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World Univ. Games 10000 m Champ Osako Leads 1500 m Heat - National Univ. Track & Field Championships Day One

by Brett Larner

The 2011 Japanese National University Track & Field Championships kicked off Sept. 9 in Kumamoto.  2011 World University Games 10000 m gold medalist and Asian junior half marathon area record holder Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) bypassed the 10000 m for the 1500 m, winning his heat to advance to the final.  His teammate Tatsuro Okazaki (Waseda Univ.) likewise won the faster second heat where the top four all beat Osako's time of 3:51.39, making for an interesting final on tap later this weekend.  After running 13:31.27 earlier this season, the best time in several years by a Japanese university runner, sophomore Osako is also the favorite in tomorrow's 5000 m where he is on the start list.

The women's 1500 m heats saw a mix of familiar faces and newcomers advancing to the finals, top-ranked women Chikako Mori (Daito Bunka Univ.), Akane Yabushita (Ritsumeikan Univ.) and Risa Shibuya (Bukkyo Univ.) all advancing through the competitive third heat with relative unknowns Yasuka Ueno (Tsukuba Univ.) and Haruka Mochizuki (Juntendo Univ.) taking the other two heats.  High school star Mahiro Akamatsu (Tsukuba Univ.) continued to struggle to make the transition to university running as she finished only 7th in her heat and failed to advance.

The men's 10000 m seemed fairly straight-up on the surface, Kenyans Benjamin Gandu (Nihon Univ.), Joseph Onsarigo (Sozo Gakuen Univ.) and John Maina (Takushoku Univ.) taking things out.  What made the race different was that the only Japanese runner to hang in with them hailed from Western Japan, Fukuoka University's Takuro Nakanishi.  East Japan's Kanto Region is the world's highest-level university men's distance system, the home of the Hakone Ekiden, and it is rare to see a quality Japanese runner go to school outside Kanto.  Nevertheless, Nakanishi hung tough to finish 3rd behind defending national champion Gandu and first-year Onsarigo, holding off fast-closing Kanto-based Hirotaka Tamura (Nihon Univ.) by just over one second.

In the women's 10000 m, collegiate national record holder Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) took the race out at 3:10/km pace after having run the 10000 m at the Daegu World Championships.  Sayuri Oka (Osaka Taiku Univ.) was the only runner to consistently stay with Yoshimoto, Eriko Kushima (Kyoto Sangyo) falling a short distance back after initially running with the lead pair.  Yoshimoto briefly pulled into the lead but faded by 7000 m and was run down by first Oka and then Kushima.  Oka took her first national title as the only runner in the field to break 33 minutes, crossing the line in 32:45.65.  Kushima was a long distance back in 2nd in 33:09.95, with Yoshimoto fainting after finishing 3rd in 33:26.67.

2011 Japanese National University Track & Field Championships Day One
Kumamoto, 9/9/11
click here for complete results

Men's 10000 m Final
1. Benjamin Gandu (Kenya/Nihon Univ.) - 28:45.74
2. Joseph Onsarigo (Kenya/Sozo Gakuen Univ.) - 29:05.46
3. Takuro Nakanishi (Fukuoka Univ.) - 29:23.99
4. Hirotaka Tamura (Nihon Univ.) - 29:25.07
5. Shota Hiraga (Waseda Univ.) - 29:29.45
6. Shuhei Yamamoto (Waseda Univ.) - 29:33.57
7. Keigo Yano (Nittai Univ.) - 29:35.42
8. Hiroshi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 29:38.88
9. Kazuki Noda (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 29:44.32
10. Takamitsu Hashimoto (Josai Univ.) - 29:45.43
DNF - John Maina (Kenya/Takushoku Univ.)

Women's 10000 m Final
1. Sayuri Oka (Osaka Taiku Univ.) - 32:45.65
2. Eriko Kushima (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 33:09.95
3. Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 33:26.67
4. Mai Shinozuka (Chuo Univ.) - 33:33.22
5. Nanami Matsuura (Kanoya Taiku Univ.) - 33:33.82
6. Narumi Shirataki (Nihon Univ.) - 33:34.69
7. Rina Inetsu (Meijo Univ.) - 33:34.97
8. Natsumi Fujiwara (Matsuyama Univ.) - 33:36.73
9. Saori Kitamura (Juntendo Univ.) - 33:40.30
10. Ai Furokubo (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 33:45.34

Men's 1500 m 
Heat 1
1. Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) - 3:51.39 - Q
2. Toshiki Imazaki (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 3:51.69 - Q
3. Fumiya Tanji (Tsukuba Univ.) - 3:51.70 - Q
4. Genki Yagisawa (Meiji Univ.) - 3:51.80 - Q
5. Toshiyuki Koyama (Kyoto Univ.) - 3:51.94 - q
6. Daiki Sakaniwa (Keio Univ.) - 3:52.02 - q

Heat 2
1. Tatsuro Okazaki (Waseda Univ.) - 3:50.35 - Q
2. Toshihiro Kenmotsu (Int'l Pacific Univ.) - 3:50.51 - Q
3. Ryota Matono (Juntendo Univ.) - 3:51.02 - Q
4. Keisuke Hirata (Josai Univ.) - 3:51.18 - Q
5. Ryo Iketani (Kanoya Taiku Univ.) - 3:51.55 - q
6. Yusuke Umeki (Ryutsu Keizai Univ.) - 3:52.00 - q

Women's 1500 m
Heat 1
1. Yasuka Ueno (Tsukuba Univ.) - 4:26.22 - Q
2. Izumi Minemura (Chuo Univ.) - 4:28.17 - Q
3. Riho Konishi (Kansai Univ.) - 4:28.34 - Q

Heat 2
1. Haruka Mochizuki (Juntendo Univ.) - 4:24.20 - Q
2. Satoe Kikuchi (Matsuyama Univ.) - 4:24.22 - Q
3. Mayuko Nakamura (Kyoto Kyoiku Univ.) - 4:25.64 - Q
4. Mutsumi Ikeda (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 4:26.00 - q
5. Rina Hidaki (Fukuoka Univ.) - 4:27.71 - q

Heat 3
1. Chikako Mori (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 4:26.89 - Q
2. Akane Yabushita (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 4:27.15 - Q
3. Risa Shibuya (Bukkyo Univ.) - 4:27.98 - Q
4. Miyuki Mandai (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 4:28.98 - q

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
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