Sunday, September 12, 2010

Mitsuoka Schools Hakone Stars, Nishihara and Takahashi Score Meet Records, Iizuka Flat on Final Day of Japanese University Nationals

by Brett Larner

The final day of the 2010 Japanese National University Track and Field Championships wrapped up with some of the best action of the meet's three days. Despite missing its three top-ranked runners Kiragu Njuguna (Kenya/Daiichi Kogyo Univ.), Taku Fujimoto (Kokushikan Univ.) and Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.), the men's 5000 m field included 18 men with PBs under 14 minutes. The conditions, 32 degrees, sunny and windy, meant that the race would be slow and allow some of the slower men to have a chance.

With the early leaders taking it out on track for a 14:10, Hiroki Mitsuoka (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) took full advantage of the situation. One of the only men in the field from outside the Kanto region, with just the 15th-best PB in the field, 13:57.67, Mitsuoka patiently waited until the final 800 m to get into the race. With no warning he suddenly kicked from 700 m out and dropped a 59-second 400 m. Pursued partway by Waseda University ace Yo Yazawa, Mitsuoka broke away and held on with a 62-second final lap to steal the win in 14:01.90 and trump some of the best Hakone Ekiden runners. Mitsuoka beat 14 men with better PBs, and the next-best runner from outside Kanto finished only 17th. It was a rare win at Nationals by a complete outsider, the first time a non-Kanto runner has won the men's 5000 m since 2000 and the first time since the great Toshinari Takaoka's win in 1992 that a runner from the Kansai region has taken the title. You have to love it.

The women's 5000 m saw the season debut of the two best distance runners in the Japanese university scene, 2009 World University Games 10000 m gold medalist and 5000 m silver medalist Kasumi Nishihara and 10000 m national collegiate record holder Hikari Yoshimoto of Bukkyo University. The pair faced a likely challenge only from Kyoto crosstown rivals Michi Numata and Risa Takenaka of Ritsumeikan University. Yoshimoto took things out right on pace for the 9 year-old meet record of 15:38.75 despite the heat, sun and wind, with Nishihara, in her first race in 4 months following a left leg injury in the late spring, at her side and the Ritsumeikan pair right behind. Partway through Nishihara took over and, pursued by Takenaka and unheralded Ayuko Suzuki of Nagoya University, sped off to claim the meet record by less than a second as she won in 15:38.19. 10000 m winner Hanae Tanaka of Ritsumeikan overtook Numata for 4th, while Yoshimoto faded badly to a distant 7th. In contrast to the men, the highest finisher from a school in Kanto was no higher than 11th, Josai University's Miki Yamada.

Expectations were heavy for 2010 World Junior 200 m Champion Shota Iizuka (Chuo Univ.) in his event of choice, but as in Saturday's 4x100 m relay he appeared relatively flat. A terrible run through the curve put him near the rear of the pack coming into the straight with little chance of catching eventual winner Yuichi Kobayashi (Hosei Univ.). Iizuka's superior closing speed allowed him to bridge the gap to 2nd, but Kobayashi was far out of reach. Kobayashi crossed the line in a wind-aided 20.52, faster than Iizuka's PB of 20.58, as the World Champion came home in a disappointing 20.70.

Having already broken her own meet record on Saturday in the 100 m, Momoko Takahashi (Heisei Kokusai Univ.) did it again with a 23.62 win in the women's 200 m. Takahashi's time clipped the old record, held by 400 m specialist Asami Tanno, by just 0.02. Less than 2 hours later Takahashi was back again to anchor Heisei Kokusai's 4x400 m squad. Although she ran by far the fastest split in the field she was unable to catch Miyabi Tago (Chuo Univ.). Tago collapsed after holding Takahashi in a duel to the line and giving Chuo the win in 3:40.23. Video is linked below.

2010 Japanese National University Track and Field Championships
click here for complete results
click event headers for video links
Women's 5000 m
1. Kasumi Nishihara (Bukkyo Univ.) - 15:38.19 - MR
2. Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:46.99
3. Ayuko Suzuki (Nagoya Univ.) - 15:49.22
4. Hanae Tanaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:54.18 - PB
5. Michi Numata (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:57.33

Men's 5000 m
1. Hiroki Mitsuoka (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 14:01.90
2. Yo Yazawa (Waseda Univ.) - 14:03.92
3. Benjamin Gando (Kenya/Nihon Univ.) - 14:04.61
4. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Meiji Univ.) - 14:05.54
5. Yuki Yagi (Waseda Univ.) - 14:07.20

Women's 200 m - wind +0.8 m/s
1. Momoko Takahashi (Heisei Kokusai Univ.) - 23.62 - MR
2. Rina Ichikawa (Chukyo Univ.) - 23.84
3. Saori Imai (Shigakkan Univ.) - 23.88

Men's 200 m - wind +3.8 m/s
1. Yuichi Kobayashi (Hosei Univ.) - 20.52
2. Shota Iizuka (Chuo Univ.) - 20.70
3. Kei Takase (Juntendo Univ.) - 20.74

Men's 3000 mSC
1. Minato Yamashita (Chukyo Univ.) - 8:53.45
2. Kosei Yamaguchi (Josai Univ.) - 8:53.98
3. Ken Akazome (Tokai Univ.) - 8:54.40

Women's 4x400m Relay
1. Chuo Univ. - 3:40.23
2. Heisei Kokusai Univ. - 3:40.72
3. Shigakkan Univ. - 3:41.51

Men's 4x400m Relay
1. Chuo Univ. - 3:06.70
2. Waseda Univ. - 3:06.98
3. Chukyo Univ. - 3:06.99

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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