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Chepkurui Wins Third Consecutive Women’s Title at 38th Annual Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile

Men’s Race a Classic as Tum Bests Desisa by One Second

WASHINGTON, DC – A repeat champion in the women’s race and a fierce final sprint to the finish in the men’s event highlighted the 38th running of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run on Sunday morning.

Stephen Tum, a 24-year-old Kenyan, outlasted a pair of Ethiopians – Lelisa Desisa and Tilahun Regassa – down the stretch. Tum won the race with a time of 45 minutes, 43 seconds, just one second better than Desisa (45:44) and seven seconds ahead of Regassa (45:50).

Kenyan Lineth Chepkurui had no such trouble defending her previous two titles in the 2008 and 2009 Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Runs. The 23-year-old finished with a time of 51:51, shattering her own personal best in the event (53:32). Chepkurui is the first woman to win the event three times in a row since Julie Shea did so from 1975-77. Countrywoman Julliah Tinega placed a distant second at 52:39. Belainesh Zemedkun (53:22) – last year’s runner-up - was third.

The victories by Tum and Chepkurui were part of an ideal day of racing under mild conditions on a beautiful, sunny morning on the Washington Monument Grounds in the District.

Four male runners broke free from a pack of a dozen just before hitting the Mile 7 mark. Three-time Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile champion John Korir – seeking to tie the record of four wins long held by Bill Rodgers - joined Tum, Desisa and Regassa. But it wasn’t to be for Korir, 34, who faded as the group hit Mile 9 and took fourth in 46:05. Ironically, his final time was better than any of his three winning marks in 2001, 2003 and 2005. Regassa struggled during the final mile, setting up an epic race to the finish line by Tum and Desisa.

“I didn’t think I could win. They were working together to push the pace,” said Tum of the two Ethiopians as the trio traded the lead over the final two miles. “But I resisted and went for the finish.”

Stephen Muange (46:34), a 28-year-old Kenyan, was fifth, and top seed Gilbert Okari, 31, (46:39) placed sixth. Okari won the Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run in 2006. Tim Young was the best American – and local – male finisher. The Fredericksburg, VA, resident was 18th in 49:04.

Ethiopian Misker Demessie placed fourth in the women’s event (54:37), just ahead of top American Kelly Jaske (54:40), a Portland, OR, resident who finished fifth - just two seconds shy of the American women-only 10 mile record, set here last year by Sally Meyerhoff (RRCA Roads Scholar). Herndon, VA’s Samia Akbar (former RRCA Roads Scholar) was seventh overall (54:46). Phebe Ko of Bethesda, MD, was 10th in 58:39, while Caroline White, a 24-year-old Air Force Academy graduate, was 14th in 59:42. A supplemental purse was offered for the first time to the top three American male and female runners who cracked the Top 15 overall - $1,000, $500 and $250, respectively. Meanwhile, 52-year-old Joan Samuelson (2009 RRCA Masters Female Runner of the Year), the 1984 Olympic gold medalist in the marathon, set an American female record for the 50-59 age group with a time of 1:00.52, placing 18th overall and first in the Masters category.

This year’s event served as the Road Runners Club of America’s National 10 Mile Championship for the fourth consecutive year. National Champions were crowned in the open, Masters (40-49) and Grand Masters (50-59) divisions. Runners competed for the largest purse in event history - $45,000 in prize and bonus money.

The sponsoring Credit Union Miracle Day, Inc. takes great pride in the over $4 million dollars that has been raised for the Children’s Miracle Network since the Credit Unions became the title sponsor in 2002. A significant part of this total has gone to support Washington, DC’s own Children’s Hospital. More than 600 Credit Union members serve as volunteers and over 7,000 entrants are Credit Union members. The Credit Unions recently announced an extension of their title sponsorship of the race through 2016. This year they helped raise $923,000.

Supporting sponsors include Gatorade Endurance Formula, Navy Federal Credit Union, and Potomac River Running. The event is part of the Professional Road Running Association (PRRO) Circuit and the 2010 National Cherry Blossom Festival held from March 27 to April 11. This year’s festival celebrates the 98th anniversary of the gift of the cherry blossom trees and the enduring friendship between the citizens of the United States and Japan.

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