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Junior Bloomsday boasts record turnout

Apr 23, 2024

Mile-long race draws 400 more kids than last year, nearing 2,900 total

Runners cross the finish line of the Junior Bloomsday race on Sunday at Spokane Falls Community College, collecting their finisher prizes offered by volunteers. ELENA PERRY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW
Runners cross the finish line of the Junior Bloomsday race on Sunday at Spokane Falls Community College, collecting their finisher prizes offered by volunteers. ELENA PERRY/THE SPOKESMAN-REVIEW


When told to run the mile in gym class, kids often groan, drag their feet or seek an excuse to skip the dreaded activity. But offer them coupons and a free T-shirt, they come in droves to run the mile-long course at Junior Bloomsday, the much shorter version of the annual 7.5-mile race for kids in third to seventh grade.

Nearly 2,900 kids signed up to compete in the race, which started in 2019 and included virtual races for two years during the COVID-19 pandemic.

But the race “grew exponentially,” Junior Bloomsday organizer and Bloomsday board member Stephanie Webb said, adding the event saw 400 additional runners than last year and a couple news sponsors.

For the young racers, “A mile can be daunting …, but it is only a mile,” Webb said, “Kids can run/walk it; they can jog it. It’s fine. It gets them out here; it gets them active and moving. They all have fun. I mean, to see the kids cross the finish line, they have huge smiles on their faces, the parents love seeing it, I mean it’s just such a great community event.”

Around 150 people volunteered to oversee the event: herding children to the start line, passing out goodies and helping parents find their kids after finishing. Some volunteers were already planning a run together as they disassembled flags and banners put up for the race.

Among the young participants was Quinn Johnson, 11, who entered the race with a posse of other girls.

“It’s a great way to get exercise; it’s a fun thing to do with your friends,” she said.

Ten-year-old Kendrick McElfresh added, “It’s a good thing to do with your friends ‘cause they’ll help you and if you have to slow down they’ll be like ‘you got this,’ and stuff.”

Warmed by the mid-60- degree spring sun at the Spokane Falls Community College campus Sunday, thousands arrived to cheer on young athletes as they ran the course starting near the fitness room on campus, racing west towards the roundabout on Custer Drive and whipping back around for a finish on the school’s track.

“It’s good to have everybody on the side like saying ‘good job,’ ‘let’s go’ and stuff like that,” Kendrick said as her friends nodded and giggled in agreement.

Experienced competitive swimmers, the girls felt briefly like fish out of water as they tried to get their land-legs for the footrace.

“We’re not runners,” Quinn laughed.

“Swimming’s probably easier for me,” 11-year-old Harmony Stromberg said. Her three friends agreed.

Though they entered the race together, they split up after the start line so they could each take a different strategy.

“My strategy was breaking my time from last year, and I broke it,” said 11-year-old Isabelle Salas, who this year ripped through the race in under 6 minutes. For Isabelle, the mile-long Junior Bloomsday was just training as she eyes the full-length Bloomsday in May.

Her brother, Sam Salas, employed a new strategy to help him breathe while sprinting.

“For me, like to breathe, I had to spit out some of my spit,” the 9-year-old said.

While the thirst for competition was motivation itself to run Sunday, sponsors and volunteers awarded kids prizes after finishing the race. Freebies included a Junior Bloomsday race tee shirt; tickets to Silverwood, indoor obstacle course Ninja Nation and a ride on the Looff Carrousel; coupons for Dutch Bros, Dairygold and the Spaghetti Factory; and complimentary Gatorade, grilled cheese and shaved ice.

The swag was a highlight for many, including siblings Leo and Maya Kenney, ages 12 and 10, respectively.

“It was fun, I got really tired, but at the end, I ran as fast as I can,” Maya said.

The two were at each others’ sides the whole race, preferring to run in tandem to motivate the other whenever necessary.

“It’s just more fun together to have someone to encourage you on,” Leo said, pleased that the pair beat their time last year by two minutes. “Especially at the end.”

“It’s worth it,” Leo said.

The 48th annual Bloomsday Run is set to take over downtown May 5, and participants can register at for $35.

Elena Perry can be reached at (509) 459-5270 or by email at elenap@

This article was first posted on the Spokesman Review here.

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