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Sato and Sugihara Win First National 10000 m Titles

by Brett Larner

In thick humidity Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) won their first national 10000 m titles June 10 on the first day of the 2011 Japanese National Track & Field Championships at Kumagaya Dome in Kumagaya, Saitama. Coming into Nationals already holding World Championships-elligible marks set at May's Cardinal Invitational, both Sato and Sugihara ran conservative, sit-and-kick races to take both their titles, Sato winning the men's race in 28:10.87 and Sugihara the women's race in 32:18.79. Sugihara earned a guaranteed spot on the Daegu World Championships team, with a Sato a provisional entry.

In the absence of defending champion Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) and top-ranked men Tomoya Onishi (Team Asahi Kasei) and Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) the race was expected to be between the three fastest men of the year so far, Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta), Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.), Ugachi and Sato going for the win and Murasawa also bfor the sub-28 B-standard mark he narrowly missed in April. Ugachi's teammate Paul Kuira (Kenya/Team Konica Minolta) took the race out with a 2:44 first km, just under the target A-standard pace, but things slowed with each passing kilometer. JRN favorite Masato Kihara (Team Kanebo) grew impatient and made an effort to get things back on track just before 5000 m, surging ahead of Kuira before the Kenyan regained the lead a lap later.

After a 14:00 first half Kuira departed, leaving Ugachi to take over up front. His former teammates at Komazawa University Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota) and Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei) did their best to stay in the lead pack, while Sato and Murasawa, who both went to Saku Chosei H.S. and Tokai University, ran side-by-side. With two miles to go the lead pack became the expected trio of Ugachi, Murasawa and Sato. It was clear that a sub-28 B-standard was no longer an option, but Murasawa, a junior, still gave it a good shot at beating his pro rivals. He took the lead several times, but each time Ugachi returned while Sato stayed back and let the pair fight it out.

With 600 m to go Murasawa made his big move, surging away and breaking Ugachi. Sato, all-time Japanese #2 over 3000 m and #3 over 10000 m and fresh from a 1500 m PB last month, stayed behind his frantically kicking younger schoolmate until the 9700 m mark before delivering the coup de grace, winning by a margin of 5 seconds. With no A-standard men Sato's B-standard mark and Nationals win likely get him to Daegu, his first time on a World Championships team. His running this season has been a contrast to previous years when he has peaked in late April or early May only to underperform at Nationals. With a consistent pattern of building toward a late-summer peak Sato may be a big surprise at Worlds.

Despite missing both of his goals Murasawa's run was excellent, even in the tough humidity his second-fastest 10000 m ever. Ugachi could not hold to the same form he has shown all spring, possibly pointing toward the same sort of peaking problem Sato has had so far in his pro career, but with plenty of time ahead of him his goal of a sub-27:40 this season still looks in reach. His Komazawa teammates Takabayashi and Fukatsu both made the top 7, while Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and 19-year-old Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) both ran smart races, coming up from the second pack late in the race to take 5th and 6th. Rounding out the top eight was yet another Toyota runner, Daegu World Championships marathoner Yoshinori Oda.

Mid-race leader Kihara faded badly, finishing 26th in 29:29.34. Also underperforming in the tough conditions were 2009 national 10000 m champion Yuki Iwai (Team Asahi Kasei), 17th in 29:05.33, 2009 World Championships marathoner Kazuhiro Maeda (Team Kyudenko), 20th in 29:09.30, and Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage stars and Fukushima natives Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) and Ryuji Kashiwabara (Toyo Univ.), 16th in 29:01.15 and 24th in 29:25.43.

The women's race was most notable for what it wasn't, with over a third of the field withdrawing at the last minute, among them many of the biggest names including Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), Noriko Matsuoka (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), and Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya). In their absence, the three women on the entry list holding valid World Championships-qualifying times, Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso), collegiate 10000 m record holder Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) and World Championships marathon team member Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) set off together on sub-32 pace, accompanied until the final two laps by recent marathon debutante Kaoru Nagao (Team Univ. Ent.). Yoshimoto led the entire race with Nakazato on her heels and Sugihara hanging back until the final 300 m, when both runners went by and left her behind. With 200 m to go Sugihara in turn dropped Nakazato, pulling away to take the win.

With an A-standard mark from Cardinal and the Nationals title to her name Sugihara has a guaranteed place on the Daegu team. Runner-up Nakazato will be running the marathon, a double unlikely although she is qualified with a B-standard mark within the qualifying window. Yoshimoto also holds and A-standard time and, 3rd overall at Nationals, is a likely addition to the World Championships team.

2011 Japanese National T&F Championships
Kumagaya Dome, Kumagaya, Saitama, 6/10/11
click here for complete results

Men's 10000 m
1. Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:10.87
2. Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) - 28:15.63
3. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) - 28:20.40
4. Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota) - 28:24.59
5. Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 28:25.24
6. Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) - 28:27.90
7. Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei) - 28:30.70
8. Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 28:32.68
9. Kenta Murotsuka (SDF Academy) - 28:46.67
10. Takuya Ishikawa (Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 28:47.05

Women's 10000 m
1. Kayo Sugihara (Team Denso) - 32:18.79
2. Remi Nakazato (Team Daihatsu) - 32:20.81
3. Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 32:25.77
4. Kaoru Nagao (Team Univ. Ent.) - 32:33.18
5. Hitomi Nakamura (Team Panasonic) - 33:05.56
6. Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 33:06.05
7. Hiroko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) - 33:07.87
8. Noriko Higuchi (Team Wacoal) - 33:48.00
9. Kumi Ogura (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 34:19.45
10. Yuka Hakoyama (Team Wacoal) - 34:43.66

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


TokyoRacer said…
It was on TV from 1:15 to 2:50 in the morning. I stayed up to watch it (was planning on staying up late anyway). They showed the women's 10,000 in its entirety. And then they didn't show the men's! WTF? Looking forward to reading your race recap.
Brett Larner said…
Sounds like London last year when they didn't even mention that Takayuki Matsumiya and Satoshi Irifune were there even when they were on-screen, only following the women. The men's 10000 m was by far the better race this time.
Pretty useful information, thank you for your article.

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