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Suzuki Sets Another National Record, Ohara Qualifies for Beijing, Sub-28 Collegiates and More as Hokuren Distance Challenge Series Wraps Up in Abashiri

by Brett Larner

Japan's major midsummer track series, the Hokuren Distance Challenge in four locations across Hokkaido, wrapped up July 16 with the Abashiri Meet.  For the second time in a week, 20 km race walk world record holder Yusuke Suzuki (Team Fujitsu) broke a national record held by teammate Eiki Takahashi, both times outgunning Takahashi to do it.  This time it was Takahashi's 10000 mRW national record, from which Suzuki lopped 8 seconds with a new record of 38:10.23.  12 more seconds to another world record.

Other new came in the women's 10000 m, where National Championships 3rd-placer Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) finally succeeded in breaking the Beijing World Championships qualification standard of 32:00.00, taking 3rd in a new PB of 31:48.31 for which she is all but certain to be rewarded with a place on the Beijing team.  Riko Matsuzaki (Sekisui Kagaku) won in a solid PB of 31:44.86, with the top 4 breaking 32 minutes and the top 7 all clearing the 32:15.00 standard for next year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics.  All told 7 Japanese women have broken 32 minutes so far this year, the most since 2007 and, in a rarity, surpassing the U.S.A. which has produced 6 women sub-32 in 2015.

Times were also good in the men's 10000 m, where university runners Patrick Mathenge Wambui (Nihon Univ.) and Ken Yokote (Meiji Univ.) went under 28 minutes for the first time.  Wambui, a first-year, took down all comers including #1-ranked collegiate Kenyan Enock Omwamba (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) with a 27:54.98 PB for the win.  Hiroyuki Ono (Nissin Shokuhin), famed for collapsing in the final kilometer on the Hakone Ekiden's mountainous Fifth Stage his junior year at Juntendo University, surprised by dueling with top-level collegiate Yokote, both tailing Wambui all the way in to their first sub-28 clockings.  Ono took 2nd in 27:57.85 with Yokote right behind in 27:58.40, the first Japanese university runner under 28 this year.  Omwamba was 4th just 0.08 off his PB, frustratingly missing sub-27 again in 28:00.41.  Just 4 days after a 5000 m PB of 13:36.76, 30 km national university record holder Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) took his 10000 m best up a level as well, missing the Rio de Janeiro Olympics qualifying standard of 28:00.00 but coming in at 28:09.02 for 7th.

Hattori lost his short-lived status as the fastest current Japanese university student over 5000 m as Masaki Toda (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) ran 13:36.42 for 3rd in the men's 5000 m.  Newcomer Daniel Kipkemoi (Team Toyota Boshoku) won in 13:33.92, outkicking Joseph Onsarigo (Team ND Software).  Hattori's younger brother Hazuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.), who won the Hokuren 1500 m 4 days earlier in a PB 3:42.06, took more than 10 seconds off his 5000 m best with a 13:44.22 for 10th.

Times were also decent in the women's 5000 m, where Felista Wanjugu (Team Universal Entertainment) ran 15:31.69 to beat Risa Yokoe (Team Toyota Jidoshokki), who ran a nearly 25-second PB of 15:33.77 for 2nd.  2014 Yokohama International Women's Marathon winner Tomomi Tanaka (Team Daiichi Seimei), screwed over by the corrupt politics of the Japanese World Championships marathon team selection process this spring, ran a PB 15:37.59 for 5th.

For most Japanese distance athletes, the end of the Hokuren Distance Challenge series marks the end of track season and the beginning of the base-building period for the fall and winter ekiden and marathon season.  For the lucky few there is still the European circuit, and for the luckiest, likely including Ohara, track season continues on another month to the Beijing World Championships.

Hokuren Distance Challenge Abashiri Meet
Abashiri, Hokkaido, 7/16/15
click here for complete results

Men's 10000 mRW
1. Yusuke Suzuki (Fujitsu) - 38:10.23 - NR
2. Eiki Takahashi (Fujitsu) - 38:55.49
3. Kai Kobayashi (Bic Camera) - 39:28.68

Women's 10000 m A-Heat
1. Riko Matsuzaki (Sekisui Kagaku) - 31:44.86 - PB
2. Ayumi Hagiwara (Uniqlo) - 31:46.58
3. Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) - 31:48.31 - PB
4. Yuki Mitsunobu (Denso) - 31:56.92 - PB
5. Michi Numata (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 32:03.95 - PB
6. Yuki Hidaka (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 32:10.76 - PB
7. Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) - 32:12.25 - PB
8. Hanami Sekine (Japan Post Group) - 32:22.88 - PB
9. Yuko Mizuguchi (Denso) - 32:26.20
10. Rina Yamazaki (Panasonic) - 32:31.24

Men's 10000 m A-Heat
1. Patrick Mathenge Wambui (Kenya/Nihon Univ.) - 27:54.98 - PB
2. Hiroyuki Ono (Nissin Shokuhin) - 27:57.85 - PB
3. Ken Yokote (Meiji Univ.) - 27:58.40 - PB
4. Enock Omwamba (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:00.41
5. Minato Oishi (Toyota) - 28:04.65 - PB
6. Keita Shitara (Konica Minolta) - 28:05.28
7. Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 28:09.02 - PB
8. Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu) - 28:09.86
9. Charles Ndungu (Kenya/Komori Corp.) - 28:10.05 - PB
10. Dominic Nyairo (Kenya/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:11.49 - PB

Women's 5000 m A-Heat
1. Felista Wanjugu (Kenya/Univ. Ent.) - 15:31.69
2. Risa Yokoe (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 15:33.77 - PB
3. Rika Toguchi (Route Inn Hotels) - 15:36.04 - PB
4. Akane Yabushita (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 15:36.84 - PB
5. Tomomi Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 15:37.59 - PB
6. Saori Noda (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 15:37.64 - PB
7. Yui Fukuda (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 15:37.83 - PB
8. Yukari Abe (Shimamura) - 15:39.05
9. Moeno Nakamura (Univ. Ent.) - 15:41.10 - PB
10. Kaho Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) - 15:41.68 - PB

Men's 5000 m A-Heat
1. Daniel Kipkemoi (Kenya/Toyota Boshoku) - 13:33.92
2. Joseph Onsarigo (Kenya/ND Software) - 13:34.85
3. Masaki Toda (Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 13:36.42 - PB
4. Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) - 13:39.15
5. Akihiko Tsumurai (Mazda) - 13:39.71 - PB
6. Yuta Matsuda (SGH Group) - 13:40.68 - PB
7. Teressa Nyakora (Ethiopia/Mazda) - 13:42.48
8. Aritaka Kajiwara (Press Kogyo) - 13:42.48
9. Amos Kirui (Toyota Boshoku) - 13:43.66 - PB
10. Hazuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 13:44.22 - PB

Men's 10000 m B-Heat
1. Kenta Matsumoto (Toyota) - 28:25.86
2. Hiroshi Ichida (Asahi Kasei) - 28:34.66 - PB
3. Tomoya Onishi (Asahi Kasei) - 28:41.13
4. Ryu Takaku (Yakult) - 28:48.92
5. Soji Ikeda (Yakult) - 28:49.06

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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