by Brett Larner
Despite cross-country playing only a minor part in the Japanese distance running calendar, Japan is sending a full squad of 24 to this Sunday's World Cross-Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
The senior men's team is made up almost exclusively of university runners from the Kanto region, with only pro steeplechaser Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) breaking the mold. The top man on the team is Meiji University's Tetsuya Yoroizaka, winner of this year's Fukuoka International XC Meet and top Japanese finisher at the Chiba International XC Meet. A surprising absence is Saku Chosei H.S. graduate Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), replaced in the lineup by Minato Oishi (Chuo Univ.).
Running on his 19th birthday, Fukuoka XC senior men's runner-up and Saku Chosei H.S. alumnus Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) is in the junior men's race. Fresh from training in New Zealand and with a 59:08 road 20 km to his name since last year's World XC, Murasawa could be someone to watch. Joining him are Chiba XC junior men's winner and Fukuoka junior men's runner-up Kazuto Nishiike (Suma Gakuen H.S.) and Chiba runner-up Sugeru Osako (Saku Chosei H.S.).
The senior women's team is missing Chiba XC winner Misaki Katsumata (Team Daiichi Seimei) but includes both Fukuoka XC winner Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) and the Japanese runner-up in both races, Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki). Kojima, in her last race before going pro and joining Niiya at Toyota, was the dominant university woman over the last few years but had been out of her usual form in recent months prior to her Fukuoka win. Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku), the top woman from last year's squad, is also on the team but has likewise been out of form lately.
The junior women are usually the best-placing of the Japanese teams. The squad is led by Chiba XC and Fukuoka XC winner Nanaka Izawa (Toyokawa H.S.) and includes the top three from each race, with runners-up Yuka Ando (Toyokawa H.S.) and Chihiro Tanabe (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) the best contenders should Izawa falter.
2010 World Cross-Country Championships - Japanese Teams
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Senior Men - 12 km
Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Meiji Univ.)
Kazuya Deguchi (Nittai Univ.)
Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN)
Takuya Noguchi (Nittai Univ.)
Tsubasa Hayakawa (Tokai Univ.)
Minato Oishi (Chuo Univ.)
Senior Women - 8 km
Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.)
Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki)
Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.)
Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku)
Nanako Hayashi (Team Yamada Denki)
Yuko Mizuguchi (Team Denso)
Junior Men - 8 km
Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.)
Kazuto Nishiike (Suma Gakuen H.S.)
Sugeru Osako (Saku Chosei H.S.)
Takashi Ichida (Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.)
Shun Morozumi (Saku Chosei H.S.)
Takumi Honda (Kyushu Gakuin H.S.)
Junior Women - 6 km
Nanaka Izawa (Toyokawa H.S.)
Akane Sueyoshi (Isahaya H.S.)
Yuka Ando (Toyokawa H.S.)
Chihiro Tanabe (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.)
Minori Suzuki (Toyokawa H.S.)
Yuki Hidaka (Kyushu Civic H.S.)
(c) 2010 Brett Larner
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