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Niiya Hits World Champs 5000 m A-Standard, Watanabe Again With Japanese All-Time #2 1500 m at Hokuren Distance Challenge

by Brett Larner

The 2011 Hokuren Distance Challenge series wrapped up June 29 with its fourth and final event, the Shibetsu Meet. Despite warm and humid conditions, significant marks came in the women's 5000 m and men's 1500 m.

In the women's 5000 m, Kenyan Sally Chepyego (Team Kyudenko) marked her latest PB of the season, 15:10.53, to take the win. Just behind her, National Championships 5000 m runner-up Hitomi Niiya, sporting her new Team Universal Entertainment jersey for the first time after a few months as an independent following being fired from Team Toyota Jidoshokki, just cleared the World Championships A-standard with a new PB of 15:13.12. Niiya's mark all but assures she will join national champion Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) in Daegu and secures her as the all-time Japanese #10 over 5000 m. Her former teammate, 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki), was a regrettable DNF after a long period lost to injury.

In the men's 1500 m, 5000 m national champion Kazuya Watanabe (Team Shikoku Denryoku) had a big run, exactly tying his PB of 3:38.11 to reconfirm his place as all-time Japanese #2 over 1500 m just four days after running a nearly 45-second 10000 m PB of 27:47.79. The 23-year-old Watanabe has had an incredible season, running a year-leading 5000 m PB of 13:23.15 on May 28 to become Japanese all-time #8, winning the 5000 m national title two weeks later, followed by his sub-28 10000 m less than two weeks later, and then today's 3:38.11 PB tie. Look for him in the 5000 m at the Daegu World Championships and beyond.

2011 Hokuren Distance Challenge Shibetsu Meet
Shibetsu, Hokkaido, 6/29/11
complete results coming shortly
Men's 10000 m
1. Michael Githinji (Kenya/Team Toho Refine) - 28:42.24
2. Keita Shitara (Toyo Univ.) - 28:46.80 - PB
3. Hirotaka Tamura (Nihon Univ.) - 29:01.51
4. Aritaka Kajiwara (Reitaku Univ.) - 29:33.05
5. Masanori Sakai (Team Kyudenko) - 29:37.41

Women's 5000 m A-Heat
1. Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 15:10.53 - PB
2. Hitomi Niiya (Team Univ. Ent.) - 15:13.12 - PB
3. Grace Kimanzi (Kenya/Team Starts) - 15:38.80 - PB
4. Seika Nishikawa (Team Sysmex) - 15:49.22
5. Eriko Kushima (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 15:57.13
DNF - Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki)

Men's 5000 m A-Heat
1. Micah Njeru (Kenya/Tea Toyota Boshoku) - 13:40.36
2. Daisuke Shimizu (Team Kanebo) - 13:43.51
3. Hiroyoshi Umegae (Team NTN) - 13:45.40
4. Kazuki Onishi (Team Kanebo) - 13:59.57
5. Tomoya Shirayanagi (Team Toyota Boshoku) - 13:59.83

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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