April 26, 2011 in Sports

Top elite runners returning for Bloomsday

By The Spokesman-Review
 
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Bloomsday elite athlete coordinator Jon Neill admitted out of the chute that the 35th edition of the 12-kilometer run will have to go far to top the world-record breaking performance in the 34th race.

There’s plenty of reason, though, why Sunday’s race should make its own headlines.

Lineth Chepkurui from Kenya will be seeking her fourth consecutive women’s title. Last year, Chepkurui used a late surge to set Bloomsday and world records as she finished in 38 minutes, 10 seconds.

Two weeks later, Chepkurui broke that record in the Bay to Breakers run (38:07).

“It will be tough to outdo,” Neill said of last year’s women’s race at a Tuesday morning press conference.

Two other women also broke 39 minutes.

Chepkurui, 25, is seeking to become the first to win four straight titles.

If the race turns out to be as tightly contested as expected, the course record could fall again and perhaps the world mark could be threatened.

Chepkurui’s chief competition should come from 24-year old Wude Ayalew, 24, from Ethopia. Ayalew beat Chepkurui by 11 seconds last weekend at the Crescent City Classic 10-kilometer race in New Orleans, winning in a time of 31:36.

Neill said Ayalew was planning to return to Ethopia this week. But Bloomsday officials exchanged emails and phone calls and convinced her to come to Spokane.

No Ethiopian has ever won a men’s or women’s title at Bloomsday, Neill said.

So Chepkurui and Ayalew only have to wait a week to stage a rematch.

Ayalew finished sixth in the World Cross Country Championships this spring.

“I can confirm that some of the world’s best runners are coming to the streets of Spokane,” Neill said as he started breaking down the men’s and women’s fields.

However, Peter Kirui, 23, of Kenya, who captured the men’s title last year in his first Bloomsday, will not return. Race director Don Kardong announced that Kirui withdrew on Tuesday because of visa problems.

The next three 2010 finishers will race.

Kirui pulled away from a pack of nine countrymen after the 5-mile mark last year. Julius Kogo, 25, was second, five seconds back, and Stephen Muange, 29, was a second behind Kogo.

Notes

A number of the men and women elite entrants have won road races across the nation this spring, Neill said. So many will arrive in Spokane in as fit condition as possible. … As of Tuesday, registration was running about 1,000 to 2,000 ahead of last year’s signup pace, Kardong said. He said that between 56,000 and 57,000 are expected once late registration is completed. There were 50,721 finishers last year and Kardong said the weather will be key to exceeding that number. “If the weather looks like it does today, they won’t show up,” Kardong said. … The top finishing American female, Sally Meyerhoff, 26, who had won the last two years, died this spring in a bicycle accident. … Dan Browne, 34, the top finishing American male, decided not to return. … The men’s and women’s open wheelchair champs, Jordan Bird, 22, (26:20) of Tucson, Ariz., and Amanda McGrory, 24, (35:15) of Champaign, Ill., return. Bird races barefoot. McGory is seeking a fifth straight title. Former eight-time winner Craig Blanchette, 42, of Battleground, Wash., returned to Bloomsday last year and won the master’s division. He reports he’s in better shape, having lost 20 pounds. … In honor of the 35th race, special awards will be given to the 35th, 350th, 3,500th and 35,000th finishers.

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