Monday, May 11, 2015

Kwemoi and Murayama Twins Dominate at Golden Games in Nobeoka

by Brett Larner
videos by Ekiden News

Nobeoka is Japan's twin to the United States' Eugene, an isolated mecca of the sport with intense local support driven by the legends of local greats.  Track Town U.S.A. Eugene has 1972 Olympics 5000 m 4th-placer Steve Prefontaine, while Athlete Support Town Nobeoka has twins Takeshi Soh, 4th in the 1976 Olympics marathon, and Shigeru Soh, whose 2:09:06 in 1978 was that time's fastest ever behind Australian Derek Clayton's short-course world best.  Prefontaine died a rock star death to become a marketing icon for locally-originating global manufacturer Nike, while the Soh twins became the faces of locally-originating global manufacturer Asahi Kasei, first as athletes and then as coaches and staff members, their work in developing the Asahi Kasei corporate team, in creating and operating the Golden Games meet and in supporting children's programs and the local community helping make Asahi Kasei synonymous with distance running greatness throughout Japan.

Both Sohs were working hands-on at this year's Golden Games, Shigeru walking the infield and track throughout the meet wearing a headset to call out encouragement to runners and Takeshi, now one of the JAAF's national directors of marathoning and one of the architects of its year-old National Team marathon development program, helping carry signs and equipment onto the field and waiting at the finish line to congratulate incoming runners.  Under Takeshi's guidance this year Asahi Kasei pulled in a massive recruitment wave of most of the best 2015 graduating Hakone Ekiden stars, its first-year lineup alone looking capable of achieving the nationalistic goal of an all-Japanese New Year Ekiden national title.  Prominent among the incoming deluge of Hakone talent are two sets of twins, Kenta and Kota Murayama and Hiroshi and Takashi Ichida.  Amid Asahi Kasei domination of the day, the team's runners winning seven of the nine main distance races to the delight of the packed stands and thousands more fans lining the track pounding rhythmically on the sponsor boards ringing lane eight, the Murayama twins soared.

Kota, a graduate of Josai University, ran in the fastest 5000 m heat, the C-heat in which he was the lone Japanese runner amid 14 Kenyans including the likes of 1500 m junior world record holder Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.) and two-time 3000 mSC world junior gold medalist Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Butsuryu).  In search of becoming the first Japanese man to hit the Beijing World Championships 5000 m qualifying time of 13:23.00 he relaxed near the rear of the pack in the early going, watching for gaps and moving up to stay in contact with the leaders as others faded.  With a best of only 13:31.35 set just a few weeks ago, Kota shocked the crowd by going to the front at 4000 m and brought them to their feet by kicking into the lead in the last lap.  Only Kwemoi could match Kota's closing speed, winning in a PB 13:16.14 with Kota 2nd in 13:19.62, just the 6th Japanese man to ever break 13:20 and the 2nd-fastest ever to do it on Japanese soil.

An hour later Kenta was on the track to hit the 27:45.00 standard for the 10000 m in Beijing after missing it with a 28:09.28 two weeks earlier in Hyogo.  With pacing from Moscow World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Paul Tanui (Kenya/Kyudenko) Kenta's only competition was another talented twin, Yuta Shitara (Team Honda) who likewise had missed the Beijing standard when he ran 28:01.65 at last weekend's Payton Jordan Invitational at Stanford University in the United States.  Longtime rivals, Shitara and Kenta hold the fastest two half marathons ever run by Japanese men on U.S. soil, Shitara with a 1:01:48 at the 2012 NYC Half and Kenta 1:02:02 a year later at the same race, both with support from JRN.  Tanui did an outstanding job of keeping the pace close to 2:45/km for most of the race, Kenta and Shitara right behind.  The occasional slightly slower lap put the Japanese national record of 27:35.09 out of reach, and when it looked like the Beijing standard might get iffy a move from Shitara got it back on track.  In the last 1000 m Shitara looked the stronger, but, like his brother, Kenta's kick on the last lap was too much.  Kenta crossed the line in 27:39.95, and mirroring Kota's result he was the 6th Japanese man to ever clear 27:40 and the 2nd-fastest to do it on Japanese soil.  Shitara held on to join Kenta under the Beijing standard in 27:42.71, both breaking the meet record.

Asahi Kasei's other new twins also performed over 5000 m.  Takashi Ichida, another NYC Half alumnus, was part of an Asahi Kasei trio led by Tetsuya Yoroizaka that topped the 5000 m A-Heat, Yoroizaka winning in 13:33.30 and Takashi clearing 13:40 for the first time in 13:36.09 for 3rd.  In the B-Heat his brother Hiroshi was shooting for the sub-13:50 qualifying time for next month's National Championships but came up short, running 13:55.24 for 5th.  B-Heat winner Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Team Konica Minolta), back from an excellent run at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, was the only non-Asahi Kasei Japanese runner to win one of the major distance races, just 0.32 seconds off his best in 13:45.75.

Satoru Sasaki and Tomoya Adachi, both sub-2:10 Asahi Kasei marathoners last year, also ran, Sasaki winning the F-Heat and Adachi 2nd in the G-Heat.  2014 Asian Games marathon silver medalist Kohei Matsumura (Team Mitsubishi Hitachi Nagasaki), a DNS at the Warsaw Marathon two weeks ago, took 3rd in the B-Heat in 13:54.10.

