Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper The Spokesman-Review

Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
Cloudy 71° Cloudy
Sports >  Area sports

‘She was in her own zone’: Biruktayit Degefa dominates Bloomsday elite women’s race

UPDATED: Sun., May 1, 2022

By Justin Reed For The Spokesman-Review

By the time the women’s elite runners entered Browne’s Addition on Riverside Avenue, Ethiopia’s Biruktayit Degefa had a 10 -second lead on the pack behind her.

And as she crossed the finish line, she led by a minute and a half.

Degefa said she was confident coming into the 46th iteration of Bloomsday on Sunday that she could win.

Her unofficial time was 38:47, an average pace of 5:13 a mile.

She missed the course record held by Cynthia Limo who ran 38:03 in 2016.

It also was the ninth-fastest finish in Bloomsday women’s history.

This was her second time in Spokane, last running here in 2017 when she finished above the 40-minute mark. Degefa said she was happy with the results.

Andy Le Friec, Bloomsday’s elite athlete coordinator, said he knew around the 4-mile mark Degefa had the victory locked down. He said he saw her wave at one of the aid stations around that mark .

This was the second Bloomsday in a row – 2019 being the last – where the women’s race was a runaway victory.

Degefa never looked back at the runners behind her, and she checked her watch a handful of times throughout the race.

“She was in her own zone,” Le Friec said.

Her first mile was a blistering 4:36, unofficially.

That time put a large gap between her and the rest of the pack.

“A little bit, although she’s been running an amazing marathon time,” Le Friec said. “For her to have that kind of speed is awesome.”

As she crossed through Browne’s Addition, Degefa’s 10 -second lead continued to widen. On Government Way between the two cemeteries, her lead grew to 35 seconds.

As the women ran past Spokane Falls Community College, Degefa was ahead by a full minute.

By the time she reached Doomsday Hill, she had a sizable lead that grew as she climbed the incline.

The main pack that was behind her fractured as they went up the hill.

It was almost as if the onlookers on the course were surprised to see her so far ahead. It wasn’t until after the pace truck passed the spectators that they began to cheer her on.

As she got closer to the finish, her boyfriend, Josef Tessema, was waiting for her around Broadway and Elm, shouting words of encouragement toward Degefa. He ran the final mile or so with her, and she pressed toward the finish line at the north side of the Monroe Street Bridge.

“I just wanted to cheer her on,” Tessema said.

He said Degefa was targeting the course record, but there wasn’t any competition to drive her this year.

“We knew she has the spirit and the strength,” he said. “It is just a matter of someone pushing her. It is unfortunate actually.”

The Bloomsday crown is Degefa’s fourth win in four events this year.

Mackena Morley, a University of Colorado All-American, took second with an unofficial time of 40:09 and Risper Gesabwa rounded out the top three with a time of 40:23.

Olympian Kim Conley was fourth, running at 40:28.

Clarkston’s Kari Hamilton placed 14th at 45:13.

Carre Heinceck was the top women master’s finisher at 45:22.

The Spokesman-Review Newspaper

Local journalism is essential.

Give directly to The Spokesman-Review's Northwest Passages community forums series -- which helps to offset the costs of several reporter and editor positions at the newspaper -- by using the easy options below. Gifts processed in this system are not tax deductible, but are predominately used to help meet the local financial requirements needed to receive national matching-grant funds.

Active Person

Subscribe to the sports newsletter

Get the day’s top sports headlines and breaking news delivered to your inbox by subscribing here.