by Brett Larner
videos by toyosina2008, komazawaOB and Ekiden News
Track season continued to build up momentum with the first Nittai University Time Trials meet in Yokohama and a handful of other meets around the country.
The biggest news of the weekend was the debut of teen sprint star Yoshihide Kiryu in the Toyo University uniform. Kiryu ran third for Toyo's 4x100 m relay team at the Iwakabe Cup Eight University meet in Tokyo. Starting his leg mid-pack Kiryu easily blew past the competition to put Toyo out front, but on the anchor leg national university record holder Chuo University retook the lead and pulled away for the win. Nevertheless, in his first race Kiryu helped the Toyo team take the school record from 39.99 to 39.69, a sure sign of what's to come. Post-race the entire Chuo team gave him a round of applause.
Kiryu's long distance teammates stayed at home in Saitama for the Five University Meet hosted by Daito Bunka University. Strong winds prevented fast times, but in his first race since setting the 30 km national university record of 1:28:52 at February's Kumanichi Road Race Toyo's #1 man Yuma Hattori got his junior year off to a good start with a comfortable 5000 m A-heat win in 14:05.21 by a margin of more than five seconds.
His younger brother Hazuma Hattori nearly got the win in the 3000 m A-heat, coming up just short of running down Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.), the identical twin of World Half Marathon Championships team leader Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.). Kota Murayama started the race very slow with a considerable gap between him and the pack before gradually building up the pace and making a break for the win with more than two laps to go, obviously a reaction to his performance at last weekend's Kanaguri Memorial Meet where he went out at national record pace in the 5000 m A-heat and finished last. Murayama took the win in 8:15.33 with Hattori just a couple of strides behind.
Bad weather also impacted the West Japan Time Trials in Fukuoka, where 2014 Toyo grad Kento Otsu made his debut with the Koichi Morishita-coached Toyota Kyushu team. Ethiopian Melaku Abera (Team Kurosaki Harima) had no trouble leading the race to the win despite conditions of extreme rain, finishing in 14:20.03 almost eight seconds ahead. Otsu was 5th in 14:31.64, the third Toyota Kyushu man across the line.
Better weather earlier in the weekend meant decent times in Kyoto, where Bukkyo University senior Sayaka Kuwahara raced Kyoto Sangyo University's Yukiko Okuno to the 10000 m meet record, both breaking the old record with Kuwahara getting the win in 33:31.32. 2013 national champion Ritsumeikan University's top placer in the 10000 m was only 4th, but in the 5000 m its second years swept the podium in a near-photo finish, Natsuki Omori taking 1st in 15:53.20. The men's 10000 m also saw a meet record as the elite Kyoto University's Kentaro Hirai won in 29:42.66.
For contrast and insight into the impact of January's Hakone Ekiden, exclusively for Tokyo-area Kanto Region schools, the first Nittai University Time Trials meet of the season saw eight university men break 29 minutes for 10000 m, almost all in PB times. Meiji University's Ken Yokote started his junior year with a 20-second PB of 28:38.73, his teammate Kei Fumimoto just behind in 28:39.40, his best by eight seconds.
Times were also decent in the 5000 m A-heat, where another Ethiopian, Miliyon Zewdie (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) led the way in 13:28.81, the second-fastest outdoor time in the world so far this year. 2012-2013 10000 m national champion Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) was the top Japanese man in the 5000 m, 5th overall in 13:43.61 in his first real race since an injury at the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden scuttled his plans to run February's Tokyo Marathon.
The women's races at Nittai were very thin, the top result going to Kenyan Doricah Obare (Team Hitachi), 1st in the 3000 m A-heat in 9:12.23.
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