by Brett Larner
Stanford University's Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational has a long history of being an important spring meet on the Japanese track calendar, the site of multiple national records including both the current men's and women's 10000 m records. This year's meet features a large contingent of Japanese athletes, particularly in the men's 10000 m where virtually all of the current top men will be shooting for World Championships and Olympic qualifying times. Below is a quick preview to the Japanese athletes in each event. The meet will be webcast live by Flotrack beginning at 10:45 a.m. Japan time on May 2. Click here for more info on the meet and webcast.
Men's 3000 mSC - Section 1
#13 - Aoi Matsumoto (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - PB: 8:30.49 (2010)
#21 - Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) - PB: 8:34.96 (2010)
With the departure of national record holder Yoshitaka Iwamizu (Team Fujitsu) from the steeple for longer events, Matsumoto and Umegae are the top two men in Japan. Matsumoto has PB'd every year for the last five years and opened his second pro year last week at the Hyogo Relay Carnival with an 8:40.08 win.
Men's 5000 m - Section 2
#12 - Takayuki Hamaguchi (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - PB: 13:54.15
A young runner from the large Team Shikoku Denryoku contingent, Hamaguchi had a disappointing showing at last week's Oregon Relays, finishing 14th in 14:30.88.
Men's 5000 m - Section 1
#27 - Kazuya Watanabe (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - PB: 13:39.31 (2011)
Watanabe is better-known as a 1500 m runner, infamously collapsing meters before the finish while leading the 2008 National Championships. Changing teams last year, he has moved up in distance with a 28:34.25 10000 m PB in December and a 13:39.31 5000 m PB two weeks ago at the Nittai Time Trials meet in Yokohama, the second-fastest of the year so far by a Japanese man.
Men's 10000 m - Kim McDonald
#9 - Yusuke Hasegawa (Team S&B) - PB: 28:07.47 (2010) - fastest university man of 2010
#11 - Bitan Karoki (Kenya/Team S&B) - PB: 27:23.62 (2010) - winner, 2011 Chiba and Fukuoka XC Meets: 33:58 CR (12 km, Chiba), 27:52 CR (10 km, Fukuoka)
#16 - Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) - PB: 27:41.75 (2008) - 5000 m NR holder, former 30 km WR holder
#19 - Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - PB: 27:53.55 (2010) - 2011 World Championships marathon team member - marathon PB: 2:09:03 (2011), Japanese debut marathon all-time #3
#25 - Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - PB: 27:38.25 (2009), all-time Japanese #3 - 3000 m PB: 7:44.63 (2010), all-time Japanese #2
#29 - Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota) - PB: 27:56.46 (2010)
#30 - Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) - PB: 27:45.59 (2007) - 5000 m PB: 13:19.00 (2007), Japanese collegiate record
#35 - Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) - PB: 28:01.54 (2010) - half-marathon PB: 1:00:58 (2011), all-time Japanese #3
The men's 10000 m is one of the best Japanese lineups ever assembled, with one of the leading Japan-based Kenyans, five of last year's top ten 10000 m runners, the all-time #3 man over the distance, the 5000 m national record holder, and 2010's top university runner. Kenyan Karoki is the dark horse of the overall field, with the fastest PB on the entry list apart from pacer Chris Solinsky and wins in every race so far this year including a 27:52 CR at February's Fukuoka XC Meet 10 km. Completely ignored in race previews, he is about to make a name for himself.
The Japanese field is an outstanding lineup on paper, one bound to produce some World Championships-qualifying performances if not a national record, but there are as many question marks as likely bets. The strongest three, Sato, Matsumiya and Takezawa, have all had recent injury problems and may not be close to 100%. Ugachi, who ran the all-time #3 Japanese half-marathon time of 1:00:58 in February and then said he is focusing on the 10000 m this year, may have the best chance for a sub-27:45 Olympic A-standard clocking, but his 13:47.29 at last week's Oregon Relays 5000 m is another question mark. His Komazawa University-era teammate Takabayashi was unstoppable during the winter ekiden season but has been flat so far this spring. 2011 World Championships marathon team member Oda will be using Stanford as a gauge of fitness. One to keep an eye on is Hasegawa, the fastest university 10000 m man of 2010, who was 3rd in his pro debut at the Oregon Relays in 13:45.97, beating Sato, Ugachi and Takabayashi.
Men's 10000 m - Section 2
#19 - Takaya Iwasaki (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - PB: 28:43.28
#22 - Ryo Matsumoto (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - PB: 28:43.56 (2010)
#25 - Tomoyuki Morita (Team Kanebo) - PB: 28:21.85 (2009)
#40 - Daisuke Shimizu (Team Kanebo) - PB: 28:10.68 (2007)
The B-heat features four solid mid-28 Japanese men split between the Shikoku Denryoku and Kanebo teams. Morita and Shimizu are coached by 3000 m, 10000 m and marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka. Morita ran well at last week's Oregon Relays, beating A-heat entrants Takabayashi and Matsumiya.
Women's 3000 mSC - Section 1
#3 - Yoshika Arai (Team Endion) - PB: 9:53.87 (2009)
As national record holder Minori Hayakari (Kyoto Koka AC) edges toward retirement, other Japanese women are stepping up to carry on where she left off. Arai will be looking for a PB in Stanford.
Women's 5000 m - Section 1
#19 - Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) - PB: 15:28.44 (2010) - five-time defending 1500 m national champion
Japan's most dominant 1500 m runner, Yoshikawa has begun moving to the longer distances. She won last summer's Brasschaat meet 5000 m in Belgium with a PB of 15:28.44 and in February ran a half-marathon PB of 1:11:13 in Marugame. In Stanford she will be trying to become the 4th Japanese woman to clock an eligible World World Championships B-standard time of sub-15:25.
Women's 10000 m - Kim McDonald
#4 - Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - PB: 30:51.81 (2002) - 3000 m, 5000 m, half-marathon NR holder, former 15 km road WR holder
#12 - Kumi Ogura (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - PB: 32:53.94 (2010)
#17 - Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - PB: 33:12.85 - 5000 m PB: 15:29.58 (2010)
#18 - Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) - PB: 31:44.93 (2010) - 2009 E. Asian 10000 m champion
The 10000 m is the one national record that has eluded Kayoko Fukushi, Yoko Shibui's mark of 30:48.89 set at the 2002 Cardinal Invitation frustratingly just out of reach. Fukushi won February's Marugame Half-Marathon in 1:09:00 but then went through both the Christchurch and Tohoku earthquakes, the stress of which resulted in the cancellation of most of her season. Apart from a statement that she is likely to shoot for the marathon at the London Olympics she has been out of the spotlight, her Stanford appearance attracting little to no notice in Japan. Is she ready for a serious attempt on Shibui's mark? There is nothing to go on to indicate one way or the other. As such she is the biggest question mark at the highly competitive front end of the field.
The other three Japanese women will be running for time, Sugihara to solidify a World Championships A-standard qualifier and Shimizu and Ogura for PBs. Shimizu had a breakthrough over 5000 m last year and is an outstanding ekiden runner, so look for her to eradicate her relatively weak 10000 m mark.
Women's 10000 m - Section 2
#16 - Miho Ihara (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - debut - 5000 m PB: 15:57.27 (2011)
Another young Shikoku Denryoku athlete, Ihara PB'd at 5000 m two weeks ago and will be making her 10000 m debut.
(c) 2011 Brett Larner
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