Doomsday Hill allowed Buzunesh Deba to transform the 37th Bloomsday from a two-woman race into a one-woman race.
Deba, a 25-year-old Ethiopian based in The Bronx, New York, broke away from countrywoman Makida Abdela on the long, uphill stretch of the 12-kilometer course Sunday morning and cruised home for her first elite women’s title in Spokane’s premier race.
Deba’s time of 39 minutes, 53 seconds bested Abdela by 22 seconds. She’s the third consecutive Ethiopian to win Bloomsday, following Misiker Mekonnin (2011) and Mamitu Daska (2012).
Mekonnin, one of the prerace favorites, was a late scratch Sunday morning.
Deba, who placed fourth at her only previous Bloomsday (2011), and Abdela separated themselves from a lead pack of six at the 2-mile mark and ran together for about 3 miles.
Abdela, 24, this year’s champion at the 10K Hy-Vee Drake Relays in Des Moines, Iowa, ran right behind Deba until she steadily dropped about 40 meters behind on Doomsday Hill.
“Most of the people aren’t good on (hills), but I’ve trained very well for them,” the 5-foot-3, 104-pound Deba said.
Kenyan Ogla Kimayo (40:37) placed third, 2 seconds ahead of countrywoman Millicent Kuria.
Fifth-place Kellyn Johnson of Flagstaff, Ariz., was the top American finisher in 40:42. Lindsey Scherf of Chapel Hill, N.C., last year’s sixth-place finisher, timed 42:27 as the second American across the line, in 11th place.
Rachel Jaten (Montana State/University High) was the top finisher from Spokane and Washington state, placing 16th in 43:52.
Poland’s Dorota Gruca placed 14th in 43:04 to top the masters field. Spokane’s Victoria Russell placed second among masters and 28th overall in 46:17.
Deba led a pack of six when she hit the 1-mile mark at 5:02.20. Abdela, Johnson, Etaferaw Temesgen, top-seeded Alice Kimutai and second-seeded Kimayo bunched up near Deba.
By 2 miles, reached in 10:04.34, Deba and Abdela established a 20-meter gap on the field. By the time the two hit 3 miles in 15:32.45, third-place Johnson was 50 meters behind.
Abdela tried to stay with Deba on Doomsday Hill, but the race was all but won by the time Deba reached the crest. Deba’s lead grew to 100 meters by the 6-mile mark.
“This was my second time (at Bloomsday),” Deba said. “I know the whole course and I like to push a little bit on the hills.”
Deba, who trains in New York with her marathoner husband Worku Beyi, said the unseasonably warm temperatures in the mid-60s at race time didn’t bother her.
“I’ve been living in New York and training for hot weather, so it wasn’t difficult for me,” Deba said.
Deba is primarily a marathoner, having won five 26.2-mile races since 2009.
“Now I am focused to shorter distance,” Deba said. “The difference between shorter races and the marathon is only speed. The workout is the same workout.”
Deba earned $7,000 for her title while Abdela won $4,500. Johnson took home $6,800 for placing fifth and winning the U.S. Citizen Award.