Thursday, June 9, 2011

2011 Japanese Nationals Day One Preview - 10000 m (updated)

by Brett Larner

updated 6/10/11 to reflect starting list changes

The 2011 Japanese National Track and Field Championships kick off Friday, June 10 in the wildlands of Kumagaya, Saitama. The major selection event for this summer's World Championships team, on their first day this year's Nationals feature primarily heats for the sprints and middle distances along with the finals for a half dozen field events and, what will likely be two of the highlights of the meet, the men's and women's 10000 m.

The men's 10000 m should be one of the most competitive in Japanese history, on paper at the very least. 10 men in the field have broken 28 minutes, 9 of them with valid World Championships B-standard marks. With the unfortunate withdrawal of defending national champion Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) and the fastest Japanese man of 2010, Tomoya Onishi (Team Asahi Kasei) the favorite is Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta), strong all year with PB marks at 5000 m, 10000 m and half marathon, the latter two the leading times of the year and in the all-time Japanese top 6. Ugachi's time of 27:41.97 from May's Cardinal Invitational just missed the World Champs A-standard, so look for him to shoot for a sub-27:40 in the hopes of bringing along one of his college teammates Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota) and Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei). Ugachi's main rival will be all-time Japanese #3 Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), the only man in the field to have ever broken the A-standard time with his 27:38.25 from the 2009 Brutus Hamilton Invitational. Sato has had trouble in the past with peaking too early in the season but appears on track for a fast 10000 m at this stage with a 1500 m PB and his second-best 5000 m time late last month in Nobeoka.

2009 national champion Yuki Iwai (Team Asahi Kasei) is in dubious condition with weak recent marks after a long injury layoff. World Championships marathoner Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) is likely in good shape as he gets into marathon training, but his teammate Takabayashi and Takabayashi's former training partner Fukatsu have had injury troubles and do not sound 100%. Kanebo teammates Masato Kihara and Takeshi Makabe have been out of the public eye for months with no indication of their current condition.

If there is one wildcard who may dictate the type of race we see it should be top-ranked university runner Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.). Murasawa ran a PB of over 40 seconds at April's Hyogo Relay Carnival 10000 m but missed the World Championships B-standard by less than one second, clocking 28:00.78. While most of the top end of the field can afford to let it be a slower race and to simply go for the win to get their World Champs spot, Murasawa has to make sure the race stays fast enough to go sub-28. His collegiate rival Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.) and the constantly-improving Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) are also worth a watch. Keep an eye out for 19-year-old Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota), who broke his 5000 m by 32 seconds a few weeks ago. With a new 13:35 PB he should be in contention for a sub-28 if he has his mileage together.

The women's 10000 m is smaller, made all the more so by the last-minute withdrawal of the two fastest athletes in the field, 2011's leading Japanese woman Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), World Championships marathon team member Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren) and Olympian Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya). The next-best Japanese woman behind Fukushi so far this year, Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso), ran a PB of 31:34.35 at last month's Cardinal Invitational and is the likely favorite for the win. Along with Sugihara collegiate national record holder Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) and the strong Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) also hold A-standard times, but both have been less than 100% this season. World Champs marathon team member Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) holds a valid B-standard 10000 m mark of 31:53.22 but may be focusing on her marathon preparations. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) has broken 32 minutes, but has been in questionable shape this season. With an excellent weather forecast the chance may be there for one of the mid-32 women in the field to step up with a PB. The ones most to watch are Kaoru Nagao (Team Univ. Ent.) and Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal), both of whom ran strong marathon debuts earlier this season.

2011 Japanese National Track and Field Entry List Highlights
Kumagaya, Saitama, June 10-12
names in bold indicate athletes with valid A-standard marks
names in italics indicate athletes with valid B-standard marks
Men's 10000 m
Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 27:38.25
Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) - 27:41.97
Paul Kuira (Kenya/Team Konica Minolta) - 27:50.26
Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) - 27:52.75
Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 27:53.55
Takeshi Makabe (Team Kanebo) - 27:53.78
Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko) - 27:55.17
Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei) - 27:56.29
Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota) - 27:56.46
Yuki Iwai (Team Asahi Kasei) - 27:58.03
Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) - 28:00.78
Naoko Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 28:05.84
Yoshitaka Iwamizu (Team Fujitsu) - 28:17.80
Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 28:18.15
Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.) - 28:20.99
Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) - 28:21.00
Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) - 28:23.18

Women's 10000 m
Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 31:30.92
Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) - 31:34.35
Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 31:38.71
Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 31:42.86
Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) - 31:53.22
Kaoru Nagao (Team Universal Ent.) - 32:10.46
Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 32:14.71
Yuka Takashima (Team Denso) - 32:22.93
Tomoka Inadomi (Team Wacoal) - 32:26.46
Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) - 32:37.72
Hiromi Chujo (Team Wacoal) - 32:43.02
Yuka Hakoyama (Team Wacoal) - 32:47.22
Hitomi Nakamura (Team Panasonic) - 32:51.63
Kumi Ogura (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 32:53.94

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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