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Weekend Track and Ekiden Roundup - Karoki, Waithira, Kinukawa, Yamamoto Take Wins

by Brett Larner

Along with marathons and other road races, this busy weekend included two significant ekidens and three large track time trial meets.

At the Nov. 19 Biwako University Ekiden, Western Japan's answer to January's Hakone Ekiden, defending champion Kyoto Sangyo University braved heavy rain and wind to take its second-straight Biwako title.  After a slow 8th-place start Kyoto Sangyo worked its way up through the field and covered the eight-stage, 83.6 km course in 4:16:17.  Daiichi Kogyo University was 2nd in 4:18:09 thanks in large part to an impressive 31:57 record for the 11.0 km Third Stage by its Kenyan ace Kiragu Njuguna, a full 43 seconds under the old record.  Njuguna put Daiichi Kogyo in the lead by more than a minute over early leader Ritsumeikan University, and the team maintained the lead all the way until the 7th stage when Daiichi Kogyo was overtaken by Kyoto Sangyo's stage-winning Kazuki Noda.  Ritsumeikan anchor Yusuke Kubo did what he could to close the gap to Daiichi Kogyo, winning the stage but ending up close behind Daiichi Kogyo in 4:18:45, just managing to overtake Kansai Gakuin University by six seconds for 3rd.  Click here for complete results.

While one of its star runners, Shoko Mori, was pacing and appeared to suffer an injury at the Yokohama International Women's Marathon, the Otsuka Seiyaku women's team had no trouble winning at the five-stage, 21.0975 km Shikoku Ekiden.  Four of Otsuka Seiyaku's runners took stage bests, with Daegu World Championships marathoner Mai Ito running the 5.0 km anchor stage in 16:25 to bring the team in in 1:11:09.  Two of Otsuka Seiyaku's men, Yusuke Kataoka and Kenta Hirose, also ran on the Tokushima Prefecture team, which finished the 42.195 km men's race 2nd overall in 2:10:50.

The biggest of the three track time trial meets was the latest edition of the monthly Nittai Univ. Time Trials series in Yokohama.  The Saturday women's 3000 m heats were unremarkable due to the weather, the fastest time being a 9:40.21 in the A-heat by Saori Imamura (Kibogaoka H.S.). The men's 10000 m A-heat, also in the rain on Saturday, was full of surprises.  Marathoner Ryo Yamamoto (Team Sagawa Express) ran a good 28:22.84 for the win, but what made the result noteworthy was that he outkicked past Kenyan XC champ Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin) to do it.  Josai University added two more sub-29 men to its lineup as both Kosei Yamaguchi and Kota Murayama, identical twin brother of Komazawa University's super recruit and 2011 National University 5000 m champion Kenta Murayama, ran in the 28:50's.

In warmer weather on Sunday, Sendai Ikuei H.S. Kenyan first-year Mary Waithira made waves as she won the women's 5000 m A-heat in 15:36.86 over Ethiopian pro Betelhem Moges (Team Denso) and World Championships track runner Kayo Sugihara.  Surprisingly, 5000 m national champion Megumi Kinukawa (Team Mizuno) ran in the B-heat where she won in 15:48.32, a time that would have put her in the lead pack in the A-heat.  Outstanding Kenyan talent Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) also opted out of the A-heat, running 15:53.99 as the lone woman in one of the men's heats.

The men's A-heat saw the aggressive Bitan Karoki (Team S&B) take down all comers once again as he won easily in 13:19.55 over a half-dozen other Kenyans and a few of the better Japanese.  His teammate Yuta Takahashi (Team S&B) had an excellent race, 4th in a PB of 13:31.48.  Four of the ten fastest 5000 m times of the year by Japanese men have now been run by S&B athletes.  Further down the list, marathoner Arata Fujiwara (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) continued his long comeback from injury with a 14:04.38 for 13th, 11 seconds faster than at last month's Nittai meet.  Click here for complete Nittai results.

The Shizuoka Time Trials meet, site of a highly competitive men's 10000 m last month, focused mainly on high school-level 3000 m and 5000 m races this month.  The fastest woman, senior Mai Shoji (Okazaki Gakuen H.S.) ran 9:36.07 in the 3000 m A-heat, 4 seconds better than the top time at Nittai.  Click here for complete results.

The last of the time trial meets, the Chugoku Jitsugyodan Time Trials, concentrated on the 10000 m.  Matsuyama University's Marie Yamagami won the women's A-heat in 34:00.7, while steeplechase specialist Jun Shinoto (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) took the men's A-heat in 29:22.6.  The official results appended an unusually critical header to the men's A-heat results, reading:
Joseph Gitau (JFE Steel) did his best to pace the third heat through 8000 m at 28:40-50 pace, but nobody tried to follow this target pace and we ended up with a low-level time trial meet.
Click here for complete Chugoku results.

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
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