by Brett Larner
April 1 marks the start of the Japanese fiscal and academic year. This year's round of university graduates and transfers from other teams are now settling in to their new homes around the country. Below is a list of many of the best new men joining corporate teams this season. Click for a larger version.
2010 New Year Ekiden national champion Team Nissin Shokuhin picks up a major score in 2010 World XC Junior Men's winner Caleb Ndiku (Kenya), a replacement for Olympian Julius Gitahi (Kenya). It will be interesting to see how Ndiku fares compared to the team's current #1 Kenyan, Gideon Ngatuny. Nissin rescues Komazawa Univ. grad Hideyuki Anzai from the disbanded Team JAL Ground Service.
Team Honda likewise picks up a World XC Junior Men's champion, 2008 winner Ibrahim Jelian (Ethiopia), and a JAL survivor, Ryosuke Fukuyama, and should maintain its spot near the top of the hierarchy. Perennially strong Team Asahi Kasei lands two top recruits, Komazawa's Takuya Fukatsu and Takahiro Mori of Nittai Univ., as does Team Chugoku Denryoku who recruit Meiji Univ. ace Takuya Ishikawa and Kanagawa Univ.'s Takuji Morimoto.
If there is a shift in power it may be in the direction of 2009 New Year Ekiden champion Team Fujitsu, who adds four quality men to its ekiden roster. Nihon University star Daniel Gitau (Kenya) is the best of the bunch, while Komazawa's Sota Hoshi should also become a team leader if he recovers from the injury problems that weakened him throughout the second half of 2009. Fujitsu also adds 800 m national record holder Masato Yokota to its middle-distance squad.
The biggest winner in this year's recruitment drive is Tokyo-based Team S&B. S&B has not had any emphasis on ekidens of late but has been quietly building a top-notch squad over the last two years with the addition of Kensuke Takezawa and Yuichiro Ueno. This year the team pulls in three ringers: #1-ranked high school runner Bitan Karoki (Kenya/Sera H.S.), Josai Univ. star Yuta Takahashi, and Meiji's tough Kodai Matsumoto. If S&B enters the ring for the New Year Ekiden in 2010-11 with all of its stars in place, Nissin Shokuhin, Honda, Fujitsu and the rest will be hard-pressed to handle them.
Look for a preview of the new jitsugyodan women's recruits later this week on JRN.
(c) 2010 Brett Larner
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