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Niiya by 40 Seconds and Sub-26, Karoki Sub-34 CR Win Over Mathathi at Chiba Int'l XC Meet

by Brett Larner

After two days of snow and rain the day dawned with perfect weather conditions for the 2011 Chiba International XC Meet, Feb. 13 in Chiba. For domestic Japanese runner spots on the Japanese national team for next month's World XC Championships in Spain were at stake. The times were accordingly fast on the hilly and muddier than optimal Chiba course.

One of the two big runs of the day came from 2007 Tokyo Marathon women's winner Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki). In Chiba's first edition since 2003 as an 8000 m race for senior women rather than 6000 m Niiya blew the field apart, running 25:53 to win by a margin of 40 seconds over Hanae Tanaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.), who won the first stage at last month's National Women's Interprefectural Ekiden. Nanae Kuwashiro (Team Sysmex), a teammate of marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi, was 3rd in 26:41. Niiya's time was the second-best ever run at Chiba, just 10 seconds off Australian Benita Johnson's course record of 25:43. Although the course at last week's U.S. national XC championships was said to be 150 m long, considering the more difficult course in Chiba Niiya's run compares very favorably with that of 2008 Beijing Olympics 10000 m bronze medalist Shalane Flanagan, who won the U.S. XC championships in 25:47 by a margin of 44 seconds. Niiya and Tanaka are likely to be named to the Japanese squad for World XC, and Kuwashiro stands a good chance of joining them.

In the senior men's 12000 m two-time defending champion Bitan Karoki (Kenya/Team S&B) delivered an even bigger run than Niiya, breaking the 21 year-old course record by 6 seconds to clock a 33:58 win and outrunning 2007 World Championships 10000 m and 2006 World XC Championships bronze medalist Martin Mathathi by 24 seconds. Karoki's successor at Sera H.S., Charles Ndirangu, was right behind Mathathi in 3rd with a 34:29. In 4th was Meiji University ace Tetsuya Yoroizaka, whose clocking of 35:23 would have been good enough to win last week's U.S. national XC championships despite the purportedly long San Diego course. Yoroizaka outkicked Kenyan Jakob Wanjuki (Team Aichi Seiko) and had little trouble beating Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Tsubasa Hayakawa (Tokai Univ.) to take the top domestic spot. Yoroizaka and Sato should be named to the Japanese team for the World XC Championships with Hayakawa a probable addition following the Fukuoka International XC Meet in two weeks.

The junior races, also selection events for the World XC team, were both won by stage winners at last month's National Interprefectural Ekidens. Genki Yagisawa (Nasu Takuyo H.S.), who ran a smart race to win the First Stage at the men's ekiden, was again tactically sharp as he won the Junior Men's 8000 m in 23:59 by two seconds over sub-29 10000 m man Yuma Hattori (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) and two members of 2010 National High School Ekiden champion Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S., Takashi Ichida and Yuki Arimura. Women's ekiden stage record-setter Katsuki Suga of 2010 national champion Kojokan H.S. had no serious challenge in the Junior Women's 5000 m, running 16:08 to win by 15 seconds over local Yuriko Kosai (Narita H.S.). Tomoko Kimura (Chikushi Jogakuen H.S.) was 3rd in 16:27. As with the senior races, the top two in each junior race will pick up spots on the Worlds team with the 3rd-placers in contention contingent upon results from the other selection events. Their chances are buoyed by the indefinite postponement of next weekend's Asian XC Championships in Kathmandu, Nepal.

2011 Chiba International XC Meet
click event for complete results
Senior Men's 12000 m
1. Bitan Karoki (Kenya/Team S&B) - 33:58 - CR
2. Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 34:22
3. Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/Sera H.S.) - 34:29
4. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Meiji Univ.) - 35:23
5. Jakob Wanjuki (Kenya/Team Aichi Seiko) - 35:24
6. Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 35:38
7. Tsubasa Hayakawa (Tokai Univ.) - 35:39
8. Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) - 35:40
9. Hirotaka Tamura (Nihon Univ.) - 35:43
10. Yuki Munakata (Chuo Univ.) - 35:47

Senior Women's 8000 m
1. Hitomi Niiya (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 25:53
2. Hanae Tanaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 26:33
3. Nanae Kuwashiro (Team Sysmex) - 26:41
4. Akane Yabushita (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 26:48
5. Korei Omata (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 26:55
6. Ayaka Mori (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 26:57
7. Asami Kato (Team Panasonic) - 27:03
8. Ai Igarashi (Team Sysmex) - 27:12
9. Hiromi Koga (Team Denso) - 27:19
10. Rui Aoyama (Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 27:24

Junior Men's 8000 m
1. Genki Yagisawa (Nasu Takuyo H.S.) - 23:59
2. Yuma Hattori (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 24:01
3. Takashi Ichida (Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.) - 24:05
4. Yuki Arimura (Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.) - 24:05
5. Kazuma Kubota (Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 24:07

Junior Women's 5000 m
1. Katsuki Suga (Kojokan H.S.) - 16:08
2. Yuriko Kosaki (Narita H.S.) - 16:23
3. Tomoka Kimura (Chikushi Jogakuen H.S.) - 16:27
4. Risa Shibuya (Hanawa H.S.) - 16:40
5. Minori Suzuki (Toyokawa H.S.) - 16:44

Senior Men's 4000 m
1. Takahiko Onishi (Team NTN) - 11:32
2. Aoi Matsumoto (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 11:34
3. Masahiro Takaya (Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 11:41
4. Kohei Kudo (Waseda Univ.) - 11:42
5. Shunta Kubo (Team Fujitsu) - 11:44

Junior Men's 4000 m
1. Takumi Kobayashi (Shimo Suwa Koyo H.S.) - 12:26
2. Fusanosuke Araya (Muroran Otani H.S.) - 12:27
3. Nanami Arai (Yachiyo Shoin H.S.) - 12:31

Chiba Pref. H.S. Men's 3000 m
1. Shoichi Omomo (Matsudo Municipal H.S.) - 9:33
2. Wataru Sakuma (Tokai Prep. H.S.) - 9:34
3. Masaki Totsuka (Matsudo Municipal H.S.) - 9:38

J.H.S. Men's 3000 m
1. Kengo Takamori (Abiko J.H.S.) - 9:06
2. Reon Suzuki (Takada J.H.S.) - 9:09
3. Kazuhiro Yoneda (Koto J.H.S.) - 9:10

J.H.S. Women's 3000 m
1. Ayaka Nakagawa (Asaka #3 J.H.S.) - 9:49
2. Yui Fukuda (Inami Kita J.H.S.) - 9:59
3. Nozomi Musenbi Takamatsu (Kunei Jogakuin J.H.S.) - 10:00

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
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