Wednesday, December 28, 2011

The Top 10 Japanese Men of 2011

by Brett Larner

Video courtesy of Julie Setagaya. Ugachi's domestic record run begins at 1:23:25 with the bell lap at 1:50:10.

1. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta) - 387 pts.

5000 m: 13:30.20 - 7th, Nobeoka, 5/28/11 - #5 Japanese, 2011
10000 m: 27:40.69 - 2nd, Hachioji, 11/26/11 - #1 Japanese, 2011; #4 Japanese all-time
half-marathon: 1:00:58 - 2nd, Marugame, 2/6/11 - #1 Japanese, 2011; #3 Japanese all-time

Other major performances:
New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage, 22.0 km (Maebashi, 1/1/11): 1:04:19 - 4th
National Men's Ekiden Seventh Stage, 13.0 km (Hiroshima, 1/23/11): 37:39 - 5th
Kanaguri Memorial 5000 m (Kumamoto, 4/9/11): 13:43.10 - 8th
Oregon Relays 5000 m (Oregon, 4/22/11): 13:47.29 - 6th
Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10000 m (Stanford, 5/1/11): 27:41.97 - 14th
National Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Kumagaya, 6/10/11): 28:20.40 - 3rd
Asian Athletics Championships 10000 m (Kobe, 7/7/11): 28:48.53 - 4th
Savo Games 3000 m (Lapinlahti, 7/24/11): 7:58.95 - 4th
Joensuu Games 5000 m (Loppukilpailu, 7/27/11): 13:38.39 - 2nd
Flanders Cup 5000 m (Gent, 7/30/11): 13:38.92 - 4th
Memorial Rasschaert 5000 m (Ninove, 8/6/11): 13:37.00 - 3rd
National Corporate Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Tokushima, 9/23/11): 28:07.41 - 9th
East Japan Corporate Ekiden Second Stage, 15.3 km (Kumagaya, 11/3/11): 44:28 - 1st

After a strong pro debut year in 2010 Ugachi was on top of Japanese distance running throughout much of 2011.  His 1:00:58 at February's Marugame International Half Marathon, the all-time third-best by a Japanese man on an unaided course, gets the JRN editors' pick for Japanese men's performance of the year; there is a lot of speculation about whether his wild, flailing style will translate to the marathon, but his Marugame run shows that Ugachi should be able to take the Japanese marathon debut record of 2:08:12 whenever he moves up.  Breaking into the all-time Japanese top ten for 10000 m with a 27:41.97 at Stanford and following up with a 13:30.20 in Nobeoka, Ugachi fell somewhat flat through the summer and failed to make the World Championships team.  Come November, however, he was back in form with a stage record at the East Japan Corporate Ekiden followed by a 27:40.69, a new record for the fastest ever by a Japanese man within Japan and making him all-time Japanese #4.  Ugachi will be shooting for the 10000 m in London, and expect a serious shot at the national record in the spring.

2. Kazuya Watanabe (Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 229.875 pts.

5000 m: 13:23.15 - 1st, Nobeoka, 5/28/11 - #1 Japanese, 2011; #8 Japanese all-time
10000 m: 27:47.79 - 4th, Fukagawa, 6/25/11 - #4 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 5000 m (Stanford, 5/1/11): 13:38.90 - 13th
National Track & Field Championshiops 5000 m (Kumagaya, 6/12/11): 13:37.41 - 2nd
Hokuren Distance Challenge 1500 m (Shibetsu, 6/29/11): 3:38.11 - 1st
Asian Athletics Championships 5000 m (Kobe, 7/10/11): 13:48.81 - 4th
World Championships 5000 m Heat 2 (Daegu, 9/1/11): 14:20.62 - 18th
Memorial Van Damme 10000 m (Brussels, 9/16/11): DNF

1500 m specialist Watanabe moved up in a big way this spring, with a string of 5000 m PBs culminating in a 13:23.15 win in Nobeoka in May, all-time #8 among Japanese men, and the national title in June.  Two weeks after Nationals Watanabe just missed the 10000 m Olympic A-standard as he ran 27:47.79.  Four days later he ran 3:38.11 for 1500 m, tying his PB which was already the second-best in Japanese history.  Unfortunately Watanabe's condition faded as the summer moved on toward the World Championships, where he was only 18th in his heat.  Following a DNF at the Memorial Damme two weeks later Watanabe was out of competition for the fall season, raising injury concerns.

3. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Meiji Univ.) - 165.75 pts.

5000 m: 13:29.11 - 5th, Rovereto, 9/13/11 - #4 Japanese, 2011
10000 m: 27:44.30 - 2nd, Birmingham, 7/29/11 - #3 Japanese, 2011, Japanese collegiate record

Other major performances:
Hakone Ekiden Second Stage, 23.2 km (Yokohama, 1/2/11): 1:07:36 - 3rd
National Men's Ekiden Seventh Stage, 13.0 km (Hiroshima, 1/23/11): 37:29 - 2nd
Chiba International XC Meet Senior 12 km (Chiba, 2/13/11): 35:23 - 4th
World XC Championships Senior 12 km (Punta Umbria, 3/20/11): 37:40 - 86th
Hyogo Relay Carnival 10000 m C-Heat (Kobe, 4/23/11): 28:42.72 - 1st
Kanto Regional University Track & Field Championships 5000 m (Tokyo, 5/22/11): 13:57.64 - 4th
National Track & Field Championships 5000 m (Kumagaya, 6/12/11): 13:39.88 - 4th
Asian Athletics Championships 5000 m (Kobe, 7/10/11): 13:54.35 - 5th
BMC Nike Grand Prix 3000 m (Trafford, 7/23/11): 7:58.90 - 4th
World University Games 10000 m (Shenzhen, 8/17/11): 29:32.21 - 5th
Izumo Ekiden Second Stage, 5.8 km (Izumo, 10/10/11): 15:56 - 1st
National University Ekiden Second Stage, 13.2 km (Nagoya, 11/6/11): 38:48 - 4th
International Chiba Ekiden Fifth Stage, 10.0 km (Chiba, 11/23/11): 28:47 - 2nd

Yoroizaka closed off his junior year with superb runs at the Hakone Ekiden and National Men's Ekiden.  Apart from a bad run at the World XC Championships he was consistently strong throughout the spring and early summer, but nobody could have foreseen that he would run a Japanese collegiate 10000 m record and Olympic A-standard 27:44.30 during a summer trip to do some racing in Europe.  This mark, which briefly put him into the all-time Japanese top ten, make big news in Japan.  He followed up with a 13:29.11 in Italy, one of the fastest ever by a Japanese university runner, before fading somewhat over the fall.  Yoroizaka ended the year as one of three men with the 10000 m Olympic A-standard, giving him a good chance to make the London team.

4. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) - 140 pts.

half-marathon: 1:02:40 - 9th, Marugame, 2/6/11 - #7 Japanese, 2011
marathon: 2:08:37 - 3rd, Tokyo, 2/27/11 - #1 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
National Men's Ekiden Seventh Stage, 13.0 km (Hiroshima, 1/23/11): 39:57 - 41st
Gifu Seiryu Half-Marathon (Gifu, 5/15/11): 1:04:44 - 13th
Okinoshima 50 km (Oki, 6/19/11): DNF
Sapporo International Half-Marathon (Sapporo, 7/3/11): 1:07:12 - 63rd
Shibetsu Half-Marathon (Shibetsu, 7/24/11): 1:06:24 - 4th
Kushiro Shitsugen 30 km (Kushiro, 7/31/11): 1:33:55 - 1st
World Championships Marathon (Daegu, 9/4/11): 2:16:11 - 18th
Nittai University Time Trials 5000 m Heat 35 (Yokohama, 9/25/11): 13:59.38 - 17th
Osaka Marathon (Osaka, 10/30/11): 2:14:31 - 4th
Ageo City Half Marathon (Ageo, 11/20/11): 1:04:13, 18th
Fukuoka International Marathon (Fukuoka, 12/4/11): 2:09:57 - 3rd
Hofu Yomiuri Marathon (Hofu, 12/18/11): 2:12:33 - 2nd

Self-training amateur Kawauchi was the face of Japanese distance running this year, his underdog-makes-good story and the sheer guts of his runs at the Tokyo and Fukuoka International Marathons winning him fans around the world.  JRN's readers picked Kawauchi's 2:08:37 breakthrough in Tokyo as the Japanese men's performance of the year by an overwhelming margin, 65% of the vote, with his 2:09:57 in Fukuoka taking 2nd with 13%.  He was a scoring member of the silver medal-winning Japanese men's team in Daegu, the first of four marathons he ran within 15 weeks this fall.  In the midst of those four marathons he found time to knock out a 5000 m PB.  Kawauchi has said repeatedly that he will be going for 2:07 in Tokyo in a bid to firm up his place on the London Olympic marathon team.  If he succeeds it will truly be a historic moment in Japanese distance running history.

5. Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) - 86.4 pts.

10000 m: 27:41.57 - 3rd, Hachioji, 11/26/11 - #2 Japanese, 2011, #6 Japanese all-time

Other major performances:
New Year Ekiden First Stage, 12.3 km (Maebashi, 1/1/11): 36:04 - 4th
National Men's Ekiden Seventh Stage, 13.0 km (Hiroshima, 1/23/11): 37:49 - 6th
Meigi Ekiden Second Stage, 7.3 km (Nagoya, 1/30/11): 20:56 - 1st
Fukuoka International XC Meet Senior 10 km (Fukuoka, 2/26/11): 29:09 - 8th
Chubu Corporate Track & Field Championships (Gifu, 5/7/11): 29:10.06 - 5th
Golden Games in Nobeoka 5000 m Heat A (Nobeoka, 5/28/11): 13:35.74 - 1st
National Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Kumagaya, 6/10/11): 28:27.90 - 6th
Hokuren Distance Challenge 10000 m (Fukagawa, 6/25/11): 28:12.02 - 10th
Savo Games 3000 m (Lapinlahti, 7/24/11): 7:59.23 - 5th
Joensuu Games 5000 m (Loppukiopailu, 7/27/11): 13:56.03 - 4th
Flanders Cup 5000 m (Gent, 7/30/11): 13:45.97 - 7th
Memorial Rasschaert 5000 m (Ninove, 8/6/11): 13:38.03 - 4th
National Corporate Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Tokushima, 9/23/11): 28:26.85 - 11th
Shizuoka Long Distance Time Trials 10000 m (Shizuoka, 10/16/11): 28:01.00 - 4th
Chubu Corporate Ekiden Seventh Stage, 10.4 km (Gero, 11/13/11): 29:18 - 1st

Miyawaki, who turned 20 in August, was quietly and consistently among the best Japanese men this year, reliably chipping away at his PBs and getting down to 28:01.00 without attracting much attention.  That changed at the end of November when he hung tough with Ugachi to break the 10000 m Olympic A-standard in Hachioji, his 27:41.57 mark just missing the Japanese soil record that Ugachi cleared but good enough to put into the all-time Japanese top ten ahead of 5000 m national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) and the great Toshihiko Seko.  Look for more in the spring lead-up to London.

6. Hiromitsu Kakuage (Komazawa Univ.) - 80 pts.

10000 m: 28:03.27 - 6th, Fukagawa, 6/25/11 - #9 Japanese, 2011
half-marathon: 1:02:34 - 5th, Marugame, 2/6/11 - #2 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
Hakone Ekiden Second Stage, 23.2 km (Yokohama, 1/2/11): 1:08:36 - 10th
Hyogo Relay Carnival 10000 m Heat C (Kobe, 4/27/11): 28:43.28 - 3rd
Kanto Regional University Track & Field Championships 5000 m (Tokyo, 5/22/11): 14:12.29 - 5th
World University Games Half-Marathon (Shenzhen, 8/21/11): 1:06:38 - 4th
Izumo Ekiden Third Stage, 7.9 km (Izumo, 10/10/11): 23:38 - 6th
National University Ekiden First Stage, 14.6 km (Nagoya, 11/6/11): 43:42 - 3rd

Kakuage, a former teammate of Ugachi's at Komazawa University, had a mediocre run at January's Hakone Ekiden but quickly turned around with a solid 1:02:34 PB in Marugame.  Hitting the spring track season with a sub-29 PB in Hyogo, Kakuage was part of the sensational Fukugawa 10000 m in June where Watanabe ran 27:47.79 and three university runners broke 28:04, Kakuage among them.  He missed out on a World University Games medal in the half-marathon and was relatively flat the start of ekiden season in Izumo, but his 3rd-place run on the opening stage at last month's National University Ekiden Championships showed he was rounding into form nicely as the season turned toward Hakone.  Look for a big run from him there.

7. Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) - 76.8 pts.

marathon: 2:09:25 - 3rd, Biwako, 3/6/11 - #3 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
Nobeoka Spring Time Trials 10000 m (Nobeoka, 5/3/11): 28:30.32 - 6th
Kyushu Corporate Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Kitakyushu, 5/14/11): 28:56.00 - 10th
Golden Games in Nobeoka 5000 m Heat D (Nobeoka, 5/28/11): 13:53.07 - 1st
World Championships Marathon (Daegu, 9/4/11): 2:11:52 - 7th
Grand Tour Kyushu Stage Four Leg One, 9.8 km (Kyushu, 11/2/11): 28:22 - 2nd
Grand Tour Kyushu Stage Six Leg Six, 20.2 km (Kyushu, 11/4/11): 1:00:50 - 1st
Grand Tour Kyushu Stage Eight Leg Six, 14.5 km (Fukuoka, 11/6/11): 42:37 - 1st
Kyushu Corporate Ekiden Fourth Stage, 12.2 km (Fukuoka, 11/23/11): 34:38 - 1st
Kumamoto Kosa 10-Mile Road Race (Kosa, 12/4/11): 47:45 - 19th

The giant Horibata had a good marathon debut several years ago in Tokyo but had made little impact since then until his 2:09:25 PB in Biwako, where he earned himself a place on the Daegu World Championships team.  He followed Biwako with 5000 m and 10000 m PBs, then was the top Japanese man at the World Championships, 7th overall in 2:11:52.  After that performance his coach Takeshi Soh called Horibata the leading contender for the London Olympic team, but Horibata said he was not going to rest on his World Championships performance and quickly declared for next year's Biwako.  Outstanding through the fall ekiden season, he ended the year with a dismal 19th-place at the Kumamoto Kosa 10-Miler.  Injury, or an off day?  We'll see at the New Year Ekiden.

8. Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota) - 75.6 pts.

marathon: 2:09:03 - 4th, Tokyo, 2/27/11 - #2 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage, 22.0 km (Maebashi, 1/1/11): 1:04:26 - 7th
Kanaguri Memorial 5000 m (Kumamoto, 4/9/11): 13:51.08 - 12th
Payton Jordan Cardinal Invitational 10000 m (Stanford, 5/1/11): 28:24.59 - 27th
National Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Kumagaya, 6/10/11): 28:32.68 - 8th
Sapporo International Half-Marathon (Sapporo, 7/3/11): 1:06:57 - 58th
World Championships Marathon (Daegu, 9/4/11): 2:18:05 - 29th
Hachioji Long Distance Meet 10000 m Heat 2 (Hachioji, 11/26/11): 28:51.11 - 11th

The oldest runner to make this year's top ten, Oda was one of the top 10000 m runners last year before his memorable 2:09:03 debut in Tokyo this spring.  2:09:03 made him the all-time third-fastest Japanese first-timer, but the quality of his run was completely overshadowed by Kawauchi, who gave Oda an almost violent smackdown at 39 km.  Oda joined Kawauchi and Horibata in Daegu but an Achilles injury put an end to his hopes of a good run and he finished only 29th, limping and holding his heel in pain after finishing.  In his first race since then, a 10000 m at the end of November, Oda ran a quality 28:51.11, suggesting that he is recovering well.

9. Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 74.25 pts.

5000 m: 13:25.53 - 5th, Nobeoka, 5/28/11 - #2 Japanese, 2011
10000 m: 27:59.60 - 19th, Stanford, 5/1/11 - #5 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
New Year Ekiden Fourth Stage, 22.0 km (Maebashi, 1/1/11): 1:03:25 - 1st
Chiba International XC Meet Senior 12 km (Chiba, 2/13/11): 35:58 - 6th
National Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Kumagaya, 6/10/11): 28:10.87 - 1st
National Track & Field Championships 5000 m (Kumagaya, 6/12/11): 13:38.19 - 3rd
Asian Athletics Championships 5000 m (Kobe, 7/10/11): 13:40.78 - 2nd
World Championships 10000 m (Daegu, 8/28/11): 29:04.15 - 15th
East Japan Corporate Ekiden First Stage, 11.6 km (Saitama, 11/3/11): 33:00 - 1st

Sato, the all-time third-best Japanese man over 10000 m, took his first national title this year, winning the 10000 m at June's National Championships.  Consistent in the big ekidens but sitting out the World XC Championships after making the team, he scored a silver medal at July's Asian Athletics Championships 5000 m before coming up short at the World Championships.  Possibly the most talented distance runner Japan has yet produced, Sato has yet to live up to the potential he showed through university.  Next year is his year to do it, an Olympic year coming just when he is in his prime.

