by Brett Larner
University runners outdid the pros in both senior races at the 2010 Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet on Feb. 27 as Ritsumeikan University fourth-year Kazue Kojima took the women's 6 km and Meiji University second-year Tetsuya Yoroizaka won a great battle against Tokai University first-year Akinobu Murasawa in the men's 10 km. All three athletes sealed their places on the Japanese team for this year's World Cross Country Championships.
Kojima was patient during the early surges of the senior women's 6 km, letting others including Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku), Megumi Seike (Team Sysmex) and Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) take turns in the lead. Not until Freya Murray (GBR) opened a considerable gap on the final 2 km lap did Kojima really go into action, dropping Niiya and her own teammate Risa Takenaka as she chased down the British runner. Kojima pulled into the lead on the hills before the final corner, but even though Murray regained some ground in her last sprint Kojima was able to hold her off to take the win and a place on the World Cross Country team in her last major race before graduating. Kojima will join Niiya at Team Toyota Jidoshoki in April.
Despite still being a junior, in the senior men's 10 km Murasawa continued to show the aggression he has displayed throughout his strong first year of university. He did his fair share of leading, kept himself abreast of anyone else who moved to the front, was patient in overtaking breakaway leaders such as fellow Saku Chosei H.S. grad Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), steeplechaser Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) and defending champ Joseph Kiptoo Birech (Kenya). The surprise was that Meiji's Yoroizaka, the top Japanese finisher in this year's Chiba Cross Country Meet, was right there with him and even put in a few surges into the lead. The race wasn't over until the final stretch, when Yoroizaka successfully outkicked Murasawa for the win. Umegae and Sato both outran Birech to round out the top five.
In the junior men's 8 km Murasawa was again eclipsed. Kenyan Steven Njeri (Fukuoka Daiichi H.S.), fresh from a 28:50 win on the roads at the Karatsu 10 km, opened a huge lead on the pack early on in the race. It was up to Chiba Cross Country junior winner Kazuto Nishiike (Suma Gakuen H.S.) to chase him down, which he nearly did. Nishiike came in just 3 seconds behind Njeri and succeeded in clipping Murasawa's time from last year's meet by 1 second to assure his place in the junior race at Worlds. In the junior women's 6 km two-time defending National High School Ekiden champion Toyokawa H.S. blew the competition off the course, sweeping the top three spots with Chiba winner Nanaka Izawa again taking the overall win.
2010 Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet - Top Finishers
Senior Men's 10 km
1. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Meiji Univ.) - 29:04
2. Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) - 29:06
3. Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) - 29:11
4. Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 29:15
5. Joseph Kiptoo Birech (Kenya) - 29:18
Senior Women's 6 km
1. Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 19:32
2. Freya Murray (GBR) - 19:33
3. Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 19:40
4. Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 19:45
5. Yuko Shimizu (Sekisui Kagaku) - 19:46
Junior Men's 8 km
1. Steven Njeri (Fukuoka Daiichi H.S.) - 23:20
2. Kazuto Nishiike (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 23:23
3. Keita Shitara (*** H.S.) - 23:32
Junior Women's 6 km
1. Nanaka Izawa (Toyokawa H.S.) - 19:50
2. Yuka Ando (Toyokawa H.S.) - 19:51
3. Minori Suzuki (Toyokawa H.S.) - 19:52
(c) 2010 Brett Larner
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