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Kenyan Charles Wanjiku uses late kick to narrowly win Bloomsday men’s title; Susannah Scaroni tops women’s wheelchair division

UPDATED: Sun., May 1, 2022

By Jason Shoot The Spokesman-Review

Reid Buchanan rounded the last turn and peeked over his shoulder, his lead seemingly safe.

Fifteen seconds later the American’s lead was not his anymore.

Kenyan Charles Wanjiku overcame Buchanan’s late kick and finished first in a two-man sprint to the finish at the Monroe Street Bridge to win the men’s elite race at the Lilac Bloomsday Run on Sunday.

Wanjiku finished the 7.46-mile race in 35 minutes, 8 seconds. Buchanan finished one stride back.

Susannah Scaroni, a native of Tekoa, Washington, captured her fifth Bloomsday title in the women’s wheelchair division. Daniel Romanchuk claimed first place in the men’s wheelchair race.

Wanjiku and Buchanan separated from a sizable lead group on Doomsday Hill. Buchanan stayed on Wanjiku’s heels until they reached the overpass spanning Maple Street. Buchanan then made his move, passing Wanjiku on his right and quickly putting several strides between them.

“I wanted him to feel me,” Buchanan said. “He was doing more work by leading, and that went into my plan of attack (with the late kick). But he did a great job responding.”

Buchanan placed 12th overall in both 2017 and 2018.

“When I ran this before I fell off after Doomsday,” Buchanan said. “This time I told myself no matter what, when they surge I’m not falling off. And when I did that, it was just down to three of us.”

A group of 11 runners led the men’s field down Riverside Avenue to Latah Creek. The uphill climb to Government Way thinned the group, and eight runners were left in the pack when they passed mile 4 near Spokane Falls Community College.

“Nobody wanted to run fast,” said Buchanan, who was an All-American cross country and 10,000-meter runner at the University of Portland. “Weird. It was beautiful out, but that’s the way it goes sometimes.”

David Bett and Amanuel Mesel pursued Wanjiku and Buchanan up Doomsday Hill on Pettet Drive but couldn’t keep pace with the leaders. Once Wanjiku and Buchanan made the turn onto Mission Avenue, the event had become a two-man race.

Scaroni didn’t have much competition in the women’s wheelchair race. She finished in 31:18, well ahead of second-place finisher Peyton Gunnarson (34:35).

“I am trying to win, but sometimes – especially in this race – your biggest competition is yourself,” she said.

Scaroni captured a gold medal and a bronze medal at last year’s Paralympics in Tokyo, but she was hit by a car during training last September and suffered a fractured T8 vertebra in her back. She said she “felt good out there” and intends to race in Switzerland later this month.

Scaroni acknowledged her familiarity with the course was a benefit.

“There are a lot of hills to climb,” she said. “But I grew up training on this course, and I’m getting better in the hills, especially on Doomsday.”

In the men’s wheelchair race, Romanchuk finished with a time of 25:32 to earn his second Bloomsday crown (2018). Aaron Pike, the 2019 champion, placed second with a time of 27:54.

Bloomsday featured 24,119 in-person runners and 5,229 running virtually, according to race director Jon Neill.

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