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Hokuren Distance Challenge Sapporo Meet - Results

by Brett Larner

The 2009 Hokuren Distance Challenge Sapporo meet took place on June 6, the first in a six-part series of meets in June and July in towns across Japan's northernmost island of Hokkaido. Hokkaido is a major summer training spot for Japanese professional and university teams, one of the only places in the country where summer temperatures allow quality workouts. The first half of the Hokuren Distance Challenge series in June serves as a tuneup each year for the National Track and Field Championships, while the July segment helps runners prepare for world-level events later in the summer.

At the Sapporo meet, the three heats of the men's 5000 m were all fast and competitive. Kyoto Sangyo University's Taiki Mitsuoka broke 14 to win the C-heat. The top eight men in the A-heat all ran PB times, with Team Kanebo's Shinji Kanagawa edging out Waseda University second-year Yuki Yagi for the win in 13:42.57. Yagi, the 2007 national high school 5000 m champion, was the only university runner to make the top 10 as he finished 2nd in 13:43.49, a welcome return to form after a mostly disappointing university debut last year.

The top five in the B-heat also ran PBs, led by Nittai University second-years Kazuya Deguchi and Takuya Noguchi. Both men came to Sapporo having sat out the spring track season as a result of a marijuana scandal at their school in which they were not involved, and both showed razor-sharp determination to make up for the lost season. Nittai's ace Takahiro Mori holds a 5000 m PB of 13:51.25. Deguchi took 25 seconds off his PB to win in 13:48.33, while Noguchi took 8 second off his own best mark to finish 2nd in 13:50.28. If the rest of the school's distance squad shows similar drive to make up for its damaged reputation then Nittai will be very dangerous in the fall ekiden season.

The women's 5000 m was also competitive, with four of the top ten clocking PBs including a blowout performance by Seika Nishikawa of Meijo University, who won by a margin of nearly 14 seconds in a substantial PB of 15:38.22 against a field of mostly professional runners. Her teammates Aki Odagiri and Ayaka Sutani also broke into the top 10.

Team Hitachi Cable's Jonathan Ndiku was the only man to break 8 minutes in the 3000 m, winning in a PB of 7:52.89, while Yukari Soh, the daughter of her Team Asahi Kasei coach and marathon great Takeshi Soh, took the women's 3000 m. The bigger news in the women's 3000 m was 10000 m junior national record holder Megumi Kinukawa's 2nd place finish. Although her time of 9:22.68 was far from her PB, the race showed an improvement in the injury-plagued Kinukawa's condition after opening her season at the Shizuoka International meet several weeks ago with a 5000 m in which she finished last and barely broke 18 minutes.

Team Kanebo's recent Ethiopian hire Nahom Mesfin beat national record holder Yoshitaka Iwamizu of Team Fujitsu for the win in the 3000 m SC. 3rd place finisher Hiroyoshi Umegae of Team NTN continued to improve, breaking his two week old PB with a new mark of 8:35.19. Women's 3000 m SC winner Yoshika Tatsumi of Team Deodeo likewise clocked a new PB of 9:53.87, still far from Minori Hayakari's national record but putting Tatsumi into the role of potential successor to the record holder.

The 2009 Hokuren Distance Challenge continues June 10 in Fukagawa, Hokkaido. Click here for complete results from the Sapporo meet.

2009 Hokuren Distance Challenge Sapporo Meet - Top Finishers

Men's 5000 m
1. Shinji Kanagawa (Team Kanebo) - 13:42.57 - PB
2. Yuki Yagi (Waseda Univ.) - 13:43.49 - PB
3. Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo) - 13:44.79 - PB
4. Tomoaki Bungo (Team Asahi Kasei) - 13:45.20 - PB
5. Takehiro Arakawa (Team Asahi Kasei) - 13:45.45 - PB
6. Yukiyoshi Kino (Team S&B) - 13:46.09 - PB
7. Shigeru Furukawa (Team Subaru) - 13:46.87 - PB
8. Kenichi Shiraishi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 13:47.22 - PB
9. Noritaki Fujiyama (Team Sumco Techxiv) - 13:51.59
10. Ryosuke Fukuyama (Team JAL Ground Service) - 13:52.63

Women's 5000 m
1. Seika Nishikawa (Meijo Univ.) - 15:38.22 - PB
2. Ayaka Ohira (Team Daihatsu) - 15:52.57 - PB
3. Maki Arai (Team Uniqlo) - 15:55.45
4. Takami Ota (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 15:56.31
5. Aki Odagiri (Meijo Univ.) - 15:56.91
6. Chizuru Ideta (Team Daihatsu) - 15:57.01 - PB
7. Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 15:57.74
8. Seika Iwamura (Team Daihatsu) - 16:02.21
9. Kumi Ogura (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 16:13.35 - PB
10. Ayaka Sutani (Meijo Univ.) - 16:14.84

Men's 5000 m B-heat
1. Kazuya Deguchi (Nittai Univ.) - 13:48.33 - PB
2. Takuya Noguchi (Nittai Univ.) - 13:50.28 - PB
3. Norio Kamijo (Team Aichi Steel) - 13:50.80 - PB
4. Akihiko Tsumurai (Team Mazda) - 13:51.49 - PB
5. Yusuke Yokota (Team Komori Corp.) - 13:52.39 - PB

Men's 5000 m C-heat
1. Taiki Mitsuoka (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 13:57.67 - PB

Men's 3000 m
1. Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Cable) - 7:52.89 - PB
2. Naoto Morimoto (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 8:07.10
3. Yuya Konishi (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 8:09.49

Women's 3000 m
1. Yukari Soh (Team Asahi Kasei) - 9:21.17
2. Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) - 9:22.68
3. Kazumi Hashimoto (Team Hokuren) - 9:25.17

Men's 3000 m SC
1. Nahom Mesfin (Team Kanebo) - 8:29.48
2. Yoshitaka Iwamizu (Team Fujitsu) - 8:34.95
3. Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) - 8:35.19 - PB

Women's 3000 m SC
1. Yoshika Tatsumi (Team Deodeo) - 9:53.87 - PB
2. Miho Notagashira (Team Wacoal) - 10:25.94
3. Yuki Hiroi (Meijo Univ.) - 10:28.65

Men's 1500 m
1. Kazuya Watanabe (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) - 3:46.64
2. Takehiko Onishi (Team NTN) - 3:48.20
3. Masanobu Kunitomo (Tokyo Kogyo Univ.) - 3:48.98

Women's 1500 m
1. Saori Yamashita (Team Hokuren) - 4:24.05
2. Mika Tanimizu (Meijo Univ.) - 4:28.74
3. Rieko Sakane (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 4:29.29

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
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