Friday, March 14, 2014

Ichida and Yufu Represent Japan's University Men at NYC Half (updated)

update: The NYRR posted its own story on Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) and Ikuto Yufu (Komazawa Univ.) this morning.  Click here to read it.

by Brett Larner

November's Ageo City Half Marathon has been in an arms race with March's National University Men's Half Marathon Championships for the last few years, both races riding a swell in Japanese university men's distance running to battle for the title of world's deepest half marathon.  Two weeks ago the National University Half became the first race to break the 200 sub-66 barrier, but competition up front in Ageo remains thicker with a sub-62 course record and nearly twice as many men going sub-63 as at the National University Half. Driving the race up front in Ageo this time was, for the third year in a row, the chance for the two top Japanese collegiates to run the NYC Half Marathon in a relationship set up between the two races by JRN.

Two years ago Yuta Shitara and Kento Otsu of Hakone Ekiden course record holders Toyo University set the bar high, Shitara outkicking World Half Marathon Championships medalist Dathan Ritzenhein (U.S.A.) to run the fastest time ever by a Japanese man on U.S. soil, 1:01:48.  Last year Otsu returned with Ageo winner Kenta Murayama of National University Ekiden Championships course record holder Komazawa University. Murayama ran 1:02:02 for 10th and returned to Japan full of confidence, setting new course records at both the Izumo Ekiden and National University Ekiden before running an all-time Japanese #3 1:00:50 at February's Marugame Half to make Japan's World Half team.

Seeing Murayama's transformation, other runners jumped at the chance to pick up the NYC invite.  In the first 25 years of Ageo's history 36 men had broken 63 minutes.  At last November's 26th running 18 more achieved that time, all but one university runners and almost all in PB times.  Winning the five-way sprint finish was Takashi Ichida of Daito Bunka University, clocking 1:02:36 in a photo finish with Hakone star Kazuto Nishiike of Hosei University.

Back in January, 2008 in the early days of JRN we translated an article about a pair of identical twin junior high school runners from Kyushu, Takashi and Hiroshi Ichida, who said they hoped to one day run the Olympic marathon together.  At that point still more or less unknown, the brothers became members of Kagoshima Jitsugyo High School's 2010 National High School Ekiden champion team before going on to lead the relatively minor Daito Bunka University.  While Hiroshi made the Japanese team for next week's World University Cross Country Championships in Uganda, Takashi's win in Ageo meant his route to achieving the twins' shared dream would take him through New York.  Having focused on peaking for the NYC Half since November, Takashi hopes to improve on both Shitara's 1:01:48 and Murayama's 10th-place finish.

Ageo runner-up Nishiike was injured before January's Hakone Ekiden and did not recover in time for New York.  Taking his place is the man who led the break in Ageo, 2013 National University Track and Field Championships 1500 m winner Ikuto Yufu.  Undefeated at the National University Ekiden Championships where he set two stage records among his four stage wins, Yufu is the Komazawa record holder for 1500 m, 5000 m and 10000 m but has yet to live up to the same standard over the half marathon.  In his last race wearing the Komazawa uniform before graduation he hopes for a major improvement on his 1:02:46 best.  If he succeeds both he and Ichida should make serious dents in the Japanese men's all-time U.S. soil top ten list:

1. Yuta Shitara - 1:01:48 - New York City 2012
2. Kenta Murayama - 1:02:02 - New York City 2013
3. Yasuaki Yamamoto - 1:02:28 - Philadelphia 1999
4. Yoshinori Oda - 1:02:50 - Virginia Beach 2007
5. Yoichiro Akiyama - 1:02:59 - Virginia Beach 2005
6. Kento Otsu - 1:03:15 - New York City 2012
7. Noritaka Fujiyama - 1:03:50 - Virginia Beach 2009
8. Kazuhiro Matsuda - 1:03:57 - San Diego 2003
8. Takayuki Matsumiya - 1:03:57 - Virginia Beach 2010
10. Kento Otsu - 1:04:03 - New York City 2013

Profiles:

Takashi Ichida
Daito Bunka University
Born: June 16, 1992, Kagoshima, attended Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.
identical twin brother Hiroshi Ichida also runs at D.B.U.

PBs
1500 m: 3:49.79 (2009) 5000 m: 13:55.44 (2010)
10000 m: 28:43.93 (2013) half-marathon: 1:02:36 (2013)

Major Results
Daito Bunka University record holder, half marathon
2013 Ageo City Half Marathon: 1st, 1:02:36
2013 Kanto Regional Univ. T&F Championships 10000 m: 3rd
2011 World XC Junior Race: 36th
2010 National High School Ekiden 1st Stage: 2nd
2010 World XC Junior Race: 40th
2010 National Men’s Ekiden 1st Stage: 3rd
2008 National Men’s Ekiden 2nd Stage: 2nd
2007 Junior Olympics 3000 m: 1st
2007 National Junior High School T&F Championships 3000 m: 1st

Team Titles:
2010 National High School Ekiden – 1st


Ikuto Yufu
Komazawa University
Born: July 7, 1991, Oita, attended Oita Tomei H.S.

PBs
1500 m: 3:42.37 (2012) 5000 m: 13:42.09 (2011)
10000 m: 28:02.46 (2011) half-marathon: 1:02:46 (2013)

Major Results
Komazawa University record holder, 1500 m, 5000 m and 10000 m
2014 Hakone Ekiden 3rd Stage: 3rd
2010-2013 National University Ekiden 3rd Stage: 1st, CR in 2010 and 2012
2013 Izumo Ekiden 4th Stage: 2nd
2013 National University T&F Championships 1500 m: 1st
2011 World University Games 5000 m: 14th
2010-2011: Kanto Region University T&F Championships 1500 m: 1st
2011 Hakone Ekiden 1st Stage; 3rd
2010 Asian Junior Championships 5000 m: 2nd; 1500 m: 4th
2009 National High School Ekiden 1st Stage: 2nd
2009 National High School T&F Championships 1500 m: 2nd; 5000 m: 4th

Team Titles
2014 Hakone Ekiden – 2nd
2013 National University Ekiden – 1st
2013 Izumo Ekiden – 1st - course record
2013 Hakone Ekiden – 3rd
2012 National University Ekiden – 1st - course record
2012 Hakone Ekiden – 2nd
2011 National University Ekiden – 1st
2011 Izumo Ekiden – 2nd
2011 Hakone Ekiden – 3rd
2010 National University Ekiden – 2nd
2010 Izumo Ekiden – 3rd

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

photo credits:
NYC photo (c) 2014 Shuta Baba, all rights reserved
Ageo lead group photo (c) 2013 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
Ageo award ceremony photo (c) 2013 Jason Lawrence, all rights reserved
Ichida photo (c) 2013 Kazuyuki Sugimatsu, all rights reserved
Yufu photo (c) 2014 Kazuyuki Sugimatsu, all rights reserved

1 comment:

Brett Larner said...

Thanks to Ken Young at the ARRS for the Japan U.S. soil list data.