Saturday, May 17, 2014

Murayama Twins Dominate and Omwamba Returns on First Day of 2014 Kanto Regionals

by Brett Larner
videos by naoki620

Train-stopping winds tore at what was left of the roof of the neighboring snow-damaged Kumagaya Dome, but the first day of Japan's biggest university meet, the Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships, plowed ahead as scheduled on Friday, May 16 northwest of Tokyo in Kumagaya, Saitama.  Because Kanto is home to Japan's biggest sporting event, the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden university men's road relay championships,  the region is a national magnet for men's distance running talent to the extent that the Kanto Regionals meet is much more competitive than its national counterpart where Kanto distance men race others from weaker regions from across the country.

That being the case, it was no surprise that the highlight of the day came in its final two events, the D2 and D1 men's 10000 m.  A school's D1 or D2 standing depends on the combined scoring of its overall track and field team, meaning that distance specialty schools like three-time defending National University Ekiden champion Komazawa University are held back in D2 among lower-level schools instead of going up against the other major power in the D1 races.  Last weekend Komazawa senior Kenta Murayama and sophomore Keisuke Nakatani finished 1st and 3rd in the Golden Games in Nobeoka 5000 m A-heat, Murayama with a PB 13:34.53 and Nakatani also PBing in 13:38.08.  With Murayama having run 27:49.94 in April, over 30 seconds better than his nearest competition, there wasn't much doubt that he was going to win, the only question being whether Nakatani would make it a Komazawa double.

After the winds held them back in a slow first half just under 15:00 Murayama went to the front and dropped the field, only Nakatani and Hironori Tsuetaki (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) going with him.  Nakatani took his turn up front to try to break Tsuetaki, a move that paid off as it was soon down to just the Komazawa teammates. With one lap to go Murayama said goodbye with the closing speed and final kick that have set him apart from other Japanese runners over the last year.  It looked like he might squeeze under 29:00, but the slow first half held him too far back and he crossed the line in 29:03.22 to add a second Kanto D2 10000 m title to his 2012 win. Nakatani completed the Komazawa double in 29:11.89, with Tsuetaki closing but coming up short of catching him as he took 3rd in 29:14.77.

Minutes later the D1 race got underway, with favorites including 2013 National University 10000 m champion Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Kenya/Nihon Univ.), 2014 World Half Marathon team member Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.), 30 km national university record holder Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.), 2013 Ageo City Half Marathon winner Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) and Murayama's identical twin brother Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.).  Kota has so far been completely overshadowed by Kenta's success, his only real claim to fame having been a faster 5000 m PB that Kenta beat last weekend in Nobeoka, where Kota was 4th in a new PB of 13:38.87.  This time it was clear he was there to make it his night.

When Ichida took the race out on 29-flat pace Kota hung back mid-pack, keying off Hattori.  When Kitonyi tired of the pace and went out front at 3000 m Kota followed Hattori toward the front but stayed behind him.  Kitonyi tired and Hattori went by him into the lead, Kota was there behind him.  When Kitonyi went back to the front Kota ignored him, staying right in Hattori's shadow.  Hattori again took the lead and again, there was Hota.  When it was Hattori's turn to tire Kota went to the outside of the lane and pulled almost even but refused to take the lead.  Kitonyi lost patience and took off, only Inoue following him.  Kota again ignored them to stay in Hattori's wake, but 200 m later when it was obvious that this was Kitonyi was not coming back, Kota sprinted down the back straight to regain contact.

Hattori, Ichida and Meiji University's sub-28:40 pair Kei Fumimoto and Ken Yokote tried to rejoin the leaders, but while it took a few laps for Fumimoto and Yokote to get there Hattori and Ichida never re-entered orbit.  The tension built as the laps ticked toward zero, and with 500 m to go Kota finally made his move, for the first time in memory really looking like his brother's twin as he ran.  The Meiji pair were gone instantly, then Kitonyi, only Inoue able to mount a challenge.  Inoue made two pushes to the front but Kota was not having any of it as he dropped the same last kick his brother has honed over the last year.  Crossing the line in 28:54.85 he earned his first major title to make it an all-Murayama might, and with a faster time than Kenta's D2 win it was the first time he had upstaged his brother too.  The twins' senior year looks like it's going to be an interesting one.

Inoue was a second back from Kota in 28:55.87, with Kitonyi rounding out the podium in 28:57.05.  Fumimoto almost closed the distance to Kitonyi but came up short in 4th in 29:00.93, Hattori and Ichida nearly catching Yokote for 5th but likewise running out of room as they took 6th and 7th.  One more pre-race favorite, first-year Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.), dropped out in clear distress after just a few laps, lying just outside the back curve of the track as medical staff rushed to help him.

