GLOUCESTER— Hill after hill after hill.
That's how Layce Alves described the course of yesterday's Magnolia 5K.
The race course, which navigates Magnolia's roads and shore line, is notorious for its difficulty as there are several steep climbs that runners have to navigate.
In the end, it was Manchester's A.J. Rossi, a 17-year-old senior cross country runner at St. John's Prep, and Alves, a 29-year-old Rockport resident, who came out on top beating out 300 fellow competitors.
Rossi beat out Maynard's Mark Mayall by seven seconds while Alves bested Rowley's Laura Hagley by 16 seconds.
"This is such a challenging race course," Alves said.
"There are so many hills and there were a lot of quick runners in the field. I was hoping to finish under 19 minutes but on this race course I'll take 19:03 any day."
Rossi echoed her sentiment.
"I love this race course," said Rossi, who was competing in the race for the third time.
"It's challenging and the field was strong. I felt pretty good the entire race and I was happy to come away in first place."
Rossi was pushed by both Mayall and Payne the entire way. According to the 17-year-old cross country runner the three were nip and tuck the entire race until Rossi made his move on the last hill, which is just before the final straight away down Lexington Avenue.
"(Mayall) was right with me the whole time," Rossi said. "At one point I wasn't sure if I could stay with him but I pushed myself up those hills. I felt pretty strong at the finish."
Alves, on the other hand, had a slightly easier time besting the female field. The Rockport resident led the race from wire to wire and admittedly felt good following the race.
Alves used the race as a tune up for Monday's Around the Cape road race. While she has usually ran one race or the other, she felt she was in good enough shape to give both a try.
"I have been running a lot of long distances lately so a 5K was a bit of an adjustment," said Alves, who's kids Kaleb 10, and Laura 7, ran the one-mile fun run, which takes place prior to the 5K.
"People always tell me you have to do either the Magnolia 5K or the Around the Cape race and I have always done just one, but this year I think I'm in good enough shape to give both a try."
Alves and Rossi both credited the crowd on Lexington Avenue. Hundreds of fans lined the streets to cheer on the runners as they crossed the finish line.
"The crowd was so cool," Rossi said. "I was kicking hard at the end and they made it a lot easier to push myself to the finish."