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Desisa Sets New Record at 39th Annual Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

Women’s Race a Close Call as Tinega Bests Gesabwa by One Second

WASHINGTON, DC – A new race record in the men’s competition and a spirited battle for the women’s title highlighted the 39th annual Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run on Sunday morning.

Ethiopian Lelisa Desisa shook off last year’s heartbreaking runner-up finish with a time of 45 minutes, 36 seconds. His time broke the old race record of 45:38, which had stood for 16 years since Ismael Kirui posted his then-word record time. Meanwhile, Julliah Tinega outlasted Risper Gesabwa in the women’s event, besting her fellow Kenyan by a single second with a winning time of 54:02.

Desisa lost a contentious final sprint in 2010 to finish one second behind Stephen Tum. But the 21-year-old would not be denied in 2011. He crossed the finish line six seconds ahead of second-place Allan Kiprono and a full 51 seconds ahead of Ridouane Harroufi, the two-time event champion who took third.

“Last year I was happy. Today I’m even more happy to be the winner,” Desisa said. “The weather was good today. I knew what the [race] record was and I wanted to beat that time.”

Tinega also avenged a runner-up finish from last year. But unlike Desisa, the 25-year-old was a distant second at the 2010 Cherry Blossom by 48 seconds to Lineth Chepkurui. Tinega, Gesabwa and Ethiopian Tgist Tufa broke free from the pack for good at about the 8-mile mark before the two Kenyans pulled away in the final ½ mile. Tufa (54:13) placed third. Alemtsehay Misganaw (55:17) was fourth overall, and the United Kingdom’s Claire Hallissey (56:17) took fifth.

The top American male runner was Lucas Meyer, who placed 13th with a time of 48:26. Kelly Jaske, a lawyer from Portland, OR and a former Washington, D.C. resident, was the best American female (57:06) for the second year in a row. It was also her second consecutive fifth-place finish. The event offered a supplemental American-only purse ($1,000-$500-$250) to the top three American men and women who place among the top 15 finishers overall. Damascus, MD resident Michelle Miller (59:20) qualified after earning seventh just ahead of Sharon Lemberger (59:40) of Stamford, CT. On the men’s side, Washington, D.C.’s David Nightingale (48:39) was 14th, followed by Augustus Maiyo (49:56) of Colorado Springs, CO.

The sponsoring Credit Union Miracle Day, Inc., celebrating its 10th year as the title sponsor, takes great pride in the $5 million dollars that have 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 700 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.

As was the case last year, soldiers and civilians overseas were part of the Credit Union Cherry Blossom Ten Mile. This year the organizing committee supported a “satellite” race at Camp Arifjan in Kuwait. The event was expected to attract close to 1,000 starters. Camp Arifjan serves as a major staging area for U.S. troops deploying throughout the Middle East.

Widely known as “The Runner’s Rite of Spring,” the Credit Union Cherry Blossom is hugely popular among the more-gentle running population as well. Over 28,000 people applied for the 15,000 10 mile slots and 1,000 slots in the 5K Run-Walk Presented by Kaiser Permanente through a lottery held last December. This year’s field came from all 49 states (lacking only North Dakota) and over a dozen foreign countries.

Supporting sponsors include Kaiser Permanente of the Middle Atlantic Region; the presenting sponsor of the 5K Run-Walk; Gatorade Endurance Formula; Navy Federal Credit Union; New Balance; and Potomac River Running. The event is a member of the Professional Road Running Association (PRRO) Circuit and is a participating event in the 2011 National Cherry Blossom Festival held from March 26 to April 10. This year’s festival celebrates the 99th anniversary of the gift of the cherry trees and the enduring friendship between the citizens of the United States and Japan.

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