by Brett Larner
Like everywhere track season is over in Japan, but with the major championship ekidens approaching over the next month for high schoolers, university runners and pros many top athletes spent this rare fall weekend without a major road race at one of the many track time trials held across the country.
At the Hachioji Long Distance Time Trials in Tokyo's western suburbs, recently-graduated Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) got back in the ring with a 28:09.38 to finish first in the 10000 m. Kihara joined Kanebo in April but was a DNS in every race he entered throughout the spring and summer. His pro debut came earlier this month with a so-so run at the East Japan Jitsugyodan Ekiden Championships, but with this 10000 m, just 3 seconds off his university-era PB, Kihara showed that he is back in form and ready to make the jump to pro running. In finishing 1st Kihara won by a margin of over 45 seconds and beat the likes of 5000 m and 30 km national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica-Minolta), 3000 m SC national record holder Yoshitaka Iwamizu (Team Fujitsu) and Berlin World Championships marathoner Arata Fujiwara (Team JR Higashi Nihon).
Across town at Tokyo's National Stadium, a range of Hakone Ekiden hopefuls from the Kanto region ran in the 11 heats of 10000 m at the aptly-named Kanto Regional University 10000 m Time Trials. Kanagawa University's Takuji Morimoto had the fastest time of the day with a 28:41.54, 3 seconds faster than runner-up Taku Fujimoto (Kokushikan Univ.). Neither Kanagawa Univ. nor Kokushikan Univ. qualified for the 2010 Hakone Ekiden, meaning both Morimoto and Fujimoto will be on what looks to be a powerful Kanto Regional University Select Team.
The biggest results of the weekend, however, may have come in the women's 5000 m at the small 5th annual Shizuoka Long Distance Time Trials meet. Defending high school girls national champion Toyokawa H.S. introduced their new Kenyan ringer Wainaina Murigi, who duly won the race in a quick 15:36.74. Close behind was Bukkyo University's Hikari Yoshimoto, who ran a PB of 15:39.51 less than a week after beating 5000 m national champion Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) for stage best honors on the anchor leg of the International Chiba Ekiden. A solid top two, but the news did not stop there. 15 year-old high school first-year Moe Kyuma (Ayabe H.S.), who shot to national attention with a jaw-dropping stage record in January's National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden as a junior high school student, ran a PB of 15:48.87 for 3rd, beating university and professional runners as well as her identical twin sister Haruka who was 7th in 15:57.98. Watching Moe Kyuma break her 3000 m PB back in January former women's marathon world record holder Naoko Takahashi confidently said, "She's going to be big."
2009 Hachioji Long Distance Time Trials 10000 m Top Finishers
1. Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) - 28:09.38
2. Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 28:55.39
3. Kazuyoshi Shimosato (Team Komori Corp.) - 28:59.13
2009 Kanto Regional University 10000 m Time Trials Top Finishers
1. Takuji Morimoto (Kanagawa Univ.) - 28:41.54
2. Taku Fujimoto (Kokushikan Univ.) - 28:44.88
3. Makoto Ozeki (Soka Univ.) - 29:14.27
2009 Shizuoka Long Distance Time Trials Women's 5000 m Top Finishers
1. Wainaina Murigi (Toyokawa H.S.) - 15:36.74 - PB
2. Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 15:39.51 - PB
3. Moe Kyuma (Ayabe H.S.) - 15:48.87 - PB
(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved