Diriba Hoping to Join the Three-Peat Club
Spokane, Washington—Buze Diriba will try for a three-peat, and Gabriel Geay a repeat in the 43rd Lilac Bloomsday Run this Sunday. A third straight victory for Diriba would notch her place in history as one of only four women who have won Bloomsday three years in a row, the others being Anne Audain (1981-’83), Jane Omoro (1998-2000) and Lineth Chepkurui (2008-’10). The Ethiopian star has additional motivation with Bloomsday hosting the PRRO Championship, with the opportunity to win the PRRO Super Bonus of $10,000 on top of Bloomsday’s first place prize of $7,000.
For Gabriel Geay of Tanzania, Bloomsday will be an opportunity to reclaim the title that he captured so convincingly in 2017, when as a Bloomsday novice and late entrant he surprised a tough international field with his decisive victory sprint on the homestretch. Unfortunately, 2018 was a different story, as Geay faded to a thirteenth place finish. Whether he can get back on the podium this year remains to be seen.
Bloomsday’s 12-kilometer course will be the site of the PRRO Championship for the second time, with a top international field competing for $81,000 in guaranteed prize money, with a $50,000 Open purse going 15-deep plus $20,000 for top U.S. finishers. Along with the 24th PRRO Championship and race titles at stake, PRRO Circuit 2018-19 event champions also qualified to compete for the $10,000 PRRO Super Bonus as well as PRRO Event Champion's Bonus money. Those eligible among the women include Diriba and Rosemary Wanjiru, the recent champion of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile in Washington, DC, and Geay among the men, who qualified with his victory at last summer’s Boilermaker 15K (Utica, NY). The races on the circuit besides Bloomsday are the Boilermaker, Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile, and the Publix Gasparilla Half Marathon.
“Diriba, Wanjiru and Geay all have a shot at the $10,000 PRRO Super Bonus, as well as Bloomsday’s first place prize of $7,000,” said Bloomsday Elite Athlete Coordinator Jon Neill. “But they’ll have to get past a deep international field. As always, the winners of many top spring U.S. road races will converge on Spokane to try and add another title to their resumes.”
Although Diriba and Wanjiru are the pre-race favorites, they’re expected to have plenty of competition at the front, including Monicah Ngige of Kenya, who ran the third fastest 5-kilometer time in the world this year as well as winning the Cooper River Bridge Run. In addition, 19-year-old Esther Wanjiru of Kenya has recorded impressive marks this spring and could be a surprise factor.
In the men’s race, last year’s champ Jemal Yimer will not return, as he was required by the Ethiopian Federation to report back to Ethiopia to participate in his country’s 10,000-meter trials, which are being held this weekend. Even so, Geay won’t have an easy time of it, as Kenyans Silas Kipruto and Dominic Korir will be after the champion’s crown as well. Kipruto won this spring’s Cooper River Bridge Run in a sizzling time of 27:58, while Korir was the Azalea Trail 10K champion.
Top Americans in the men’s race include Alex Monroe of Longmont, Colorado, who has a personal best 10,000 of 28:17.03, and Andrew Epperson of Fort Collins, Colorado, who ran 63:17 at the 2019 Houston Half Marathon. For the women, top Americans include Lindsey Scherf, who was 8th at Bloomsday 2016, and Shalaya Kipp, a 2012 Olympian in the steeplechase.
The wheelchair competition should also be competitive, with eight Paralympians in the field. Last year’s champions, Daniel Romanchuk and Tatyana McFadden, won’t be returning, but four-time Bloomsday women’s champion Susannah Scaroni of Tekoa, Washington, is ready to seek her fifth title, and two-time Bloomsday runnerup Aaron Pike appears to be the men’s favorite to capture his first Bloomsday title.
With the wheelchair purse of $17,000, Bloomsday is offering nearly $100,000 in prize money, including a $10,000 purse ($5,000 - $2,500 - $1,250 - $750 - $500) for the top male and female Americans who finish in the top 25. Runners will also have a shot at PRRO Championship money as mentioned above. Drug testing of top competitors is conducted at all PRRO Circuit events in partnership with Clearidium, the company that manages testing for the IAAF.
A field of nearly 40,000 runners and walkers are expected to have entered by the time registration closes on Saturday evening. Procrastinators will have until 6:30 on Saturday to sign up.