Spokane, WA—Last year James Koskei traveled to Spokane with major road victories on four successive weekends, but the fifth he was looking for at Bloomsday turned out to be fifth place. This year, though, Koskei made up for last year's setback by surging away from fellow Kenyan John Itati after cresting "Doomsday Hill" at five miles, then holding off Itati on the homestretch for a 34:25, one-second victory in the 26th running of the Lilac Bloomsday Run (12-K).
It was very, very close," said Koskei, "and I knew I had to be careful of him so he wouldn't pass me at the end."
Koskei and Itati both easily outdistanced past Bloomsday champions Dominic Kirui and Reuben Cheruiyot, who took third (35:21) and fourth (35:26), while 2002 Australian 10,000-meter champion Shaun Creighton picked up the fifth spot, three seconds behind Cheruiyot. Eric Tollefson of Tacoma, WA, was first American in 8th place.
While Koskei was outsprinting Itati in the men's field, Colleen De Reuck of Boulder, Colorado, was proving that the fitness that carried her to third place in the World Cross Country Championships in March hasn't diminished a bit. De Reuck, who was back at Bloomsday for the first time since her win in 1996, broke away from the field early and was never challenged, as she blasted to a 38:53 victory, the seventh fastest 12-K in history.
"The first mile was 5:07 on my watch, and I was feeling great," said De Reuck, "so I told myself, well, just keep going and see what happens."
De Reuck's finish, which earned her $14,000, was well over a minute ahead of runnerup Teresa Wanjiku of Kenya (40:17). Natalie Davey of Ireland was a surprising third (40:24), while Sylvia Mosqueda, Gladys Asiba and Naomi Wangui picked up the next three places.
In masters competition, 2000 Bloomsday champion and course record-holder Simon Karori rebounded decisively from last year's third place finish, even leading the open race for a while before dropping back to 16th place overall and a 37:36 masters victory. Karori was nearly a minute ahead of runnerup Eddy Hellebuyck of Albuquerque, NM, with past Bloomsday champions Graeme Fell of Canada and Jon Sinclair of Ft. Collins, CO, taking the next two spots. New Russian master Lyubov Kremleva outdistanced past Bloomsday winner Kim Jones for the women's victory, with Kim Bender of Seattle and Canadian Sandra Yaworski taking third and fourth.
In the Washington State Road Running Championship division of the race, Eric Tollefson's 8th place made him the top state resident for the third straight year, while Shelley Smathers of Fife, WA, edged Spokane's Kari McKay for the women's title.
While the cool, sometimes blustery weather seemed to slow some of the top finishers, Mexican wheelchair star Saul Mendoza seemed unfazed, as he broke from the field after the second mile and surged to a new course record of 25:24, well ahead of runnerup Aaron Gordian, also of Mexico, and Krige Schabort of Cedartown, GA. Ariadne Hernandez repeated as women's wheelchair champion, while Scott Parson was top master and Clayton Gerein picked up the win in the T-2 Quad division.
Elite and wheelchair competitors in this year's Bloomsday were joined by over 50,000 runners, joggers and walkers, one of whom became the event's one-millionth finisher. The lucky millionth will be announced on Monday, and will receive free entry to Bloomsday for life, as well as a slew of other special prizes.
This year's open male and female Bloomsday winners—James Koskei and Colleen De Reuck—will be invited to the PRRO Race of Champions at the Peachtree Road Race on July 4 in Atlanta. Washington Road Running Champions Eric Tollefson and Shelley Smathers, and the top male and females from the Spokane area, will also be invited to compete there.