10. Yuta Shitara (Toyo Univ.) - 72 pts.

half-marathon: 1:02:35 - 2nd, Ageo, 11/20/11 - #3 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
Hakone Ekiden Third Stage, 21.5 km (Kanagawa, 1/2/11): 1:04:00 - 8th
Fukuoka International XC Meet Senior 10 km (Fukuoka, 2/26/11): 29:20 - 10th
Five-University Meet 5000 m (Saitama, 4/10/11): 14:18.32 - 1st
Kanto Regional University Track & Field Championships 10000 m (Tokyo, 5/14/11): 29:08.39 - 7th
Izumo Ekiden Third Stage, 7.9 km (Izumo, 10/10/11): 23:08 - 1st
National University Ekiden Second Stage, 13.2 km (Nagoya, 11/6/11): 38:58 - 7th

Toyo University sophomore Yuta Shitara is a relative unknown, nominally the less talented twin brother of one of Toyo's top men, Keita Shitara.  Yuta was not especially noteworthy through much of the year, finishing one place behind Keita in May's Kanto Regionals 10000 m, but he had a surprise breakthrough at the start of ekiden season as he won the Izumo Ekiden's Third Stage, a major factor in Toyo's first-ever Izumo win.  He seemed more back to his normal self at Nationals, where he was only 7th on his stage, but two weeks later at the Ageo City Half Marathon he had another major breakthrough, finishing 2nd behind Kenyan senior Cosmas Ondiba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) in an excellent 1:02:35.  Yuta's newfound strength may again be one of the deciding factors in the quality of Toyo's performance at next week's 2012 Hakone Ekiden.

Honorable mention: Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.)

5000 m: 13:31.27 - 8th, Nobeoka, 5/28/11 - #6 Japanese, 2011

Other major performances:
Hakone Ekiden First Stage, 21.4 km (Tokyo, 1/2/11): 1:02:23 - 1st
World University Games 10000 m (Shenzehn, 8/17/11): 28:42.83 - 1st
National University Track & Field Championships 1500 m (Kumamoto, 9/9/11): 3:45.06 - 1st

One of 2010's top ten Japanese men thanks to his 1:01:47 Asian junior record at the Ageo City Half Marathon, Osako ended his first year at Waseda by frontrunning the First Stage at the Hakone Ekiden to win by nearly a minute and give Waseda the lead that the team ultimately translated into a course record victory.  His Hakone time equated to a 1:01:29 half-marathon, better than his Asian area record.  In his sophomore year Osako gave up on the half and tried different things.  In May he ran 13:31.27 for 5000 m, the second-best ever by a Japanese 20-year-old.  In August he won the World University Games 10000 m gold medal.  In September he won the National University Track & Field Championships 1500 m, covering all the bases and confirming him as one of the most all-around talented Japanese men.  Next week he will make a return to long distances at the Hakone Ekiden, where he is expected to run the ace Second Stage.

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

2 comments:

www.juanjosemartinez.com.mx/running.html said...

Great info!,thenks a lot Brett!

Brett Larner said...

Thanks.

The New Year scorecard on JRN's 2011 men's rankings:

1.Tsuyoshi Ugachi - New Year Ekiden 3rd Stg (13.6km) - 2nd, 37:58 (broke old CR)
2.Kazuya Watanabe - did not race
3.Tetsuya Yoroizaka - Hakone Ekiden 10th Stg (23.1km) - 4th, 1:11:10
4.Yuki Kawauchi - did not race
5.Chihiro Miyawaki - New Year Ekiden 3rd Stg (13.6km) - 1st, 37:52 CR
6.Hiromitsu Kakuage - Hakone Ekiden 1st Stg (21.4km) - 3rd, 1:02:27 (all-time #8)
7.Hiroyuki Horibata - New Year Ekiden 4th Stg (22.0km) - 4th, 1:03:43
8.Yoshinori Oda - New Year Ekiden 4th Stg (22.0km) - 19th, 1:05:21
9.Yuki Sato - New Year Ekiden 4th Stg (22.0km) - 1st, 1:02:51 CR
10.Yuta Shitara - Hakone Ekiden 7th Stg (21.3km) - 1st, 1:02:32 CR
HM.Suguru Osako - Hakone Ekiden 1st STg (21.4km) - 1st, 1:02:03 (all-time #5)