Skip to main content

Weekend Track Roundup - A National Record for Suzuki, Fast Veterans and Faster High Schoolers

by Brett Larner

Japan's track circuit was busier than usual this weekend with the move of the National Corporate Track and Field Championships from mid-September this year along with time trial meets nationwide as teams prepare for ekiden season.  At the Corporate Championships, Team Kyudenko's Kenyan ringers Selly Chepyego Kaptich and Paul Tanui were the stars of the show, doubling with wins in the fastest heats of the 5000 m and 10000 m.  Chepyego, the Copenhagen World Half Marathon bronze medalist started things off on Friday night with a 31:38.54 win over Asian Games 10000 m bronze medalist Ayumi Hagiwara (Team Uniqlo), who ran a PB 31:41.80, the best time this year by a Japanese woman, to lead three Japanese women under the Beijing World Championships standard of 32:00.00.  Chepyego returned Sunday to win the 5000 m in 15:14.45 just ahead of ascendant first-year pro Ayuko Suzuki (Team JP Post) whose 15:14.96 was also the best this year by a Japanese woman.  Hagiwara took 3rd in 15:24.56.

On the men's side, Moscow World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Tanui had a close one against 2013 World XC junior silver medalist Leonard Barsoton (Team Nissin Shokuhin), winning in 27:17.82 to Barsoton's 27:20.74 PB.  All told five Kenyans and two Ethiopians broke 28 minutes, with former Tokai University ace Tsubasa Hayakawa (Team Toyota) taking the top Japanese position at 10th in 28:23.64.  Like Chepyego, Tanui was back on Sunday to win the fastest 5000 m heat in 13:22.51 for the double national title.

Other distance news at the Corporate National Championships came in the junior women's 3000 m, where Aomori Yamada H.S. graduate Rosemary Monica Wanjiru (Team Starts) ran a meet record 8:48.44 to win by 19 seconds.  In other events, Yusuke Suzuki (Team Fujitsu) became the first Japanese man to go under 39 minutes in the 10000 m racewalk, taking over 40 second off the old mark to set a new national record of 38:27.09.  Team Sumitomo Denko set a men's 4x100 m relay meet record 38.94, with runner-up Mizuno also under the old record.  Asian Games men's 3000 mSC 4th-place Jun Shinoto (Team Sanyo Tokushu Seiko) made up for his disappointment and just missing the medals in Incheon, winning in 8:34.37.  London Olympics men's javelin throw competitor Genki Dean (Mizuno), struggling with injury since going pro, did not start in the javelin but instead turned up in the discus, finishing 14th of 18 with a throw of 42.28 m.

Elsewhere, 39-year-old Mari Ozaki (Team Noritz), the world record holder for most sub-16 minute 5000 m performances, added at least #76 to her legacy with a 15:54.91 win at the Nighter Time Trial in Marugame.  Virtually all of the other women in the top ten were high school or collegiate athletes half her age, several of them also breaking 16 minutes.  The best high school performances came at the Shizuoka Long Distance Time Trials meet, where Toyokawa H.S. senior Azusa Sumi and Tokiwa H.S. junior Harumi Okamoto just missed joining the small Japanese sub-9 club in the 3000 m, battling to the line with Sumi winning in 9:00.89 and Okamoto 2nd in 9:00.91.  Both bumped 2014 Youth Olympics 3000 m gold medalist Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) out of the all-time Japanese high school top five, Sumi coming in at 4th and Okamoto at 5th.

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kipsang Talking Loud and Aga Mumbling Bold - Tokyo Marathon Preview

After stepping up to the big leagues last year with course records in the 2:03 and 2:19 range, the Tokyo Marathon hopes to go one better this year. Men's course record setter Wilson Kipsang (Kenya) is back, stepping up from a 2:03:50 prediction for Tokyo in January to a 2:02:50 world record prediction at Friday's pre-race press conference. In the unmentioned absence of women's course record breaker Sarah Chepchirchir the top-ranked woman is Ruti Aga (Ethiopia), coming in hot off a 1:06:39 win last month in Houston and turning heads at the press conference with a boldly mumbled 2:18:00 prediction.

Management for both Kipsang and Aga were skeptical to JRN of their athletes' predictions, people from each camp saying times two minutes slower would be more likely, one minute slower in a best-case scenario. But whatever the prediction, Kipsang was clear to fellow past champs Feyisa Lilesa (Ethiopia) and Dickson Chumba (Kenya) about one thing: he wants a more conservative fi…

The Greatest Day in Japanese Men's Marathoning History

This isn't going to be a race recap. Past Tokyo Marathon champs Dickson Chumba of Kenya and Birhane Dibaba of Ethiopia running smart races, working hard after 30 km to each score a second Tokyo title, Dibaba negative splitting her way to a 2:19:51 PB just 4 seconds off the course record and Chumba running away to win in 2:05:30. London World Championships bronze medalist Amy Cragg living up to her pre-race vow to make the top three in PB time, taking 3rd in 2:21:42. Cancer survivor Satoru Kasuya delivering his best performance since almost dying five years ago, an emotional 2:14:37 for 30th.

What this is about is today, the day, the one that's been coming. Yuta Shitara getting it right, strong, unafraid, in control when he needed to be, finding what he needed when it counted, breaking the 16-year-old Japanese national record in 2:06:11 and winning a million dollar bonus for it. But not just him. Hiroto Inoue, just as strong, just as in control, never giving up even when Shita…

Kenyans Kabuu, Jemeli and Cheyech Lead Nagoya Women's Marathon Field

The Nagoya Women's Marathon is the largest women-only marathon in the world, one with a long history as an elite race and adapting to the times with a mass-participation field of 20,000. The last few years it has seen a series of dynamic, high-level performances by top Japanese women, from Sairi Maeda's 2:22:48 in 2015 to the 2:23:19 to 2:23:20 sprint finish battle between Tomomi Tanaka and Rei Ohara in 2016 to Yuka Ando's stellar 2:21:36 debut and teammate Mao Kiyota's 2:23:47 breakthrough last year.

Maeda, Ohara and Kiyota all return this year to face the Kenyan trio of Lucy Kabuu, Valary Jemeli and Flomena Cheyech Daniel. Kabuu went to high school in Japan before moving on to the big leagues, but she hasn't finished a marathon since her 2:20:21 in Dubai 2015. Cheyech also used to be based in Japan as is a familiar face here, winning the last two Saitama International Marathons. Jemeli is making her Japanese debut, and with a 2:21:57 win in Prague and a 2:20:53 …