The Japanese National University Track and Field Championships are strangely timed, coming at the start of the fall semester after several months of intense mileage training separating the spring track and fall ekiden seasons. It's a time when many of the best university runners are not aiming to peak, focusing instead on the roads, and as a consequence upsets are common. Last year Kenyan Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) staged a rare coup over the far superior Mekubo Mogusu (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) over both 5000 m and 10000 m, while unknown first-year Michi Numata (Ritsumeikan Univ.) stole the women's 10000 m.
This year's Nationals took place Sept. 4-6 at Tokyo's National Stadium. Among the meet's highlights:
- Gitau, the undisputed top man in Japanese university distance running following Mogusu's graduation this year, easily retained his titles in the 5000 m and 10000 m, running 13:41.77 and 28:34.71. The bigger story in the 10000 m was perhaps Tokai Univ. first year Akinobu Murasawa's 2nd place finish 10 second behind Gitau as he outkicked Kenyans Cosmas Ondiba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) and Benjamin Gando (Nihon Univ.) to get there. Like the absent Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.) last year, Murasawa is the rookie to watch this season.
- The women's 10000 m was a match race between defending champion Numata and her senior teammate Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.), the most dominant university woman of her generation. The pair finished together nearly a minute of 3rd placer Natsuko Godo (Nihon Univ.) as Kojima, known more as a 5000 m and ekiden specialist, beat Numata to the line by 0.51 of a second to take the national title away. In the 5000 m Kojima could not summon up a comparable performance, beaten by a sizeable margin by 2009 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Kasumi Nishihara (Bukkyo Univ.) and Kojima's sophomore teammate Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.). Nishihara's battle with Kojima over the fall and winter season will be the highlight of Japanese university women's distance running this year.
- 100 m national champions Masashi Eriguchi (Waseda Univ.) and Momoko Takahashi (Heisei Kokusai Univ.) duly added the men's and women's national university titles to their collections in their first races since last month's World Championships. Both Eriguchi and Takahashi missed the meet records by 0.02 seconds, sat out the 200 m, then led their school's 4x100 m relay team to victory. Eriguchi was assisted by Waseda and World Championships teammate Shintaro Kimura.
- Kazuaki Yoshida (Juntendo Univ.), who ran a memorable and unexpected PB in the men's 400 mH in Berlin, took the national university title, but national champion Yuzo Kanemaru (Hosei Univ.) was kept out of competition by the injury he sustained just before the World Championships. In his absence national team comrade Hideyuki Hirose (Keio Univ.) won his first national university championship in 46.94.
- Yusuke Suzuki (Juntendo Univ.) took down national record holder Isamu Fujisawa (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) in the men's 10000 mRW, winning in 40:13.38.
- Tomomi Abiko (Doshishia Univ.) broke her own meet and national university records in the women's pole vault, setting new records with a mark of 4.22. In the men's pole vault Hiroki Sasase (Waseda Univ.) tied national record holder Daiichi Sawano's meet record of 5.50.
2009 National University Track and Field Championships - Top Results
click here for complete results
Men's 10000 m
1. Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) - 28:34.71
2. Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) - 28:44.23
3. Cosmas Ondiba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:44.62
4. Benjamin Gando (Nihon Univ.) - 28:45.86
5. Hiroki Mitsuoka (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 29:06.16
Women's 10000 m
1. Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 32:55.43
2. Michi Numata (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 32:56.04
3. Natsuko Godo (Nihon Univ.) - 33:43.49
4. Aki Odagiri (Meijo Univ.) - 33:45.87
5. Miki Yamada (Josai Univ.) - 33:52.59
Men's 5000 m
1. Daniel Gitau (Nihon Univ.) - 13:41.77
2. Kiragu Njuguna (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 13:48.55
3. Takuya Ishikawa (Meiji Univ.) - 13:56.40
4. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:57.37
5. Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) - 13:58.51
Women's 5000 m
1. Kasumi Nishihara (Bukkyo Univ.) - 15:40.79
2. Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:42.68
3. Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:46.77
4. Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 15:48.09
5. Toshika Tamura (Matsuyama Univ.) - 15:54.96
Men's 100 m
1. Masashi Eriguchi (Waseda Univ.) - 10.13
2. Shintaro Kimura (Waseda Univ.) - 10.32
3. Daiki Goto (Keio Univ.) - 10.35
Women's 100 m
1. Momoko Takahashi (Heisei Kokusai Univ.) - 11.64
2. Shiho Takagi (Ryukoku Univ.) - 11.86
3. Shiori Ishikawa (Chuo Univ.) - 11.91
(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved