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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Scaroni, Senbeta, cruise to Bloomsday wheelchair victories

Women’s wheelchair winner Susannah Scaroni leads the pack up Doomsday Hill during Bloomsday 2016 on Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)
Women’s wheelchair winner Susannah Scaroni leads the pack up Doomsday Hill during Bloomsday 2016 on Sunday, May 1, 2016, in Spokane. (Tyler Tjomsland / The Spokesman-Review)

Unlike the other races at Bloomsday, the wheelchair winner emerges early.

Like in the first mile early.

For Susannah Scaroni, Bloomsday is her home race. A Tekoa, Washington, native, Scaroni captured her third wheelchair title, finishing Sunday in 31 minutes, 45 seconds.

Scaroni, 24, led from the start. It was her 12th Bloomsday and she credits home-course knowledge.

“If you know the course well, you can gain a lot of speed on the downhills and do it safely,” she said.

A 2009 Tekoa High graduate, Scaroni won in 2013 and 2014. She’s lived in Urbana, Illinois, the last five years and trains at the U.S. Paralympic site nearby.

Bloomsday’s hills keep bringing Scaroni back.

“I love climbing and at Bloomsday you do a lot of climbing,” Scaroni said.

She credits the Spokane community for supporting her.

“It’s neat to show how it’s all paid off,” said Scaroni, who competed in her first Bloomsday at age 12.

James Senbeta, 29, of Savoy, Illinois, continued a hot streak that started in February when he won the Los Angeles Marathon. Senbeta cruised start to finish, winning the men’s wheelchair title in a time of 27:30 – his fastest time by two minutes.

It was Senbeta’s fifth start at Bloomsday.

“To be able to keep going until I got this win, it feels great,” Senbeta said.

He took control quickly.

“I just took it from the jump and hoped nobody caught me,” he said. “It created enough (separation) that by the time I got to the Mile 1 marker I was all alone. Once you do that, regardless of how close it gets on the climbs, you just can’t make up that ground.”

Senbeta was able to measure his lead by the time he ascended Doomsday Hill.

“I’d say that once I got to the top of Doomsday I saw one or two people behind me, halfway down,” he said. “Everyone was going so slow that the gap (just widens).”

The challenge was when Senbeta turned on Broadway.

“I was hoping there wouldn’t be any headwind coming down Broadway but when I hit Broadway there was definitely plenty of headwind,” he said. “I knew I had it but I still wanted a fast time so I kept pushing anyway.”

Although he was comfortably ahead when he reached Doomsday Hill, he didn’t take anything for granted.

“Maybe I could have pushed Doomsday a little bit more but again it’s Bloomsday and you don’t want to blow yourself up,” he said. “You definitely have to respect Doomsday. It’s nearly a mile of a steep climb, 8 percent grade. You definitely have to respect that hill.”

Senbeta likes the variety that the Bloomsday course offers.

“I love the fact it’s got a lot of downhills and uphills and straights. It gives you a little bit of everything,” he said.

State champs

Emma C. Polley of Mill Creek was the top finisher from the state of Washington, running to a time of 43:20 to collect a $1,000 paycheck. Rachel Jaten, 40, was the top Spokane finisher at 44:15 to win $750.

Ruth Perkins, of Puyallup, was third in 44:27 and Kristen Schafer of Bellingham fourth in 45:29.

Blake Russell, from Pacific Grove, California, won the Masters division in 41:55 and collected $1,500. Catherine Watkins, 44, from Vancouver, British Columbia, ran 44:06 to place second in the division and defending Masters division champion Victoria Russell, 44, from Spokane, was third in 46:02 after running 44:30 a year ago.

Running with a purpose

Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bolton runs with a purpose.

The Wichita State record holder at 5,000 and 10,000 meters tells people she is from the town of Kapenguria in western Kenya, but that’s fudging things a bit, although the town does show up on Google Maps. When people Google her real hometown, the village of Lelan, they see a push pin stuck in the middle of white space on a map.

Her hometown has no roads, which is convenient because residents have no vehicles. People use animals for transportation in Lelan.

When she was young, her mother gave birth to a son who was quite ill, and Tuliamuk-Bolton ran several miles to a dispensary – a pharmacy staffed by a nurse – to get help. She ended up running to two dispensaries and both were closed. Her brother died.

Tuliamuk-Bolton lost two brothers in infancy, and she vowed to do something about it.

Tuliamuk-Bolton came to the United States originally to run at Iowa State, but once she arrived in Ames, Iowa, she found that the school did not have what was most important to her: a nursing program. Friends suggested she instead enroll at Wichita State, which has a highly-regarded program.

She intends to return to her hometown to help – especially to help keep young women away from genital mutilation, an outlawed practice that still is performed on young women.

The World Health Organization estimates that 140 million women have gone through such procedures.

Correspondent Steve Christilaw contributed to this report.

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