Short Course Unable to Slow Sambu, Wacera;
Riley Captures Second American Status at CUCB


WASHINGTON, DC--The weather in April in the Capital can be unpredictable. One year there was strong winds and colder temperatures. On Sunday, April 12, the weather was picture perfect, which was ideal for the thousands of tourists to visit the city. The main attraction was the Cherry Blossom trees which lined the Tidal Basin around the Thomas Jefferson Memorial.

The timing of the blossoms coincided with the 43rd Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile Run. The annual event is considered the Rite of Spring as the Washington area opens the racing season.

The race benefited the Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. The donation for 2015 totaled $525,852. In the 43-year history there have been only been eight sponsors with the Credit Union Miracle Day in its fourteenth year.

The Credit Union Cherry Blossom 10 Mile run is rich in history and has the site of some the most impressive 10-mile times along some the nation's talented athletes. In 1983 Greg Meyer set the then World Record at 46:13, which remains the American and the race record. During the event, Meyer opened with a 4:39 mile, and halfway through on the rain soaked course Meyer took a fall but recovered quickly.

The late (April 12, 2013) Hedy Marque of Alexandria, VA, is the holder of the age group records 70-74 (1:22:58), 75-79 (1:25:40), 80-84 (1:31:24), and 85-89 (1:57:38). Marque was inducted into the USATF Masters’ Hall of Fame in 2012.

The oldest age-group record holder is the late Ruth Rothfarb, age group 90-94 (3:27:30).

Each year the Credit Union Cherry Blossom assembles a star-studded field for both males and females. This year the race offered the largest purse to date with $40,000 for the top 10 males and females with $8,000 for first place. The American purse was $25,000 for the top 10 males and females with $5,000 for first place. There was an added bonus of a $10,000 bonus for a new American record.

In the early morning hour it was to be a perfect day for a race and the eyes were on the records. At 5:55 a.m. there was an incident that involved a pedestrian and a motorcycle with a serious injury. The incident was at the Eastbound Avenue at the Kutz Bridge which was part of the race course. The area was considered a crime scene and closed off. The result was a shortened course and no chance of any records. The decision was made to run the event and to award the prize money based upon the modified course.

After the race the course was re-measured and it was short by 0.61347 miles, about 1,080 yards, which made the actual distance 9.38653 miles. The mathematical conversion is time run in seconds by 1.06536 which yields time run in seconds.

This was an unfortunate incident but the thoughts were with the pedestrian as the plans moved forward to start the event. The course was diverted before the fifth mile.


The men’s race was off on time and into the first turn a pack of 15 quickly set a fast pace. Each stride was being matched as it was too early to make any calls. The turn before the Memorial Bridge at the first mile was 4:47. The lead pack included Stephen Sambu, Daniel Salel, Philip Langat, and American Luke Puskedra (Provo, Utah) who towered over six feet tall. Jacob Riley of Rochester, Michigan was in the middle of the pack.

On the return from across the Memorial Bridge the pack remained tight going through Mile Two in 9:38 (4:51 split). The front runners included Dominic Ondoro, Salel, Girma Mescheso, and Stephen Sambu. Riley, and Puskedra were holding mid-pack.

The pack moved up towards the Kennedy Center along Rock Creek Parkway to the turnaround. Ondoro, Salel, and Sambu were the front runners going through Mile Three in 14:15 (Elapsed 14:15). Riley remained in the hunt but made no move to take the lead. The 5K elapsed time was 14:48. The diversion was in the course and the runners took an alternate route to reach Hains Point. The pack had dropped down to eight.

Although there would be no records, prize money was still a major factor. Each runner showed no signs of slowing. There was 4:29 split between the original Mile Seven and Eight. The pace dropped to a 4:26 split between Mile Eight and Nine. Sambu had taken to the lead by 15 meters but Jacobs had proved to be a dominant runner and was not letting go.

Coming off Hanis Point, Sambu moved into another gear as he tried to shake the trailing runners. Sambu pushed around East Basin Drive going to the finish with Riley in hot pursuit. The slight downhill pushed Sambu in with 43:20 to collect first place and Riley held in for second place with 43:28.

“Sambu was surging every 200 meters and when I found out what he was doing I was covering each move. I knew at some point that he was going to put in a major kick and he did it at Mile Eight. I still had others to work off,” stated Riley.

The last time an American came in second place was in 1991. Carl Thackery of England placed first with 46:25 and Bill Reifsnyder of Albuqerque was second with 46:30.

The closest winning time to Meyer was in 1986 by Thom Hunt of San Diego, CA, in a time of 46:15.

The third position was captured by Elisha Barno of Kenya with 43:31. Salel captured fourth place in 43:34. Girma Mescheso was fifth with a time of 43:43.

In the women’s race it was a Kenyan clean sweep in the top five. Mary Wacera took first place with a time of 48:35 followed by Cynthia Limo with a time of 48:35. The third position was captured by Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bol with a time of 49:20.

Monicah Wanjuhi Ngige was fourth with a time of 49:54. The fifth position was captured by Lineth Chepkurui with a time of 50:11.



Joining the multiple Masters winners was Philippe Rolly of McLean, VA. Last year Rolly captured first place with 52:38 and this year he placed 30th with a time of 49:36. Second place was captured by Martin Lanz of Bethesda, MS, with 53:00 (64th place). Paul Davis of Boise, Idaho was third with 54:09.

Rolly shared: “My goal was to run as fast as possible.  I didn’t really care about my title from last year.  Every year, there are new “young” Masters, and you never know who is going to show up.  I don’t want to think about other guys, but prefer to run against myself. I love competing against some of the fastest runners in the DC area, especially the ones from the Georgetown Running Company.  Cherry Blossom is one of the only races in the DC area with such a deep local field.”

