Skip to main content

Kenyan First-Year Ndungu Makes Record-Setting Sub-14 Debut at Hokkaido H.S. Regionals

http://hochi.yomiuri.co.jp/hokkaido/sports/news/20120524-OHT1T00161.htm

translated and edited by Brett Larner

In the men's 5000 m first-round heats on the second day of the Hokkaido regional qualifier for the National High School Track and Field Championships, May 23 at Sapporo's Atsubetsu Park Field, the first Kenyan to ever run the meet, Sapporo Yamanote H.S. first-year Charles Ndungu made history with the meet's first-ever sub-14 clocking as he won his heat in 13:58.83.  Both a personal best and the Hokkaido international student high school record, Ndungu's shocking debut took him to the final as the top seed.

His performance marked the beginning of a new era in Hokkaido high school boys' distance running.    In only the first-round heats of the 5000 m Ndungu surged hard over the last lap, battling a strong headwind as he came down the home straight in first place.  When the digital clock showed his time of 13:58.83 a huge roar of cheering and applause came from the grandstand.

Temperatures at the time of the race were 18 degrees.  "The wind was strong and felt cold but I was dead set on breaking 14 minutes because I knew I would get a present if I did," said Ndungu with a smile.  Knowing that Ndungu, who arrived in Japan earlier this year, was feeling homesick and wanted to listen to Kenyan music, Sapporo Yamanote head coach Kazuki Kajiyama, 40, promised him, "If you break 14 minutes I'll give you a portable music player as a reward."

Ndungu ran the entire race alone.  Taking off right from the gun and clocking 66-67 seconds per 400 m, Ndungu lapped the entire field multiple times [2nd place in Ndungu's heat ran 16:32.28].  He was unable to sustain his light and nimble form all the way to the end but succeeded in breaking the PB of 14:00.07 he set May 6 at the Nittai University Time Trials meet.  Coach Kajiyama gave his approval, saying, "Despite the windy conditions he ran a calm and stable pace, an ideal performance."  In the final on May 24 rather than going for time Ndungu will act as pacer for his teammates [Ndungu won the final in 15:22.03 by just over a second].

In April Ndungu had health problems after discovering he is allergic to buckwheat, but through through the assistance of a mediator it was arranged for him to have the chance to train with Kenyan pro Micah Njeru (23, Team Toyota Boshoku), who did a great deal to encourage Ndungu and get him back into good spirits.  He has been very enthusiastic in his studies and can already give greetings in Japanese and read hiragana.  In practice as well, he has become part of the group.

The three fastest times nationally among this year's high school class are held by Kenyans, 13:40.64 by Jeremiah Karemi (3rd yr., Toyokawa H.S.), 13:50.21 by John Maina (3rd yr., Aomori Yamada H.S.) and 13:51.89 by John Gathaiya (2nd yr., Sera H.S.).  Looking toward July's National High School Championships, Ndungu said, "If my body responds well to the heat then I'll be able to run even faster.  I want to beat all the older Kenyans."  Set to become the first-ever first year from Hokkaido to make it to Nationals, Ndungu is gearing up to represent the North.

The Men's 5000 m
The world record is 12:37.35, set by Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) in 2004.  The Japanese national record is 13:13.20, set by Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) in 2007.  The Japanese student national high school record is 13:39.87 by Hidekazu Sato (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) in 2004, with the international student high record of 13:15.44 set last year by Charles Ndirangu (Sera H.S.).  The Hokkaido record is 13:49.06 by Masato Kikuchi (Meiji Univ.), with the Hokkaido Japanese student high school record of 14:03.96 set last year by Yusuke Ogura (Sapporo Yamanote H.S.).  The winning times at the last two years' National High School Championships were Ndirangu's 13:40.99 in 2011 and 13:59.86 by Michael Getange (Aomori Yamada H.S.) in 2010.

Charles Ndungu
Born: Feb. 20, 1996.  16 years old
Height: 163 cm  Weight: 52 kg
Hometown: Okarau, Kenya, 150 km from Nairobi at more than 2000 m elevation
Family: Eight people including Ndungu, his parents, one older brother, three older sisters and one younger brother.  His family are farmers, growing cabbage, carrots and other vegetables as well as raising sheep and cattle.
Favorite Athlete: Beijing Olympian and 2007 Osaka World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Martin Mathathi (26, Kenya, Suzuki Hamamatsu AC)
Favorite Japanese food: Ramen and fried rice.

Comments

Brett Larner said…
This is really an exceptional article.
CK said…
Agreed, exceptional. Thanks for translating it. Wonder if it's news in Kenya...?

Most-Read This Week

Kisaisa Wins Second-Straight Yosenkai Half Marathon in 1:00:44, Komazawa University Averages Ten Men Under 1:03

The Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai is the qualifying race for Japan's most prestigious road race, the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden. University men's teams in the Tokyo area that didn't make the top ten at Hakone the year before square off in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park with teams of up to twelve. The top ten score, their cumulative times determining the team's placing with the top eleven teams advancing and high-placing individuals from schools that don't make the cut rounded up to form a select team.

The Yosenkai has long been the world's #1 20 km road race by a wide margin, with winning times among the fastest in the world for the distance and the same kind of incredible depth seen at November's Ageo City Half Marathon and March's National University Men's Half Marathon. In light of changes in the IAAF's ranking system and the level of performance at the Yosenkai, this year organizers took the historic step of changing it from its traditional distance to …

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …

Comparing D1 Pre-Nationals and the Hakone Ekiden Qualifier

With both American and Japanese university students well into their fall seasons, two major events took place Saturday. Near Madison, Wisconsin, the D1 Pre-Nationals cross-country meet and in Tachikawa, Tokyo the Hakone Ekiden Qualifier half marathon. At Pre-Nats men ran 8 km on a looping XC course with a maximum elevation difference of around 30 m. The field was split into two main races, Cardinal and White, with a total of 69 teams, and an additional Grey race handling some overflow. Teams ran up to seven members, with the top five scoring on cumulative placing. A total of 474 athletes finished the two main races, with five DNF.

At the Hakone Ekiden Qualifier, known as the Yosenkai, the distance was lengthened from 20 km to the half marathon distance this year, on a paved net-uphill course with a maximum elevation difference of about 20 m, most of that in the hilly final 8 km through Showa Kinen Park. 39 second-tier teams fielded up to twelve runners, with the top ten scoring on cu…