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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Bloomsday 2023: Ethiopian Yeshi Kalayu Chekole narrowly wins ‘amazing race’ women’s elite group

By Luke Pickett For The Spokesman-Review

Up until the women’s elite runners crossed the bridge over the Spokane River on Whistalks Way, Ethiopia’s Yeshi Kalayu Chekole and two-time Bloomsday Champion and course record holder, Cynthia Limo were tied together ahead of the pack.

As they approached the final turn towards the finish line at the north side of the Monroe Street Bridge, Kalayu Chekole burst around the corner to take the lead once and for all.

She won the 47th iteration of Bloomsday on Sunday by 2 seconds. This was the 25-year-old’s first Bloomsday race.

Her unofficial time on the 12-km (7.456-mile) course was 38 minutes, 48 seconds, an average pace of 5:13 per mile and she needed every step, as the women’s race was tightly contested for the first time since 2018.

Limo finished right behind Kalayu Chekole, with an unofficial time of 38:50. For much of the race, both two elite runners had their eyes set on breaking the course record. Limo still holds the record with her 38:03 performance in 2016.

At the start, a pack of five runners surged ahead, with Daisy Kimeli leading the way. As the runners entered Browne’s Addition on Riverside Avenue, Kalayu Chekole quickly established the pace of the group with Kimeli.

Their first mile was an astonishing 5:13, unofficially. Through 3 miles, the pack maintained an unofficial split pace of 5:15.

By the time Kalayu Chekole passed Spokane Falls Community College, the lead pack had slimmed down to three – Kimeli and Limo – being the only competition in Kalayu Chekole’s way.

As they made their way up Doomsday Hill, Kalayu Chekole made the push to take a commanding lead. As she made her way up, Limo stayed close behind while Kimeli fell behind.

The narrow gap between Kalayu Chekole and Limo closed once again as the two leaders headed back down the hill on the north side of Pettit Drive. As they reached the final water station near Cochran Street and Broadway, Kalayu Chekole emerged as the clear favorite.

Andy LeFriec, Bloomsday’s elite athlete coordinator, thought Kelayu Chekole’s performance in the final mile was awesome.

“Cynthia (Limo) has a great track record, but she had to sprint against a younger person,” LeFriec said.

Kelayu Chekole sprinted downhill towards the finish line to dust the two-time Bloomsday champion.

“It was an amazing race,” LeFriec said. “For the majority of the time, I looked like someone was going to break the record. I thought (Kalayu Chekole) went for (the win) too early on that last corner, but she hung in there.”

The Bloomsday trophy was Kalayu Chekole’s first win in running events this year.