by Brett Larner
While the corporate leagues take a breather after their regional track and field championships last week, Kanto-area university runners are bracing for the second weekend of Japan's best track meet, the Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships at Yokohama's Nissan Stadium.
The men's 800 m should be highlights of the meet, Nihon University senior Sho Kawamoto having set a national record of 1:45.75 two weeks ago at the Golden Grand Prix Tokyo meet in Tokyo's National Stadium. His second-year teammate Jun Mitake is the next-best runner in the field with a 1:48.67 PB, so while another NR is probably too much to ask between the two of them they should have a good chance of taking the 1:48.06 meet record set in 2009 by Kenyan Daniel Gitau, another Nihon University runner.
It says a lot about the quality of Kanto university men's distance running that four of the five Japanese men in this week's ARRS world top 200 rankings are collegiates, three of them having run in last weekend's Kanto Regionals 10000 m where identical twins Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) and Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.) won the D2 and D1 titles respectively. Kenta sits this weekend out in preparation for a shot at a national title in two weeks at the National Track and Field Championships, but Kota, fresh off a 13:38.83 PB two weeks ago in Nobeoka, is returning to go for a double in the D1 5000 m. His main competition includes sub-13:30 man Genki Yagisawa (Meiji Univ.), defending champion Enock Omwamba (Kenya/ Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) back from the stress fracture he sustained at January's Hakone Ekiden to win last weekend's D1 1500 m, 2013 National University 5000 m champion Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Kenya/Nihon Univ.) and the talented but injured-plagued Kazuto Nishiike (Hosei Univ.).
With a 13:37.09 best Kenyan John Maina (Takushoku Univ.) is the heavy favorite in the D2 race, his closest Japanese competitor, Masaki Toda (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) coming in at 13:43.72. Possible contenders in a slower race include Yuta Oikawa and Hironori Tsuetaki of Chuo Gakuin University and 1500 m specialist Taketo Kumazaki (Teikyo Univ.).
The men's half marathon, run on a criterium course through and around the stadium grounds, is always one of the highlights of the Kanto Regionals meet. Second behind Kota Murayama in the 10000 m last weekend, 2014 World Half Marathon team member Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) leads the D1 field with his 1:01:39 best but should have plenty of competition from 62-minute half marathoners Tatsumi Abe (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.), Koki Ido (Waseda Univ.), Yuki Matsumura (Juntendo Univ.), Shota Miyagami (Tokai Univ.), Shogo Sekiguchi (Hosei Univ.) and Daiki Taguchi (Waseda Univ.). At 28:41.09 for 10000 m Yuki Arimura (Meiji Univ.) could also be a factor.
The D2 half should be a showdown between 2014 World University XC team member Shota Baba (Komazawa Univ.) and Aoyama Gakuin University's leading pair Daichi Kamino and Tadashi Isshiki, with sub-63 man Keita Shioya (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) also a favorite. Yuki Kawauchi's youngest brother Koki Kawauchi, now a senior at Takasaki Keizai University, will make his final Kanto Regionals appearance in the D2 half.
In the women's races, talented first-year Yuki Jinbo (Tsukuba Univ.) holds the promise of something good in the 200 m, her 23.65 PB faster than two-time World Championships team member Momoko Takahashi's meet record of 23.69. The meet record is also up for grabs in the women's 5000 m, where Maki Izumida (Rikkyo Univ.), Natsumi Ozawa (Hakuho Univ.), Hitomi Suzuki (Tamagawa Univ.) and Haruka Wada (Josai Univ.) all come in with PBs better than World XC junior bronze medalist Yoshiko Fujinaga's antique record of 15:50.27 from 2001. With a PB of 15:38.22 as a first-year Izumida is the favorite, but front-running 10000 m winner Sakurako Fukuuchi (Daito Bunka Univ.) should give her a challenge for the title despite a best of only 15:53.09.
JRN will be on-site to cover the Kanto Regionals throughout the weekend. Check back for the only English-language coverage of Japan's best university track and field meet.
(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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