by Brett Larner
On the quietest weekend of the fall at the cusp of ekiden season, the main action came at track time trials across the country as Japan's coaches sort out their lineups for the upcoming round of regional and national championship ekidens at the end of this month and the beginning of next.
The biggest meet of the weekend took place at Shizuoka's fast Ecopa Stadium. Fresh from an anchor stage record at the Kanto Regional University Women's Ekiden national championships qualifier, Tsukuba University ace first-year Haruka Kyuma won the women's 5000 m A-heat by four seconds, running a solid best of 15:39.87 to just miss the Japanese top ten for the year. Her twin sister Moe Kyuma, also of Tsukuba, was 14th, the last woman in the A-heat to break 16 minutes as she crossed the line in 15:58.07 in an off day. Another set of twins, Kaori and Shiori Morita of Eda H.S., also dominated the women's 3000 m A-heat, going 1-2 a step apart in 9:10.97 and 9:11.15.
Twins also made headlines in the men's races. In the men's 5000 m in Shizuoka, less than a week after running the Izumo Ekiden, Josai University's Kota Murayama ran a large PB of 13:41.60 to finish 3rd behind pro national champion Team Nissin Shokuhin's Kenyans Gideon Ngatuny and Leonard Barston, both of whom clocked 13:33.18. Murayama's time was the second-best of the year by a Japanese collegiate and just outside the year's top ten. It also broke the PB of his twin brother, 2011 national university 5000 m champion Kenta Murayama of Komazawa University. Kenta, who was the first frosh since Toshihiko Seko to win the national collegiate 5000 m title and who also ran Izumo, opted for the 10000 m at the Chukyo University Saturday Time Trials meet, shaving three seconds off his best as he finished 4th in 28:14.27, the fastest Japanese man of the race. Like Kota he was just outside the top ten of the year to date.
Winning the Chukyo 10000 m was newcomer Hassan Agat Yassin of Team Chuo Spring, who outran perpetual domestic circuit contender John Thuo of Team Toyota by seven seconds, 27:51.71 to Thuo's 27:58.31. Pacing his Team Kyudenko teammates, World Cross Country silver medalist Paul Tanui won the Saga Nighter Time Trials 10000 m in 28:52.25, a step ahead of independent Shinji Ando of Togami Electric Manufacturing who was 2nd in 28:52.64. A half-dozen other meets also produced at least a few quality results, promising an exciting ekiden season in the weeks and months to come.
(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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