Another would-have-been-favorite, Ueda's teammate and defending Kanto D1 10000 m champion Enock Omwamba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.), sat the 10000 m out in favor of only defending his 1500 m Kanto title as he works back from the stress fracture that forced him to DNF in January's Hakone Ekiden.  Running at the peak of the windstorm, Omwamba ran solo start-to-finish ahead of the Japanese field to win easily in 3:48.66.  His nearest competition, 13:28.79 5000 m man Genki Yagisawa (Meiji Univ.), was far back in 3:52.23.  Looking fit and healthy, Omwamba is scheduled to go for a defense of his 5000 m Kanto title next weekend on the final day of the meet.

The D2 1500 m saw the official arrival of a Kenyan newcomer, the Stephen Mayaka-coached Lazarus Motanya (Obirin Univ.).  Just a first-year, Motanya had no trouble taking apart the Japanese field despite the powerful winds, winning in 3:49.84 by 2 1/2 seconds over Noriaki Oyama (Soka Univ.).  Mayaka, newly installed as head coach at the Obirin, hopes to build a Hakone-worthy team centered around Motanya over the next four years, and a Kanto title to start things off can only help.

Kanto university women's distance running lags behind both the Kansai region women and the Kanto region men in level and prestige, but the 10000 m saw most of the best the region has to offer in a close race.  Last year's Kanto 5000 m winner Sakurako Fukuuchi (Daito Bunka Univ.) controlled the race start-to-finish, her identical twin teammates Eri and Mari Tayama giving early support against a lead pack that included defending 10000 m champion Hitomi Suzuki (Tamagawa Univ.), 2011-12 10000 m winner Mai Shinozuka (Chuo Univ.) and last year's 4th-placer Yuko Kikuchi (Hakuho Univ.).

As the kilometers ground by the pack thinned until only Fukuuchi, Suzuki, Shinozuma and Kikuchi remained, and when the bell rang Fukuuchi still had the reserves to pull out a kick that put the others away.  All four finished within three seconds of each other, Fukuuchi getting the win in 33:44.72 and Kikuchi just outkicking defending champion Suzuki for 2nd in 33:46.87.  Daito Bunka's Chikako Mori just missed making it a DBU double in the women's 1500 m, less than a second behind winner Miho Ito (Juntendo Univ.) who took the title in 4:29.78.

The sprints brought the day's other major action, with Yoshihide Kiryu (Toyo Univ.) easily placing first in the opening heats in 10.36 (-0.6) and Anna Doi (Daito Bunka Univ.), a London Olympian while in high school, likewise outclassing the competition to top the heats in 11.94 (-3.5).  Both Kiryu and Doi returned to anchor their schools' 4x100 m teams in the qualifying rounds, Kiryu bringing Toyo home in 2nd in their heat just behind national university record holder Chuo University and Doi running down Tsukubu University to put DBU at the top of the rankings going into the final.

The Kanto Regionals meet continues Saturday before moving to Kawasaki for its second half on May 24-25.  As always, JRN will be on-site to provide the only English-language coverage of Japan's best track meet.

93rd Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships - Day One Highlights
Kumagaya, Saitama, 5/16/14
click here for complete results

Men's D1 10000 m
1. Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.) - 28:54.85
2. Hiroto Inoue (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:55.87
3. Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Kenya/Nihon Univ.) - 28:57.05
4. Kei Fumimoto (Meiji Univ.) - 29:00.93
5. Ken Yokote (Meiji Univ.) - 29:07.20
6. Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 29:09.65
7. Takashi Ichida (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 29:09.69
8. Toshiyuki Yanagi (Waseda Univ.) - 29:11.29
9. Takaya Sato (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 29:17.61
10. Yuki Matsumura (Juntendo Univ.) - 29:20.31

Men's D2 10000 m
1. Kenta Murayama (Komazawa Univ.) - 29:03.22
2. Keisuke Nakatani (Komazawa Univ.) - 29:11.89
3. Hironori Tsuetaki (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 29:14.77
4. Mitsunori Asaoka (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 29:17.32
5. Kenya Sonota (Komazawa Univ.) - 29:26.93
6. Masaya Kakihara (Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:27.44
7. Daichi Kamino (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:39.32
8. Taiki Yoshimura (Ryutsu Keizai Univ.) - 29:39.97
9. Yuta Oikawa (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 29:44.02
10. Ryoma Takeuchi (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 29:45.32

