The Russians are coming, and the Kenyans, Mexicans and assorted other foreigners.
Americans, in general, are noticeable by their absence.
The elite fields for the 21st Lilac Bloomsday Run were announced Tuesday morning and the lone American given much of a chance in Sunday’s 12K race is local favorite Kim Jones.
Jones, who was fifth in the last two races, is the only returning top-10 finisher in the women’s race. The only other American who could challenge is Carol Zajac, 24, a former standout at Villanova.
Defending men’s champion Lazarus Nyakeraka of Kenya is returning but the men’s field has no American contenders, even though any money won by an American runner in either race will be doubled.
“It’s too bad, but basically we’re trying to tell American runners if they run against and international field and do well, they’ll be rewarded,” elite-race coordinator Don Kardong said. “Many tend to drift toward American-only races and that’s not good.”
First prize is $7,000, down to $200 for 15th.
Three Russians could challenge Jones - Olga Egorova, 25, and Alina Ivanova, 28, who now live in Gainesville, Fla., and Elena Burykina, 24, who is living in Tacoma.
Gladys Ondeyo, a 21-year-old Kenya who was second in the 1993 Bloomsday, also could be a contender, along with Martha Tenorio, 29, who was on the Ecuadorian 1992 and ‘96 Olympic teams.
“There are more men who are racing on the road,” Kardong said, “but we always lose our top women to (more lucrative) marathons. We have a hard time frame. There are a lot of races, marathons and track.”
Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Vancouver, British Columbia, have marathons Sunday.
The past three champions, South African Colleen De Reuck, preceded by Kenyan Delillah Asiago and Mexican-turned-American Olga Appell, ran the Boston Marathon with Jones March 14. Jones was ninth, the best finish for an American with Appell dropping out. De Reuck ran third.
De Reuck finished Bloomsday in 38 minutes, 48 seconds, winning by 54 seconds. Jones’ time was 40:28. Asiago set the course record of 38:19 in 1995, winning by 2:06.
Among men road racers, stars burn brightly and briefly.
The only back-to-back Bloomsday winner, Kenya’s Josphat Machuka, was somewhat unknown when he came here in 1994. His current competitive status is unknown.
“The best information I have is he is getting ready for the track season,” Kardong said. “If there’s (a Machuka) in there, I can’t spot him. I sensed Machuka, because of his leg speed, was going to be exciting here and he was. I don’t know if we have anyone coming with his charisma.”
Machuka won the most competitive Bloomsday in 1994 then romped by 28 seconds while setting the record of 33:41 in ‘95.
Peter Githuka, 28, is the most likely “Machuka.” Also a Kenyan, he just won the Cherry Blossom 10-mile in Washington, D.C., with Nyakeraka, 25, fifth. Also coming is Zambian Charles Mulinga, 29, who was third in D.C.
Kenyans Hezron Otwori, 20, and Gideon Mutisya, 30, who finished fifth and sixth last year, are also back. Otwori was fifth in a 10K in D.C. last weekend, Mutisya was ninth in the Cherry Blossom.
The only other top-10 finisher coming back is Sergio Jimenez, 30, of Mexico, who was eighth.
Jon Brown, a 26-year-old Englishman, was fourth in the ‘94 Bloomsday, the closest race in history. He won the European Cross Country championships and went on to finish 14th in the world race last year.
Jon Sinclair, a two-time winner from Fort Collins, Colo., is 39 and not much of a threat. Teddy Mitchell, 25, an NCAA 10,000-meter champion for Arkansas, should be the highest American finisher.
This is the first time Bloomsday has offered an incentive to American runners.
“You try different things,” Kardong said. “Some have American-only prize money. I don’t like that. You can be 25th and get first-place money. Here, you at least have to be in the hunt.
“We’d all love to see an American come in and win. There’s a few that can do it. They have to be convinced they have a chance to win. The top American would do well here, but they have to have confidence. When they have a chance for sure money, they go there. I think it has been counter-productive.”
In the master’s division, former marathon world record-holder Steve Jones of Boulder, Colo., will compete. On the women’s side, Regina Joyce, a former member of the Irish Olympic team and the 1984 Bloomsday winner, is back. Joyce, now an American citizen, lives in Lynnwood, Wash.
Bloomsday is one of 13 races on the Professional Road Running Organization schedule this year. Last year, the race served as the PRRO championship. All five champions are back in the wheelchair divisions. The headliner is Jean Driscoll, who has won the past eight titles. Driscoll’s seven-year run at the Boston Marathon ended this year when she crashed and finished second.
Also back for the women is Candace Cable, who won Bloomsday five times and finished fourth behind Driscoll before leaving road racing for downhill skiing.
The rivalry between Australian Paul Wiggins, who won the last two open races, and Craig Blanchette, who won eight straight before Wiggins broke through, resumes.
Wiggins and Driscoll hold the course records of 25:28 and 31:24, respectively.
Masters open winner Jim Martinson, T-1 quad winner Bart Dodson and T-2 quad winner Clayton Gerein also return.
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