by Brett Larner
A second-straight weekend of regional track and field championship meets takes place across Japan this weekend.
The highlight is the second half of Japan's most competitive university meet, the Kanto Regional University Track & Field Championships, featuring the men's and women's 5000 m and men's half-marathon. Kanto is relatively weak for women's running, but four women entered in the 5000 m have bests under 16 minutes and another half-dozen are close so look for a quality race between defending champion Mai Shinozuka (Chuo Univ.), Nanaka Izawa (Juntendo Univ.), Azusa Kurusu (Juntendo Univ.), twins Haruka and Moe Kyuma (Tsukuba Univ.), Narumi Shirataki (Hakuoh Univ.) and more.
Having already won the Division 1 1500 m and 10000 m titles last weekend, Kenyan 1st-yr Enoch Omwamba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) will be looking to complete the triple crown in the D1 5000 m where he will face the likes of sub-28 10000 m men Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) and Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.), Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University aces Keita and Yuta Shitara, and rival Kenyan newcomer Daniel Kitonyi (Nihon Univ.). The Division 2 5000 m is also thick, with the top seed going to Ethiopian first-year Leul Gebresilase (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) and his 13:31.52 PB. Gebreseilase's competition includes 2011 national university 5000 m champion Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.), 2:10:02 marathoner Takehiro Deki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and Kenyans Duncan Muthee (Takushoku Univ.) and William Malel (Sozo Gakuin Univ.).
The favorite in the Division 1 half-marathon, always one of the highlights of the meet thanks to its unique multi-loop course through and around Tokyo's National Stadium, is 1:01:06 Kenyan Benjamin Gandu (Nihon Univ.). His teammate and defending champ Hirotaka Tamura returns to go for another title, with a likely challenge also due up from Kento Otsu (Toyo Univ.) in his first race since his international debut at March's New York City Half Marathon. Favorites in the Division 2 race include Kazuhiro Kuga (Komazawa Univ.) and Yudai Yamakawa (Teikyo Univ.).
In pro action, the biggest meet of the weekend is the East Japan Corporate Track & Field Championships. 10000 m world champion Ibrahim Jeilan (Ethiopia/Team Honda) is a regrettable early scratch, but on the entry lists are the likes of 2010 Tokyo Marathon winner Masakazu Fujiwara (Team Honda), former Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage superstar Ryuji Kashiwabara (Team Fujitsu), women's 5000 m national champion Megumi Kinukawa (Mizuno), men's 5000 m national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta), sub-27 runner Josphat Ndambiri (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.), two-time world junior steeplechase champion Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya/Team Hitachi Logistics), past Kenyan XC champion Gideon Ngatuny (Team Nissin Shokuhin), 10000 m national champion Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin), five-time women's 1500 m national champion Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic) and many more.
Regional corporate championship meets are also slated to take place in Chugoku, Kansai and Kyushu this weekend. The highlight is bound to come in the Chugoku regional meet, where recently-graduated Sera H.S. ace Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/Team JFE Steel) will seek to make his unbeaten streak go up to eleven in the men's 10000 m.
On the roads, the biggest domestic race is the second running of the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon featuring defending champion Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), the popular Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.), Olympic marathon silver medalists Catherine Ndereba (Kenya) and Lidia Simon (Romania) and others. Overseas, national champion Team Nissin Shokuhin's Manabu Itayama will make an appearance at the Jakarta International 10 km, but the big race will come at the Great Manchester Run 10 km where Team Honda's Suehiro Ishikawa and Takahiro Yamanaka will run against the likes of marathon world record holder Patrick Makau (Kenya), past world record holder Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia), Beijing Olympics marathon bronze medalist Tsegaye Kebede (Ethiopia) and others. 2008 Osaka International Women's Marathon winner Mara Yamauchi (GBR) will face the great Linet Masai (Kenya) in the women's race. JRN is in Manchester with Ishikawa and Yamanaka throughout the weekend. Check back for ongoing results from this and the other races listed above.
(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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