Women's 10000 m
1. Sakurako Fukuuchi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 33:44.72
2. Yuko Kikuchi (Hakuho Univ.) - 33:46.87
3. Hitomi Suzuki (Tamagawa Univ.) - 33:46.99
4. Mai Shinozuka (Chuo Univ.) - 33:47.16
5. Eri Tayama (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 34:18.97
6. Mari Tayama (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 34:29.21
7. Yuna Nihei (Toyo Univ.) - 34:57.45
8. Hiromi Hikida (Nittai Univ.) - 35:05.86
9. Shino Umehara (Josai Univ.) - 35:17.27
10. Ruka Nakamura (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 35:21.23

Men's D1 1500 m Final
1. Enock Omwamba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 3:48.66
2. Genki Yagisawa (Meiji Univ.) - 3:52.23
3. Hikaru Kato (Nittai Univ.) - 3:52.54
4. Takayuki Maeno (Meiji Univ.) - 3:53.13
5. Tsukasa Anzai (Juntendo Univ.) - 3:53.34

Men's D2 1500 m Final
1. Lazarus Motanya (Kenya/Obirin Univ.) - 3:49.84
2. Noriaki Oyama (Soka Univ.) - 3:52.30
3. Taketo Kumazaki (Teikyo Univ.) - 3:52.35
4. Nozomi Ogoshi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 3:52.70
5. Yuki Nakamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 3:53.18

Women's 1500 m Final
1. Miho Ito (Juntendo Univ.) - 4:29.78
2. Maya Iino (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 4:30.11
3. Chikako Mori (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 4:30.68
4. Maki Izumida (Rissho Univ.) - 4:31.31
5. Yuri Takagi (Nittai Univ) - 4:32.29

Men's D1 100 m Heats Summary
Yoshihide Kiryu (Toyo Univ.) (1st, H.3) - 10.36 (-0.6)
Asuka Cambridge (Nihon Univ.) (1st, H4) - 10.42 (-0.7)
Masaharu Mori (Daito Bunka Univ.) (2nd, H4) - 10.47 (-0.7)
Yuki Takeshita (Waseda Univ.) (3rd, H4) - 10.56 (-0.7)
Takumi Kuki (Waseda Univ.) (1st, H2) - 10.58 (-2.2)
Tatsuro Suwa (Chuo Univ.) (2nd, H.3) - 10.58 (-0.6)
Kazuma Oseto (Hosei Univ.) (1st, H1) - 10.60 (-4.7)
Masafumi Naoki (Chuo Univ.) (2nd, H.2) - 10.60 (-2.2)

Women's 100 m Heats Summary
Anna Doi (Daito Bunka Univ.) (1st, H1) - 11.94 (-3.5)
Anna Fujimori (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) (1st, H2) - 12.12 (-3.4)
Maho Takamori (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) (1st, H4) - 12.20 (-1.2)
Hiromi Shioya (Tsurugadai Univ.) (2nd, H4) - 12.27 (-1.2)
Sae Shimada (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) (2nd, H1) - 12.33 (-3.5)
Momoe Makino (Nittai Univ.) (3rd, H1) - 12.37 (-3.5)
Sayaka Matsumoto (Tsuru Univ.) (1st, H3) - 12.39 (-1.9)
Mio Fukushima (Tokyo Joshi Taiiku Univ.) (4th, H1) - 12.39 (-3.5)

Men's 4x100 m Heats Summary
Hosei Univ. (1st, H1) - 39.16
Chuo Univ. (1st, H2) - 39.60
Toyo Univ. (2nd, H2) - 39.68
Nihon Univ. (3rd, H2) - 39.77
Nittai Univ. (2nd, H1) - 39.79
Josai Univ. (3rd, H1) - 39.84
Daito Bunka Univ. (4th, H1) - 39.85
Juntendo Univ. (5th, H1) - 40.08

Women's 4x100 m Heats Summary
Daito Bunka Univ. (1st, H2) - 46.61
Tsuru Bunka Univ. (1st, H1) - 46.69
Aoyama Gakuin Univ. (1st, H3) - 46.80
Tsukuba Univ. (2nd, H2) - 46.98
Nittai Univ. (2nd, H1) - 47.05
Tokyo Joshi Taiiku Univ. (3rd, H1) - 47.41
Tokyo Gakugei Univ. (2nd, H3) - 47.49
Saitama Univ. (3rd, H2) - 47.56

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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