Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Kanto Region University Track and Field Championships Preview

by Brett Larner

The Tokyo area’s best springtime meet, the 95th edition of the Kanto Region University Track and Field Championships run this Thursday through Sunday, banished again by the poorly-conceived demolition of the beloved 1964 Olympic Stadium to Nissan Stadium in the remote wildlands of suburban Yokohama. Kanto being the home of the Hakone Ekiden the men’s distance events make up most of the most exciting action, but there are other highlights on the entry list.

It’s hard to believe sprint wunderkind Yoshihide Kiryu (Toyo Univ.) is already in his junior year, but with the Olympics looking he still soldiers on in hopes of scoring Japan’s first legit sub-10 in the 100 m. He is entered in both the 100 m and the 4x100 m, giving the 200 m a miss with bigger things at stake in the next few months. National high school record holder Meg Hemphill (Chuo Univ.) is the favorite in the women’s heptathlon, still well shy of the Rio standard of 6200 with a best of 5730 but still growing stronger. Making her college debut, Edoba Iyoba (Nihon Univ.) is likewise a heavy favorite in the 100 m but still 0.4 short of Rio at 11.72.

Hazumi Hattori (Toyo Univ.) scored a rare Japanese win in the 5000 m at last fall’s National University Track and Field Championships and comes to Kanto Regionals fresh off a school record 13:34.64 two weeks ago at the Golden Games in Nobeoka meet, but still short of the 13:25.00 Rio standard he is focusing on the 1500 m to try to improve his speed ahead of next month’s National Championships. His best of 3:42.06 puts him at #2 in the entire D1 field, and he will face #1 seed Patrick Wambui (Nihon Univ.) in the first heat on Thursday.

Wambui also tops Sunday’s D1 5000 m with a 13:27.63 best, his nearest competition coming from Jinnosuke Matsumura (Josai Univ.) at 13:46.23 and Kazuto Kawabata (Tokai Univ.) at 13:49.33. The D1 and D2 split works differently from what American readers might be familiar with, meaning that Hakone powerhouses like Aoyama Gakuin University and Komazawa University turn up in D2 instead of in D1 against rivals like Toyo and Tokai. AGU’s Tadashi Isshiki leads the D2 5000 m with a best of 13:40.93, his nearest competition coming from teammate Kazuki Tamura, 13:50.43, and Komazawa ace Naoki Kudo at 13:52.97.

Kudo is ranked #2 in the D2 10000 m at 28:23.85 behind Komazawa teammate Keisuke Nakatani’s 28:17.56 best. Nobody else in the field has broken 28:30, with AGU’s Yuta Shimoda, Yuki Nakamura and Isshiki and Kenyan newcomer Titus Mogusu (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) all weighing in under 28:40. With a 27:54.98 best Wambui's strongest event so far is the 10000 m, and the D1 race features a stellar matchup between him and fellow Kenyan second-year Dominic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.), with Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.), also a second-year, leading the Japanese entries at 28:32.85.

With the 10000 m going down Thursday Nyairo is set to double in Sunday’s half marathon, leading the D1 field with a best of 1:00:50 from February. Haruki Minatoya (Tokai Univ.) is the top Japanese man with a best of 1:02:54, running his first half since March’s NYC Half Marathon. The D2 half looks deeper on talent, including sub-1:03 men Kinari Ikeda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.), Rei Omori (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) and Shohei Otsuka (Komazawa Univ.) and sub-29 track runners Stanley Siteki (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) and Simon Kariuki (Nihon Yakka Univ.).

Click here for complete entry lists for the entire 95th Kanto Region University Track and Field Championships meet. JRN will be on-site throughout the weekend to provide the only English-language coverage of one of Japan's best meets.

© 2016 Brett Larner
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