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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.

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Weekend Track Highlights

Distance action at the senior level was split between three main meets this weekend. One contingent of Japanese women and men headed to Europe for a mini tour of the circuit, starting things off Saturday at Belgium's Kortrijkse Guildensporenmeeting. One of Japan's top current half marathoners, Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) ran a season best 15:36.11 for 4th in the women's 5000 m to lead the five Japanese women in the race. National XC runner-up Kosei Yamaguchi (Aisan Kogyo) led the Japanese men in the 3000 m SC in 8:37.81. The popular Hazuma Hattori (Toenec) was the fastest Japanese man in the 1500 m at 3:45.17, with Nokoka Hosaka (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) delivering the fastest Japanese women's time at 4:25.40.

Also Saturday back home in Hokkaido, the Hokuren Distance Challenge series wrapped up with the Shibetsu meet. Women's 5000 m A-heat winner Yuka Hori (Panasonic) was just off Ichiyama's Belgian time in 15:37.51 just ahead of Honami Maeda (Tenmaya), who continued a gr…