Geay and Diriba to Face Tough Competition at 42nd Bloomsday
Spokane, Washington—Gabriel Geay and Buze Diriba proved to be the class of the field last year, as each managed Doomsday Hill with relative ease and then unleashed a dramatic sprint on the homestretch to emerge as Bloomsday champions. This year, both are back to defend their titles, but they’ll have to tame the hill again and outduel one of the best Bloomsday fields in history to accomplish that feat.
“The talent is as rich as we’ve ever had,” said Bloomsday Elite Athlete Coordinator Jon Neill. “We have a great group of Americans competing, and the international field is deep, strong, and arriving in Spokane with fantastic spring performances.”
In the women’s race, Ethiopia’s Diriba, whose victory in the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile on April 8th made her the 2018 PRRO Circuit Champion, is likely to be tested again by Mamitu Daska of Kenya. Daska, whose resume includes victories at almost every major US road race, owns the third and fifth fastest times ever run on Bloomsday’s 12-kilometer course.
Last year Diriba and Daska battled all the way to the finish, with Diriba managing to put two seconds on Daska over the final 300 meters. Poland’s Karolina Nadolska, who led much of last year’s race before dropping off from Diriba and Daska, is also back to spice up the women’s competition, as will three-time Olympian Diane Nukuri of the US, a two-time winner of San Francisco’s Bay to Breakers, and Kenya’s Jane Kibii, who finished third here in 2015 and 2016.
“The women’s field includes champions from races all around the country,” said Neill. “And I think you’d be hard pressed to find an athlete in the world who has collected more champion trophies than Diriba in the past twelve months.”
The men’s field is equally impressive, starting with the return of eight of last year’s top ten, led by Geay and 2016 Bloomsday champion Philip Langat. Geay was a surprise winner last year, as he entered the race so late that there was little information immediately available for the media watching from the lead truck.
“He ran the course sight unseen, but fortunately he had veteran Bloomsday runners to tuck behind until his move to the front,” said Neill. “After the race he told the media, ‘I used my experience and followed the truck.’ I think all of us who have run this 12-K wish it were just that easy.”
Geay enters this year’s race without the benefit of surprise, and the man he outsprinted last year, Philemon Cheboi, is no doubt looking forward to a rematch, as are those other top finishers from last year, like Kenyans Langat and Geoffrey Bundi, and Ethiopia’s Teshome Mekonen. But in the midst of the talented field it may be newcomer Jemal Yimer of Ethiopia, who bested a strong field at the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile in Washington, DC on April 8th, who Geay needs to look out for. Yimer ran the 5th fastest 10,000 in the world last year (26:56), and was fourth at the highly competitive World Cross Country Championships.
Top Americans in the men’s race are Haron Lagat of Colorado Springs, who has a 61:01 half marathon to his credit, and Reid Buchanan of Mammoth Lakes, California, who was twelfth here last year. Kevin Castille of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, looks to be the master favorite, while three-time US Olympian Jen Rhines hopes to repeat as women’s masters champion.
The wheelchair competition also features an impressive field, with nine Paralympians, highlighted by superstar Tatyana McFadden. McFadden is a four-time Grand Slam winner (Boston, London, Chicago, New York) and holder of multiple world records. McFadden, who won Bloomsday in 2016, is expected to be challenged for the women’s title by Chelsea McClammer of Benton City, Washington, who will be racing her tenth Bloomsday. Last year’s winner, Susannah Scaroni, is not able to return to defend her title.
For the men, 2016 champion James Senbeta will have to be on his A-game to take this year’s title, as 19-year-old Daniel Romanchuk, who just missed the win last year, is eager for a different outcome this time around. 2017 champion Joshua George, who nipped Romanchuk on the homestretch last year, will not be back. In the Quad divisions, both of last year’s winners—Raymond Martin and Jeremy Finton—look to be the favorites again.
Nearly $100,000 in prize money is offered in the 2018 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. The Lilac Bloomsday Run is the third race in the PRRO Circuit of major U.S. road races. Drug testing of top competitors is conducted at all PRRO Circuit events in partnership with Clearidium, the company that manages testing for the IAAF.
A field of nearly 43,000 runners and walkers are expected to have entered by the time registration closes on Saturday evening. Procrastinators will have until 6:30 on Saturday to sign up.
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