than 100 meters left before Najem surged in the final 30 meters to the near photo finish victory. The third-place finisher, Antoine Gisore, was more than 10 seconds back with ex-Timberlane runner Louie Saviano of Sandown in fourth in 4:13.99.
Najem, a late bloomer who started making a name for himself late in his collegiate career, captured the Greater Derry 5K on Thanksgiving with a time of 15:58 and also won a 5K race in Concord last month.
He’s headed Sunday out to Illinois where he has accepted a position as a graduate assistant to coach track at Rockford College. There’s a good chance he’ll be back next year for the Millenium Mile, however.
“I look forward to this race every year,” said Najem. “I like to start the year off with a fast time.”
The female winner in the field of 1,601 finishers was Christine Shaw of Manchester, N.H., in 4:58. Among the age group winners, Peter Crapsey Jr., 10, of Haverhill at 5:25.