Jen Rhines of Boston, MA, was the top Masters with a 53:04. Rhines is a member of the Boston Athletic Association high-performance team and a three-time U.S. Olympian, 2000 in Sydney in the 10,000 meters (16th-31:26.66), 2004 in Athens in the marathon (34th-2:43:52), and 2008 in Beijing in the 5,000 meters (14th – 16:34.63).

Rhines is a 1996 graduate of Villanova University and a five-time NCAA individual champion. At the 2011 USA Half Marathon Championship first place was captured in a time of 1:11:14, a personal record.

Second was captured by Kara Waters of Great Falls, VA, with a time of 57:10. Brenda Schrank of Winchester, VA, was third with a time of 57:51.

Joan Benoit-Samuelson of Freeport, Maine captured first in the age group 55-59 with a 58:56.

There is only one person who holds the title of Open and Masters winner: Colleen DeReuck formerly of South Africa, Open event record holder in 1998 (51:16) and Masters winner in 2012 (58:14).

The closest winning margin was in 1993 as Rose Malloy ran 1:02:32 and Janet Jordan of Portland, Oregon ran 1:02:51


Top Americans

It was unfortunate to have the incident prior to the race as for the first time in many years the American runners were showing great promise throughout the entire race. Normally, halfway through the race the Americans would begin to fade, but this year the message was different and all moves were being covered with determination.

The standout was Jacob Riley, six time All-American (Stanford University) and a member of the Hansons-Brooks Distance project. Riley placed second with a time of 43:28. Trailing not far behind was Girma Mescheso of West Chester, PA, in fifth place with a time of 43:43. Mescheso was Ethionpian born and received his US citizenship in 2010 and was a standout at Oklahoma State University, seven time All-American, 2013 graduate. He holds a 10,000 meters PR of 28:18.97. Last year he placed second with 47:22.

Fourth place was captured by Jared Ward of Provo, UT with a time of 442:20. Luke Puskedra placed fifth with a time of 45:25.

The top US female was Serena (Ramsey) Burla of Stafford, VA, in sixth place with a time of 50:18. In 2010 Burla had a malignant tumor in her right hamstring about the size of an egg. In 2013 she set her marathon PR of 2:28:01 with a second place at the Amsterdam Marathon. At the Aramco Half Marathon Burla captured the USA Half Marathon Championship with a time of 1:10:48. In 2010 and 2011 she was runner-up. In 2014 she was inducted into the Waukesha West High School (WI) Hall of Fame.

Second place was captured by Megan Goethals of Rochester Mills, MI, with a time of 51:07. In 2009 Goethals was the Gatorade National Cross Country Runner of the Year and the National Foot Locker Cross Country Champion (17:06.9- 5K). In 2010 she was the Nike National Girls Two Mile Champion (10:10.4). Goethals graduate from the University of Washington in 2014.

Juliet Bottorff of the Boston Athletic Association high performance team and a 2014 graduate of Duke University was third. Bottorff’s grandmother, Emily Bigelow, graduated from Duke in 1945. Bortorff (hometown of Newark, DE.) placed third with 51:12. At the 2015 USATF Half Marathon Championship (Texas) she placed sixth with 1:11:30, after leading for the first half. While at Duke in 2013 she captured an ACC and Duke record indoors at 5,000 meters (15:49.45) and in 2014 outdoors she set an ACC Championship meet record at 10,000 meters in a time of 32:25.69.

Fourth was captured by Lindsay Flanagan of Silver Spring, MD, in a time of 51:15. Susanna Sullivan of Falls Church, VA, was fifth in a time of 51:44, (Grand Valley State graduate). Last year Sullivan finished with a time of 58:41. At the USA Half Marathon Championship (Houston) Sullivan ran a 1:13:13 (PR). Sullivan is a member of the Capital Area Runners.

Frances Lee of the Government and Politics Team from the University of Maryland (UMD) finished with a 1:19:31 and the team placed sixth in the Corporate division. Lee has run the event six times and this was the third year a team participated.

In an effort to remain in a class by himself, Bennett Beach of Bethesda, MD, continued his streak of finishing his 43rd year of the race with a time of 1:32:15. Beach has personal best of 53:16 which he ran in 1985 at the age of 35 and placed 70th.

The top winners in the 5K Open were Dylan Eddinger of Bally, PA, with a time of 17:02. The top female was Ashley Kollme of Washington, D.C. in a time of 18:29.

Top Open


1. Stephen Sambu 43:20
2. Jacob Riley 43:28
3. Elisha Barno 43:31
4. Daniel Salel 43:34
5. Girma Mescheso 43:43


30. Philippe Rolly 49:36
64. Martin Lanz 53:00
75. Paul Davis 54:09

Top U.S. Men


2. Jacob Riley 43:28
5. Girma Mescheso 43:43
10. Jared Ward 44:20
12. Luke Puskedra 45:25
13. Chris Kwiatkowski 45:43

Top Open


1. Mary Wacera 48:35
2. Cynthia Limo 48:35
3. Aliphine Tuliamuk-Bol 49:20
4. Monicah Wanjuhni Ngig 49:54
5. Lineth Chepkurui 50:11


16. Jen Rhines 53:04
27. Kara Waters 57:10
30. Brenda Schrank 57:51

Top U.S. Women


6. Serena Burla 50:18
8. Megan Goethals 51:07
9. Juliet Bottorff 51:12
10. Lindsay Flanagan 51:15
11. Susanna Sullivan 51:44