by Brett Larner
videos courtesy of Ekiden News
The Fukuoka International Marathon was not the only major event in Japan this weekend. Across the country a string of high-level track and road races took place as high school, university and corporate league runners prepare for national championship ekiden season over the next two months. The majority of the track action came on Saturday with the Hachioji Long-Distance Time Trials meet in Tokyo, the Nittai University Time Trials meet in Yokohama, and the Time Trial in Nagasaki meet further south.
10000 m was the main focus in Hachioji, the last chance for athletes in Japan to get under 28 minutes for the year. Ethiopian Agato Yashin Hassan (Team Chuo Hatsujo) led six men into 27-minute territory, clocking 27:46.35 for the win over Kenyans Jacob Wanjuki (Team Aichi Steel) and Patrick Muendo Muwaka (Team Aisan Kogyo). 23-year-old Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei) ran 27:53.34 for 4th in his first time breaking 28 since running a then-national collegiate record of 27:44.30 in 2011. Sendai Ikuei H.S. graduate Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta) and 22-year-old Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) also cleared 28 minutes. National champion Komazawa University captain Shinobu Kubota came up agonizingly short of breaking his PB of 28:07.01, finishing 10th in 28:07.54.
At Nittai, Nihon University's Daniel Muiva Kitonyi just missed joining the 27-minute club as he won the men's 10000 m A-heat in a large PB of 28:02.79. Three runners from outside the stable of Hakone Ekiden-bound schools, Shuhei Yamaguchi (Soka Univ.), Taiki Yoshimura (Ryutsu Keizai Univ.) and Keisuke Furukawa (Kanto Gakuin Univ.), also ran under 29 minutes, another sign of the ongoing swell in performances sweeping Japanese university men's athletics.
In the women's races at Nittai, Kasumi Nishihara and Yuika Mori of the Yamada Denki corporate team had a 1-2 finish in the 5000 m in 15:26.61 and 15:26.80 over Kenyan Rosemary Wanjiru (Aomori Yamada H.S.), 3rd in 15:30.41. Along with teammate Shiho Takechi's 15:29.85 from earlier in the year Yamada Denki runners now occupy the third through fifth-fastest times of the year by Japanese women, an indication that head coach Kenichi Morikawa, who led Bukkyo University to the National University Women's Ekiden Championships title before moving to Yamada Denki last year, is beginning to have some success at the corporate level. The women's 3000 m played out almost the same way as the 5000 m, with teammates Hanami Sekine and Yuka Hori of 2011 national champion Toyokawa H.S. battling with Kenyan pro Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi) up front. Sekine took the win in 9:06.97, with Obare just holding off Hori for 2nd in 9:10.65.
Times at the Nagasaki meet were more modest in comparison but still noteworthy as Toyokawa's rival Kojokan H.S. had four girls from its team for this month's National High School Ekiden Championships run under 16 minutes to take the top four places in the women's 5000 m A-heat. Seniors Tomoyo Adachi and Maiko Okuno were fastest in 15:43.72 and 15:45.66, with sophomores Hana Omori and Sayaka Takarada just clearing 16. In the men's 10000 m, Ethiopian Melaku Aberu paced teammate Hayato Sonoda (Team Kurosaki Harima) under 29 minutes, Melaku getting the win in 28:58.00 with Sonoda 0.21 seconds behind.
Sunday's big non-Fukuoka road action came at the world's #1-ranked 10-miler, the Kumamoto Kosa Road Race. Now 27, collegiate 5000 m national record holder Kensuke Takezawa continued his comeback since moving to the new Sumitomo Denko team, winning in 46:43 in a virtual photo-finish with Yuki Oshikawa (Team Toyota Kyushu) to become Kosa's first Japanese winner since 1999. Young marathoner Hiroaki Sano (Team Honda), 7th at this year's Chicago Marathon in a PB of 2:10:29, was close behind in 3rd in 46:48. His counterpart from the New York City Marathon, Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) was only 12th in 47:23 after finishing 6th in New York in 2:10:45.
(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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