The men's elite field is dominated -- no surprise -- by Kenyans. Bloomsday's elite athlete coordinator, Jon Neill, reports that three former Bloomsday champions will return this year: Reuben Cheruiyot (who has raced five times here, winning in 2000 but placing ninth last year), John Korir (the 2003 Bloomsday champ who won February's "World's Best 10K" in Puerto Rico) and Simon Wangai (last year's Bloomsday winner).
Last year's third-place and fourth-place finishers will also return: Nelson Kiplagat Birgen and Samuel Ndereba (brother of Catherine "the Great" Ndereba, the four-time Boston Marathon champion). Other Kenyan men to watch include Ernest Meli Kimeli (just 19 years old), Linus Maiyo (the Penn Relays 10K champ), Wesley Ochoro and Gilbert Okari (who finished third here in '03).
The women's field features not only the defending champion, Albina Ivanova of Russia, but also two runners who competed in the 10,000m final at the Athens Olympics: Kathy Butler of Great Britain and Lydia Grigorieva of the United States (by way of Russia). Neill adds that the women's frontrunners will include "a good Australian, Kerryn McCann, and a dark horse by the name of Asmae Leghzaoui -- she's Moroccan and a former 8K road world record holder. She's been on maternity leave for the past year and a half and didn't race at all.
"You know," Neill continues, "Bloomsday has such great name recognition -- several of the agents I've talked to hold out their runners until Bloomsday, keeping them in their country of origin until just before our race."
Also competing will be Teresa Wanjiku of Kenya (second at Bloomsday in 2002) and Firaya Sultanova-Zhadanova (of Gainesville, Fla., by way of Russia; 11th at this month's Boston Marathon).
Top American women include Sylvia Mosqueda (three top-five finishes at Bloomsday, just won the 10K at the Mount SAC Relays in Walnut, Calif., this month) and Zoe Nelson (a senior at Montana's Flathead High School who's a former Foot Locker national champion and high school All-American).
Bloomsday's special guest this year is an elite runner with a local connection: Bernard Lagat, the two-time Olympic medalist in the 1,500m run (bronze at Sydney, silver at Athens) who competed for WSU in 1995-99. On Saturday, April 30, at 1 pm at the Ag Trade Center, as part of the Bloomsday trade show, Lagat will show footage of his silver-medal run in 2004 "and discuss his thoughts, strategies and emotions at various points during the race."