For immediate release: May 7, 2023
YIMER, KALAYU CHEKOLE CLINCH ETHIOPIAN SWEEP IN 47TH BLOOMSDAY
Tekoa’s Susannah Scaroni repeats as wheelchair champion
SPOKANE, Wash. – It’s called Doomsday Hill for a reason. Ethiopian Jemal Yimer used it to his advantage in Sunday’s Lilac Bloomsday Run.
With his Doomsday ascent as a springboard, Yimer turned a two-man race into a runaway in the 47th edition of the 12-kilometer (7.46-mile) event. Cresting the hill with a 4:32 split at the 5-mile mark, he left Teshome Mekonen in his wake and cruised to his second Bloomsday title in 33:58. Mekonen, a native of Ethiopia who now represents the U.S., finished in 34:18. Ethiopian Mogos Teumay was third in 34:30, while Kenyan David Bett was fourth in 34:44.
The women’s race featured a sprint to the finish, with Ethiopian Yeshi Kalayu surging around the final corner from Broadway to Monroe and outkicking two-time champion and course record-holder Cynthia Limo of Kenya. Kalayu broke the tape in 38:49, edging Limo by 2 seconds. Kenyan Daisy Kimeli was third in 39:27, and American Keira D’Amato placed fourth in 39:42.
More than 25,000 runners and walkers flooded the streets of Spokane under ideal racing conditions featuring cloudy skies and temperatures in the upper 40s. What most of the participants didn’t see, however, was tense competition among the front-running elite athletes.
Yimer knew when to make his move in the men’s race. As he crossed the T.J. Meenach Bridge over the Spokane River and headed toward Doomsday, he was eager for the climb.
“When I crossed the bridge, I felt good, and there was no wind,” said the 2018 champion, who finished only seven seconds off the course record. “I’m happy. It was a good race. Thank you very much to Bloomsday.”
Following opening splits of 4:32 and 4:31, the men’s lead pack was reduced from about 15 runners to six at the top of Cemetery Hill. Ensuing splits of 4:31 and 4:36 left Yimer and Mekonen alone and shoulder-to-shoulder at the 4-mile mark. But halfway up Doomsday, the race took a turn. Yimer hit the 5-mile mark in 22:37, separated from Mekonen, and peeked over his shoulder only twice the rest of the way—the second time as he turned left onto Broadway more than a mile later. By then he was in cruise control.
The women’s race took shape quickly, with the lead pack of Kimeli, D’Amato, Weynshet Waldeksadik, Limo, and Kalayu hitting the 1-mile mark in 5:13. Kimeli set the early pace. Limo seemed content to stay in the pack and let others do the pacing. Limo’s agent, Owen Anderson, said she was aiming to break her own course record, even opting to come to Spokane on Friday instead of Thursday to get “one last speed session in.”
By mile 2 at the top of Latah Valley, Kimeli, D’Amato, Waldeksadik, Kalayu, and Limo were by themselves. Kimeli pushed the pace up Cemetery Hill to mile 3, where D’Amato and Waldeksadik fell off the pace. Limo, Kimeli, and Kalayu ran three abreast to mile 4.
Yeshi took the lead on Doomsday, separating the three runners by approximately 15 meters. It looked as if Yeshi would begin to separate from her competitors after conquering the hill in 2:01, but Limo was not done. She caught and passed Yeshi, and looked like she might run away with the win.
By the time Limo and Kalayu reached the 6-mile marker, they were in a fierce battle. They ran mile 6 at a 4:43 pace and ran side-by-side until the final turn off of Broadway onto Monroe. Kalayu pulled away early in the final 200 meters and Limo could not close the gap.
Yimer and Kalayu each earned a first-place purse of $7,000. Americans Fernando Cabada (37:34) and Carre Heineck (44:49) each collected $1,500 for posting the top Elite Masters times, and top U.S. finishers will also receive bonus prize money.
In the women’s wheelchair division, cool and calm described not only the weather, but also the pride of the Palouse, Susannah Scaroni, as she traversed the course for the 16th time. She was calm, that is, until the bottom of Doomsday, where she unleashed a climbing attack on her home course that only a true Bloomie can appreciate. Scaroni finished 11 minutes ahead of her nearest competitor, winning in 30:02 and narrowly missing her course record of 29:58. Scaroni, fresh off her victory in the 2023 Boston Marathon, displayed her prowess as a titan in the sport. Hannah Babalola of New Jersey was second (41:26), with ParaSport Spokane alum and Paralympian Hannah Dederick placing third in her fifth Bloomsday (41:30).
Evan Correll, a rookie Bloomie and 19-year-old sophomore standout at the University of Illinois, took the men’s race in 28:38 after a strong surge at the corner of Riverside and Government Way. Placing second was Phillip Croft (30:23), a ParaSport Spokane alumni and also a sophomore at Illinois, with Jason Robinson (30:49) rounding out the Illini podium sweep.
Santiago Sanz won the Open Quad division in 37:49 to mark his 13th Bloomsday title, surpassing Jean Driscoll as the event’s winningest wheelchair racer. Ghanaian Raphael Botsyo repeated as Masters champion with a time of 36:46. He expressed his thanks to the many local supporters who helped raise funds for his travel to this year’s race.
Bloomsday 2023 finishers were treated to live music and entertainment along the course, not to mention donuts, ice cream, and the iconic vulture at the top of Doomsday Hill. The design for the finishers’ shirts, a tightly held secret until race day, features a stylized runner highlighted with yellow, pink, and blue lines on a black background.
Next year’s Lilac Bloomsday Run, the 48th, will be Sunday, May 5, 2024.