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Abinet and Utsunomiya Take National Corporate Half Marathon Titles, 19-Year-Old Onizuka Wins Karatsu 10-Miler

by Brett Larner

Alongside Sunday's record-breaking marathon action, the weekend featured three high-level road races across the country.  In Yamaguchi, Ethiopian Abiyot Abinet (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) made a strong half marathon debut to win the National Corporate Half Marathon Championships men's title. Emerging from a lead pack of seven including Kenyans Macharia Ndirangu (Team Aichi Seiko), Charles Ndirangu (Team JFE Steel) and Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Team Kanebo) plus Japanese men Taku Fujimoto (Team Toyota), Ken Yokote (Team Fujitsu) and Hiroyuki Ishikawa (Team Aisan Kogyo), Abinet ran the last two-thirds of the race alone to win in 1:01:21.  Fujimoto took 4th overall in 1:01:53 in the top Japanese position.  Kitonyi, Yokote and Ishikawa faded in the second half and were run down by 2014 National University Half Marathon champion Hideto Yamanaka (Team Honda) and Komazawa University graduate Shun Inoura (Team Yachiyo Kogyo) who set new PBs of 1:02:00 and 1:02:01.

The women's race was split between half marathon and 10 km with just 44 women starting the half.  A pack race until 15 km, Ai Utsunomiya (Team Miyazaki Ginko) and Sakiko Tsutsui (Team Yamada Denki) went head-to-head over the last 5 km for the national title.  Running a PB by over 20 seconds, Utsunomiya got the win in 1:10:47, Tsutsui pulling a credible debut in 1:10:55 for 2nd.  Coached by men's half marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato, 19-year-old Ayaka Fujimoto ran a PB of 1:11:00 for 3rd.  Yui Fukuda (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) scored the 10 km national title in style, setting a course record of 32:17 to finish 7 seconds up on Mao Ichiyama (Team Wacoal).  Japanese women regularly run faster in 10.0 km ekiden legs, but Fukuda's time put her just outside the all-time Japanese top ten for regular road 10 km.

At the Karatsu 10-Miler, Tokai University first-year Shota Onizuka unexpectedly outran a field including Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei), all-time Japanese #2 for 5000 m and 10000 m on the track and making his non-ekiden road race debut, for the win in 46:36.  Onizuka's fellow Tokai first-years Junnosuke Matsuo and Ryoji Tatezawa both made the top seven in their 10-mile debuts, further adding to Tokai's credentials as the team with the best chance of taking down three-time Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University in the 2017-18 ekiden season.  A week after superb pacing through 15 km at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, Taiki Yoshimura (Team Asahi Kasei) was 9th in 47:24.

Eijia Miyagi (Oita Tomei H.S.) won the women's 10 km in 33:30, with Sae Hanada (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) winning the high school girls' 5 km in 16:23.  The high school boys' 10 km saw the top seven break 30 minutes, Takaki Iwamuro (Omuta H.S.) getting the win in a PB 29:44.  But the high school results paled compared to what came a day earlier in Gunma.  At Saturday's Gunma Prefecture Junior Road Race, at least the top eight broke 30 minutes in the high school boys' 10 km.  Winner Keigo Kurihara (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) ran 29:22 to take more than 30 seconds off the course record of 29:54 set in 1987.  Between them, the two high school boys' 10 km races showed that the bar continues to raise as Tokyo 2020 draws closer.

45th National Corporate Half Marathon and 10 km Championships
Yamaguchi, 2/12/17
click here for complete results

Men's Half Marathon
1. Abiyot Abinet (Yachiyo Kogyo) - 1:01:21 - debut
2. Macharia Ndirangu (Aichi Seiko) - 1:01:46
3. Charles Ndirangu (JFE Steel) - 1:01:52
4. Taku Fujimoto (Toyota) - 1:01:53
5. Hideto Yamanaka (Honda) - 1:02:00 - PB
6. Shun Inoura (Yachiyo Kogyo) - 1:02:01 - PB
7. Daniel Muiva Kitonyi (Kanebo) - 1:02:05
8. Ken Yokote (Fujitsu) - 1:02:15
9. Naoya Takahashi (Yasukawa Denki) - 1:02:31 - PB
10. Keita Baba (Honda) - 1:02:31

