by Brett Larner
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In his first serious race since winning the 2011 New Year Ekiden national championships First Stage, 2010's top Japanese 10000 m and half-marathon man Tomoya Onishi (Team Asahi Kasei) made a successful and surprising comeback after a year and a half of injury troubles as he won the July 4 Hokuren Distance Challenge Kitami Meet men's 5000 m in 13:46.06, just six seconds off his best. Onishi ran up front much of the way with Korea ace Seungho Park and equally injury-hampered former Komazawa University standout Sota Hoshi (Team Fujitsu), taking the lead for good after Park dropped out. Onishi's performance signaled hope for improvement on the promising 27:50.72 and 1:01:31 marks he recorded in 2010 and a not-too-distant marathon debut. His twin brother, former Hakone Ekiden champion Toyo University captain Kazuki Onishi (Team Kanebo), ran the same heat but was far off form as he finished 19th of 20 in 14:28.13.
The Onishi twins' former Toyo teammate, Hakone star Ryuji Kashiwabara, now a teammate of Hoshi's at Fujitsu, was 3rd behind Team S&B's Yuichiro Ueno and Yuta Takahashi, Ueno taking the win in 8:05.63. Showing the degree to which all things are interconnected, in the men's 1500 m Hoshi's former Komazawa teammate Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota), ran a PB of 3:42.53 for 2nd behind Korean Sang Min Sin who clocked 3:42.41.
In the women's races 2011 national champion Team Daiichi Seimei's Eina Yokosawa continued her recent progression as she outran Kenyans Felista Wanjugu (Team Univ. Ent.) and Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) for the 5000 m win in a PB 15:37.27, making the Japanese women's top ten so far this year. Team Sysmex's Ai Igarashi likewise continued a strong year as she won the 3000 m in a PB of 9:07.21, her teammate Seika Nishikawa taking 2nd in 9:19.33.
The 2012 Hokuren Distance Challenge series wraps up Saturday in Abashiri. The men's 5000 m looks like the hottest race of the day, with a field including Takabayashi, 2011 World University Games 10000 m gold medalist Suguru Osako, Kenyan high school sensation Charles Ndungu (Sapporo Yamanote H.S.) and many more. Tomoya Onishi is set to run the 10000 m A-heat in a tough field including one of Japan's top young prospects, Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota).
(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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