by Brett Larner
New Nishi-Kanasa Mountain Road Race women's CR holder by 9 minutes, 17 year-old Minami Yamanouchi.
The 11th Nishi-Kanasa 14 km Mountain Road Race took place Nov. 21 in the town of Hitachi Ota, Ibaraki prefecture. For the second year in a row, Kenyans Joaz Ogata and Evan Malarsa of Team Ibaraki Kankyo Kigyo went 1-2, just off Ogata's course record in times of 49:36 and 49:45. The relatively slow pace, just over 3:30/km, reflects the difficulty of the course - a gentle downhill for the first two km, a gradual uphill for the next four, and then a suddenly 300 m climb from 6 km to 9 km followed by an equal descent in only 2 km and then a gradual slope down to the finish.
The big news of the race came in the women's division, where 17 year old Minami Yamanouchi, a high school junior from Koriyama, Fukushima prefecture, finished 9th overall. Her time, 54:37, was only five minutes off that of the professional male Kenyan winner, broke the existing women's course record by nine minutes, and broke the high school boys' course record by nearly four minutes. The top high school boy in the race, speechless when he saw the results board post-race, was more than five minutes behind Yamanouchi.
Dressed in a maroon heavy polyester t-shirt and basketball shorts, Yamanouchi's appearance gave no indication of her talent. Attending a high school without a track program, she was Fukushima prefectural 800 m champion in junior high school and now trains by herself with support from her mother. In the off-season she runs longer-distance road races to stay in shape, recently winning a local half marathon in Fukushima in a 1:20-flat course record.
It's difficult to gauge her ability from her outstanding performance on a specialist course like Nishi-Kanasa's, but relative to the performances of the two Kenyan pros, women's 3rd placer and JRN associate editor Mika Tokairin and myself it suggests current 10000 m ability under at least 33:30. That's not bad for a female high school junior most places, let alone one who is self-coached. She may well amount to nothing, but Tokairin and I both felt that if Yamanouchi keeps running post-high school and lands at the right team, university or pro, we may have been lucky to see the first appearance of a future great.
Update: Yamanouchi followed up her Nishi-Kanasa performance two days later with a 2:56:04 at the Ohtawara Marathon in Tochigi prefecture, putting her in 6th in the women's division. Click here for complete Ohtawara Marathon results.
2010 Nishi-Kanasa 14 km Mountain Road Race
click here for complete results
1. Joaz Ogata (Kenya/Team Ibaraki Kankyo Kigyo) - 49:36
2. Evan Malarsa (Kenya/Team Ibaraki Kankyo Kigyo) - 49:45
3. Katsunori Mori (unattached) - 51:59
1. Minami Yamanouchi (unattached) - 54:37 - CR
2. Wakana Shinohara (Ota H.S.) - 1:07:19
3. Mika Tokairin (Namban Rengo AC) - 1:09:00
(c) 2010 Brett Larner
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