With most of Japan's top women having focused on Payton Jordan last weekend the men's races were the focus in Nobeoka, but good women's races also happened over 3000 m and 5000 m.  In the junior women's 3000 m, Yuka Mukai and Shinobu Koyoshigawa of Sera H.S. went 1-2, Mukai breaking the meet record in 9:15.36.  Kenyans Rosemary Wanjiru (Team Starts) and Mariam Waithira (Team Kyudenko) likewise went 1-2 in the 5000 m A-heat, Wanjiru getting the win in 15:32.16.  Miyuki Uehara (Daiichi Seimei), who gained some notice with a 15:40 at this year's Carlsbad 5000 in California, was the top Japanese woman at 3rd in 15:47.59.

26th Golden Games in Nobeoka
Nobeoka, Miyazaki, 5/9/15
click here for complete results

Men's 10000 m
1. Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei) - 27:39.95 - MR
2. Yuta Shitara (Honda) - 27:42.71 (MR)
3. Akihiko Tsumurai (Mazda) - 28:50.68
4. Keiji Akutsu (Subaru) - 29:04.17
5. Naoki Okamoto (Chugoku Denryoku) - 29:16.63

Men's 5000 m C-Heat
1. Ronald Kwemoi (Kenya/Komori Corp.) - 13:16.14
2. Kota Murayama (Asahi Kasei) - 13:19.62
3. Jonathan Ndiku (Kenya/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 13:21.72
4. Bernard Kimani (Kenya/Yakult) - 13:22.01
5. William Malel (Kenya/Honda) - 13:22.72
6. Paul Kamais (Kenya/Sera H.S.) - 13:23.69
7. John Maina (Kenya/Fujitsu) - 13:24.21
8. David Njuguna (Kenya/Yakult) - 13:24.69
9. Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Kenya/Aisan Kogyo) - 13:33.77
10. Joseph Mumo (Kenya/Hitachi Butsuryu) - 13:41.69

Men's 5000 m A-Heat
1. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei) - 13:33.30
2. Shuho Dairokuno (Asahi Kasei) - 13:34.37
3. Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei) - 13:36.09
4. Kensuke Takezawa (Sumitomo Denko) - 13:37.89
5. Kaido Kita (Chugoku Denryoku) - 13:38.60
6. Keisuke Tanaka (Fujitsu) - 13:40.65
7. Mitsunori Asaoka (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 13:42.41
8. Daiki Hirose (Osaka Gas) - 13:42.59
9. Taku Fujimoto (Toyota) - 13:42.79
10. Keita Baba (Honda) - 13:43.13

Men's 5000 m B-Heat
1. Hiroyuki Yamamoto (Konica Minolta) - 13:45.75
2. Shota Shinjo (Honda) - 13:53.86
3. Kohei Matsumura (Mitsubishi Hitachi Nagasaki) - 13:54.10
4. Masaru Aoki (Kanebo) - 13:54.73
5. Hiroshi Ichida (Asahi Kasei) - 13:55.24

Men's 5000 m D-Heat
1. Keijiro Mogi (Asahi Kasei) - 13:44.64
2. Toshihiro Kenmotsu (NTT Nishi Nihon) - 13:54.57
3. Kei Fumimoto (Kanebo) - 13:57.00

Men's 5000 m E-Heat
1. Yuki Arimura (Asahi Kasei) - 14:04.62
2. Eita Hamamoto (Takeda Pharma) - 14:08.08
3. Takuya Otani (Press Kogyo) - 14:11.74

Men's 5000 m F-Heat
1. Satoru Sasaki (Asahi Kasei) - 14:12.72
2. Ryoichi Matsuo (Asahi Kasei) - 14:13.29
3. Yoshiki Takenouchi (NTT Nishi Nihon) - 14:14.50

Men's 5000 m G-Heat
1. Takumi Honda (Asahi Kasei) - 14:21.27
2. Tomoya Adachi (Asahi Kasei) - 14:23.11
3. Yuma Higashi (Kyudenko) - 14:24.04

Men's 5000 m H-Heat
1. Fumihiro Maruyama (Asahi Kasei) - 14:23.38
2. Shinpei Muratake (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 14:27.39
3. Tomoya Onishi (Asahi Kasei) - 14:28.16

Women's 5000 m A-Heat
1. Rosemary Monicah Wanjiru (Kenya/Starts) - 15:32.16
2. Mariam Waithira (Kenya/Kyudenko) - 15:44.97
3. Miyuki Uehara (Daiichi Seimei) - 15:47.59
4. Ai Inoue (Noritz) - 15:48.23
5. Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) - 15:48.83
6. Tomomi Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 15:48.92
7. Keiko Nogami (Juhachi Ginko) - 15:49.21
8. Risa Kikuchi (Hitachi) - 15:55.74
9. Tomoyo Yamamoto (Sekisui Kagaku) - 15:55.91
10. Akane Higashimura (Sysmex) - 15:59.45

Women's 5000 m B-Heat
1. Rika Toguchi (Route Inn Hotels) - 16:07.29
2. Kanade Furuya (Matsuyama Univ.) - 16:10.47
3. Reno Okura (Hokuren) - 16:14.94

Women's 5000 m C-Heat
1. Nana Sato (Starts) - 16:19.70
2. Nao Taguchi (Route Inn Hotels) - 16:22.08
3. Mai Nagaoka (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 16:22.73

Junior Women's 3000 m
1. Yuka Mukai (Sera H.S.) - 9:15.36 - MR
2. Shinobu Koyoshigawa (Sera H.S.) - 9:17.62
3. Yuki Shibata (Kitakyushu Municipal H.S.) - 9:30.93

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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