Last year Misiker Mekonnin of Ethiopia emerged from a tactical women's race and unleashed a blazing sprint on the homestretch to capture the women's crown, and this year she's back to try to make it two in a row in the 36 th running of the Lilac Bloomsday Run. The men's contest, meanwhile, is wide open, as last year's winner Simon Ndirangu won't return to defend his title, opening the way for any one of a talented international field to capture top honors on the challenging 12-kilometer course.
Mekonnin's victory last year wasn't sealed until the final 300 meters, when she was able to outduel five other women in a blazing sprint down Monroe Street. If she hopes to duplicate her victory this year, she'll have to deal with Mamitu Daska, also of Ethiopia, whose time of 38:25 in the 2010 Bloomsday Run was the second fastest in event history, and Jelliah Tinega of Kenya, recent champion of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile in Washington, DC. American Janet Cherobon-Bawcon also figures to be in the hunt, along with 2012 Crescent City champion Genoveva Kigen.
"Expect some early surges in this year's field to get some separation on the hills," said Elite Athlete Coordinator Jon Neill. "Neither Daska nor Kigen has a sit and kick style."
In the men's race, Kenya's Allan Kiprono, who ran the sixth fastest time in Bloomsday history last year while being edged by winner Simon Ndirangu, figures to be the odds-on favorite.
"Not only did Kiprono win this year's Cherry Blossom 10 Mile," said Neill, "But he won it by a jaw-dropping 70 seconds and obliterated the course record in the process."
Kiprono may be the favorite, but fellow Kenyans Stephen Muange and MacDonard Ondara, who have both been top five at Bloomsday, are sure to give Kiprono a serious challenge. And three-time champion John Korir may surprise them all, as his devastating kick has proven decisive on the homestretch in many a road race in the United States, and his third-place showing at this year's Cherry Blossom shows that he's in good form. A superb international field will also give chase, while top American from 2011, Josh Moen of Eden Prairie, Minnesota, is also expected to be amongst the leaders.
In the elite wheelchair division, Aaron Pike, Craig Blanchette and Scott Parson—fourth, fifth and sixth last year—are the top returners, while Spokane native Tyler Byers is expected to vie for the victory. For the women, Amanda McGrory of Illinois is the clear favorite after winning the last five Bloomsdays, although Shirley Reilly of Tucson, Arizona, is expected give her the same kind of serious chase she did last year.
Nearly $100,000 in prize money is offered in the 2012 Lilac Bloomsday Run, including a $10,000 purse ($5,000 - $2,500 - $1,250 - $750 - $500) for the top male and female Americans who finish in the top 25.
A field of nearly 54,000 runners, joggers and walkers are expected to have entered by the time registration closes on Saturday evening. Procrastinators will have until 6:30 on Saturday to enter.
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