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Nicholas Kosimbei, Susanna Sullivan win Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run

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The blue banner wrapped itself around Nicholas Kosimbei as he ran through it and crossed the finish line. The 25-year-old Kenyan stuck both his index fingers in the air, marking himself as the first-place male finisher in the 2022 Cherry Blossom Ten Mile Run.

Sunday’s run was the first Cherry Blossom race since April 2019 to take place under the namesake blossoms. After two virtual races and one September event last year, the racers finally got to run under the light pink flowers.

Kosimbei finished in 45 minutes 15 seconds, tying the course record set by fellow Kenyan Allan Kiprono in 2012. It was Kosimbei’s first Cherry Blossom run and his first 10-mile race. He took an early lead but said he had to push through fatigue in the ninth mile.

“I was a bit tired, but I pushed. I tried,” Kosimbei said.

“Very happy with the performance — we came and got the job done,” said Kosimbei’s coach and agent, Antony Scott. “There’s some more work to do in training, and we look forward to coming back in 2023 for an attempt at a faster course record.”

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Behind Kosimbei: Wilfred Kimitei (45:43) and Shadrack Kimining (45:48) rounded out the all-Kenyan top three. Americans Futsum Zienasellassie (46:53) and Reid Buchanan (46:57) placed fourth and fifth. The next five finishers were also American.

Susanna Sullivan of Reston, Va., became the first local runner since Baltimore’s Eleanor Simonsick in 1983 to win the women’s 10-mile race. Sullivan (52:32) broke away from a pack during the middle of the race and maintained her advantage the rest of the way.

“I felt like I was putting some distance on them,” Sullivan said. “I can tell … that I was accelerating a little, which surprised me. … In the last mile … it seemed like the energy was really picking up, and I couldn’t tell if that was just because I was leading or I was being closed on.”

Sullivan has now finished this race seven times since 2013, but Sunday was her first finish above eighth place. The fifth-grade teacher at Fairfax County’s Haycock Elementary noted that the Cherry Blossom race is one of the few achievements in her running career that will have an impact on her students.

“It’s huge. Everyone knows [what] the Cherry Blossom is,” Sullivan said. “A lot of my time, my running means nothing to my kids. . . . They don’t really get it, but a lot of their parents run this . . . so if I tell them I won Cherry Blossom that will mean something.”

Carrie Verdon (52:37), Paige Stoner (52:38), Sarah Pagano (52:46), and Kim Conley (53:40) made up the rest of the women’s top five. All 10 of the top female racers were American.

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