by Brett Larner
Somewhat usually, all of Japan's major track action this weekend took place on Saturday. The biggest meet of the day was the first in the Hokuren Distance Challenge series, held in Shibetsu, Hokkaido. London Olympics men's marathon team member Arata Fujiwara (Miki House) made news by running both the A and B heats of the men's 10000 m with less than six minutes in between. Fujiwara won the B-heat in 29:08.00, then ran 29:00.98 in the A-heat where he placed 5th. With new half marathon and marathon PBs of 1:01:34 and 2:07:48 behind him earlier this year, Fujiwara's three-year-old 10000 m PB of 28:41.05 is no doubt up for renewal whenever he wants it. Fujiwara will run next weekend's Sapporo International Half Marathon as another tuneup for the London Olympics.
Kenyan Alex Mwangi (Team YKK) won the 10000 m A-heat in 28:12.47 over 2011 World Championships marathoner Yoshinori Oda (Team Toyota), who took the runner-up position in 28:40.19. Kenyans Edward Waweru (Team NTN) and Johnson Kiumbani (Team Konica Minolta) went 1-2 in the 5000 m A-heat in 13:27.61 and 13:36.92. Something of a surprise in 3rd was a resurgent Ryuji Ono (Team Asahi Kasei), famed for making the Athens Olympics on the track while still in his teens. Ono ran 13:47.22, the fastest time of the day by a Japanese man and bettering B-heat winner Seungho Haku of South Korea, who ran 13:54.17.
Kenyans Beatrice Wainaina Murugi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) and Susan Wairimu (Team Denso) also went 1-2 in the women's 3000 m in 9:04.16 and 9:06.25, well ahead of Wairimu's new teammate Mai Ishibashi (Team Denso) who clocked 9:18.66. Another Denso runner, Yuka Takashima, had a narrow win in the 5000 m A-heat, running 15:43.51 over Yoko Aizu (Team Shikoku Denryoku) and Yuki Mitsunobu (Team Kyocera) in 15:43.85 and 15:44.07. Aizu's identical twin sister Kyoko Aizu (Team Shikoku Denryoku) was 2nd in the 5000 m B-heat in 16:14.79, well behind winner Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo).
Some noteworthy results also came at the Shizuoka Long-Distance Time Trials meet, where newcomers Agat Yashin Hassan (Team Chuo Spring) and Miliyon Zewdie (Ethiopia/ Team Yachiyo Kogyo), top-ranked Kenyan high schooler Jeremiah Karemi (Toyokawa H.S.) and Kenyan pro Dishon Karukuwa Maina (Team Aisan Kogyo) turned in time rivaling those in Shibetsu, Hassan running 13:34.10 and all four under 13:40. In the women's 5000 m, Hachioji H.S. junior Shiho Yahagi turned heads with a 15:58.75 winning performance. Four high school girls also went under 9:30 in the 3000 m, led by Eda H.S. junior Kaori Morita's 9:28.46.
Closer to Tokyo, the National University Individual Track and Field Championships, a relatively minor meet which rarely sees top competition, ventured into new territory with meet records in both the women's and men's 5000 m. Rina Nabeshima (Kanoya Taiku Univ.) outran two-time double 5000 m and 10000 m Kanto Region champion Mai Shinozuka (Chuo Univ.) to win in a meet record 15:52.95. Shinozuka ran 15:57.40, ten seconds better than the old record, to join Nabeshima as the only two women to break 16 in meet history. 3rd-place Mai Shoji (Chukyo Univ.) was far back in 16:10.34 but just missed also breaking the previous record. In the men's 5000 m, Takuro Nakanishi (Fukuoka Univ.) became the first man to break 14 in the history of the meet, running 13:59.34 to take almost eleven seconds off the old record held by Samuel Ganga (Kenya/ Hiroshima Keizai Univ.).
One other significant result came at the 21st Oita Nighter Time Trials meet, where Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu), the former Hakone Ekiden star who memorably battled Yuki Kawauchi (Saitamai Pref.) for an Olympic marathon berth at last year's Fukuoka International Marathon, won the 5000 m in 14:05.31 over teammate Yuya Konishi (Team Toyota Kyushu).
(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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