Okari, Ochichi win Lilac Bloomsday 12 km

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    SPOKANE, Wash. – Kenyans Gilbert Okari and Isabella Ochichi lived up to their billing as pre-race favorites, as the two withstood challenges from a strong field of contenders to win their respective divisions in the 30th running of the Lilac Bloomsday Run.

    Over 40,000 runners, joggers and walkers finished the 30th running of the Lilac Bloomsday Run, which has now recorded close to 1.2 million finishers during its history.

    On a chilly, overcast morning, Okari and his training partner Charles Kiama broke away from the pack. Heading up the infamous Doomsday Hill, though, Okari broke away, emerging with a solid lead by the top. Okari raced to the line in 34:14, more than 30 seconds ahead of Kiama. Those two were followed by Ernest Meli Kimeli and Julius Kibet, as Kenyans captured the top eight places.

    In the women's race Ochichi, the 2004 Olympic 5000 meter silver medalist, led the race with a first mile of 4:41, then moved steadily away from the pack. But Ukrainian Tetyana Hladyr closed the gap with less than a mile to go. Ochichi suddenly responded, unleashing a powerful kick on the final downhill to post a 38:38 victory, two seconds ahead of Hladyr.

    Matt Downin (Westwood, N.J.), led U.S. male finishers, running 35:52 for tenth place.

    2005 USA Marathon Champion Nicole Aish (Arvada, Colo.) finished ninth in 41:32 to lead U.S. Sylvia Mosqueda (Los Angeles, Calif.) 11th in 41:37, won the masters women's division, and Sean Wade (Houston, Texas), took top honors among masters men with a time of 37:45.

    Full results of the event are posted at http://www.bloomsdayrun.org. Next year's Bloomsday is Sunday, May 6, 2007.

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