Women's Half Marathon
1. Ai Utsunomiya (Miyazaki Ginko) - 1:10:47 - PB
2. Sakiho Tsutsui (Yamada Denki) - 1:10:55 - debut
3. Ayaka Fujimoto (Kyocera) - 1:11:00 - PB
4. Maki Ashi (Kyudenko) - 1:11:12 - PB
5. Yuri Nozoe (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 1:11:14 - debut

Women's 10 km
1. Yui Fukuda (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 32:17 - CR
2. Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal) - 32:24
3. Kaori Morita (Panasonic) - 32:27
4. Ryo Koido (Hitachi) - 32:39
5. Yuka Hori (Panasonic) - 32:40

57th Karatsu 10-Mile Road Race
Karatsu, Saga, 2/12/17
click here for complete results

Men's 10 Miles
1. Shota Onizuka (Tokai Univ.) - 46:36 - debut
2. Yuma Higashi (Kyudenko) - 46:39 - PB
3. Minato Yamashita (NTN) - 46:43 - debut
4. Junnosuke Matsuo (Tokai Univ.) - 46:44 - debut
5. Akinobu Murasawa (Nissin Shokuhin) - 46:46
6. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei) - 46:48 - debut
7. Ryoji Tatezawa (Tokai Univ.) - 47:04 - debut
8. Atsuya Imai (Toyota Kyushu) - 47:20
9. Taiki Yoshimura (Asahi Kasei) - 47:24
10. Akihiko Tsumurai (Mazda) - 47:25

Women's 10 km
1. Eijia Miyagi (Oita Tomei H.S.) - 33:30 - PB
2. Yuika Takaki (Fukuoka Univ.) - 33:40
3. Shoko Tsujita (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 34:36
4. Saya Terao (Nakamura Joshi H.S.) - 34:37
5. Fuka Niina (Oita Tomei H.S.) - 34:38

High School Boys 10 km
1. Takaki Iwamuro (Omuta H.S.) - 29:44 - PB
2. Kaishi Daiho (Tokai Prep Fukuoka H.S.) - 29:50 - PB
3. Hiroyasu Morikawa (Jiyugaoka H.S.) - 29:52 - PB
4. Tatsuya Takahashi (Jiyugaoka H.S.) - 29:53 - PB
5. Masaki Tsuda (Fukuoka Prep Ohori H.S.) - 29:53 - PB

High School Girls 5 km
1. Sae Hanada (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 16:23
2. Ako Matsumoto (Omuta H.S.) - 16:27
3. Maki Okubo (Saga Seiwa H.S.) - 16:53

26th Gunma Prefecture Junior Road Race
Maebashi, Gunma, 2/11/17

High School Boys 10 km
1. Keigo Kurihara (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 29:22 - CR, PB
2. Hiroki Arai (Maebashi Ikuei H.S.) - 29:23
3. Mitsuaki Takahashi (Fujioka Chuo H.S.) - 29:28
4. Ippei Hoshino (Tokyo Nogyo Prep Daini H.S.) - 29:31
5. Shuto Takeuchi (Isesaki Shogyo H.S.) - 29:35

© 2017 Brett Larner
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Lexicon

Betsudai - the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
daigaku - university
ekiden - a long-distance relay race
faito - a courseside audience cheer; see ganbatte
ganbatte (ganbare) - a courseside audience cheer; see faito
gasshuku - an intensive training camp
Hakone Ekiden - the annual university men`s championships
jitsugyodan - corporate-sponsored professional running teams
onsen - a hot spring
Q-chan - Naoko Takahashi, the 2000 Sydney Olympics women`s marathon gold medalist, Olympic record holder and first woman to break 2:20 in the marathon
rikujo - track and field, the marathon, and other running events
Rikuren - the JAAF
tasuki - the sash which is handed off during an ekiden
zannen - too bad
otaku - a nerdy, socially awkward person, usually male, who is obsessed with some esoteric topic

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