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Busy Two Weeks of Track and Road Action Ahead

by Brett Larner

This weekend is the first of two successive weekends featuring regional track championships and an elite half marathon.  The Kansai Regional University T&F Championships, the most competitive university women's region in the country, starts things off May 10 and runs through the 13th, the first major meet following the graduation of Bukkyo University's collegiate 10000 m record holder Hikari Yoshimoto (Team Yamada Denki).  Entry list standouts include Chinami Mori (Bukkyo Univ.), Sayuri Oka (Osaka Taiku Univ.) and Eriko Kushima (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.).

The Kanto Region University T&F Championships, the center of university men's running and typically a higher-level meet than the National University Championships, is split between this weekend and next.  Women's competition is thinner than in Kansai, but the meet will see talented twins Haruka and Moe Kyuma making their Regionals debut for Tsukuba University in the 10000 m.  The men's 10000 m, scheduled for Sunday, has too many good names to mention, but among the Japanese entrants watch out for the Shitara twins Keita and Yuta to push each other to new PB marks in low-28 territory.  An unusually large number of African first-years will be debuting in Kanto, among them Enock Omwamba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) and Daniel Kitonyi (Kenya/Nihon Univ.) from two of the powerhouse schools traditionally using Kenyans as well as a group from relatively unknown schools, including Leul Gebresilase (Ethiopa/Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) William Malel (Kenya/Sozo Gakuen Univ.) and Harry Mulenga (Kenya/Soka Univ.).

The 1500 m at Kanto is scheduled for Saturday and features two of the best Japanese collegiates, Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.) and Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.), on the list, but both are also on the list for the weekend's most competitive meet, Saturday's Golden Games in Nobeoka.  In the 5000 m Murasawa, who was the top Japanese man in the Payton Jordan 10000 m in 27:50.59, is slated to face the likes of World XC silver medalist Paul Tanui (Kenya/Team Kyudenko), 13:18 man Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu) and former national champion Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B), while Osako, the 2011 World University Games 10000 m gold medalist, will be chasing the Olympic A-standard in the 10000 m against 2007 World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Martin Mathathi (Kenya/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC), former Hakone Ekiden star Ryuji Kashiwabara (Team Suzuki) and at least five sub-28 Japanese men if he starts.  The women's 5000 m in Nobeoka most notably includes the strong Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) and national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal).

With much of the best pro talent lining up in Nobeoka the first of two weekends of regional corporate league track championships is a little thin, but noteworthy among them is the Chugoku Regional Corporate Championships where former Sera H.S. star Charles Ndirangu (Team JFE Steel) will seek to extend his nine-race-strong winning streak into the double digits in his second race since going pro last month.

Sunday's Sendai International Half Marathon, late spring's most competitive, is also thinner than in past years but is making a welcome return after being cancelled following last year's disasters.  Sub-60 Kenyan Mekubo Mogusu (Team Nissin Shokuhin) will face his university-era rival Daniel Gitau (Kenya/Team Fujitsu) and Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon winner Harun Njoroge (Kenya/Team Komori Corp.) up front, while the Japanese field includes popular marathoners Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) and Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.).  The women's field suffers greatly from the withdrawal of marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex), leaving twins Hiroko and Yoko Miyauchi (Team Kyocera) the favorites alongside Noguchi's teammate Megumi Seike (Team Sysmex).

The following weekend features the second half of the Kanto Regional University Championships and the second round of regional corporate track championships, with the East Japan region weighing in as the toughest at the corporate level.  Look also for the second edition of the Gifu Seiryu Half Marathon, where Mathathi and Kawauchi return as the top invited men.  Overseas, with support from JRN Suehiro Ishikawa and Takahiro Yamanaka, teammates of 10000 m world champion Ibrahim Jeilan at Honda, will run the Great Manchester Run 10 km along with the likes Haile Gebrselassie (Ethiopia) and Patrick Makau (Kenya).

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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