Benard Ngeno pushed ahead of the 2019 Lilac Bloomsday Run’s elite men’s race Sunday, creating a roughly 50-meter cushion between the Kenyan and the field.
But before Ngeno approached the 43rd annual 12k race’s most arduous stretch – Doomsday Hill – he kept turning his head, looking to see if any of the world-class runners behind him had closed the gap.
Top-seeded Gabriel Geay – the 2017 Bloomsday champion – was on his heels.
Geay proceeded to make his biggest move at the 10k mark and maintained his kick down Monroe Street, edging Ngeno in a thrilling finish.
He broke the tape in 34 minutes, 50 seconds, just ahead of Ngeno (34:51).
Patience and experience paid off the for the 22-year-old, who appeared to save his biggest push for Doomsday Hill’s lengthy incline.
Geay, a soft-spoken Tanzanian, became the sixth runner in Bloomsday history to win multiple elite men’s race titles.
“I’m very happy to win Bloomsday again. I’m very proud to be here,” said Geay, who bounced back from a 13th-place finish in 2018. “I want to return next year.”
His training partner, Edwin Mokua (Kenya), placed third at 34:59.
Elite race coordinator Jon Neill, who will be Bloomsday’s director next year following the retirement of director and founder Don Kardong, liked Geay’s strategy.
“Doomsday Hill is the where the leader will make his best move, and he knew it was coming,” Neill said.
“(Ngeno) had to have been thinking to himself, ‘I think I made my move too early.’ ”
Geay won the $7,000 first-place purse and also split a PRRO Championship Circuit bonus of $10,000 bonus with Rosemary Wanjiru, winner of the women’s elite race.
“I’ll want to use the money to do good things,” he said.
Edwin Kibichiy, a former Louisville star who won the 2017 NCAA national title in the steeple chase, helped set the pace early, leading the first half of the race before Ngeno started to move away from the pack. He finished fourth (35:04).
Thirteen Americans finished in the top 25 of the men’s elite race, including seventh-place Colin Bennie (35:37), a North Carolina native and former All-American at Syracuse.
Locally, former North Central stars Vince Hamilton (38:06) and Andrew Kimpel (38:14) finished 24th and 26th, respectively.
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