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19-Year-Old Miura Breaks 3000mSC National Record to Qualify for Tokyo Olympics - Weekend Track Highlights

Another weekend, another busy couple of days on the track despite the growing number of prefectural states of emergency. 

Regional corporate track and field championships kicked off Saturday with the Chugoku region's 5000 m component in Hiroshima. Dan Kiplangat (JFE Steel) took the top spot in the men's A-heat in 13:44.87, with Ai Hosoda (Edion) outkicking Rebecca Njeri Mwangi (Daiso) for the women's win in 15:35.79. Further south in Fukuoka the same day, Benard Koech (Kyudenko) won the Sayagatani Time Trials men's 5000 m A-heat in 13:35.95. 

Up in Kanagawa, the Nittai University Time Trials were back for their 287th edition. Saturday in the men's 10000 m A-heat, Richard Kimunyan (Hitachi Butsuryu) won in 27:45.64 just ahead of Rio Olympics 10000 m silver medalist Paul Tanui, who made his debut in the Sunbelx supermarket uniform with a 27:45.96 for 2nd. Nobody else broke 28 minutes. Dolphine Omare (U.S.E. RC) won the women's 5000 m A-heat in 15:33.9, with steepler Chikako Mori (Sekisui Kagaku) taking just over a second off her PB with a 15:42.00 for 2nd.

Sunday at Nittai was dedicated to the men's 5000 m. 2021 Hakone Ekiden MVP Vincent Yegon (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) ran five seconds under his best for the win in the A-heat, clocking 13:15.15 to win by over 13 seconds. Japan-based Africans took eight of the top ten, with another one of the stars of this year's Hakone, 19-year-old Shotaro Ishihara (Tokai Univ.) running the second-fastest Japanese U20 time ever, 13:30.98, for 4th.

Another U20 runner was the star of the weekend at the Ready Steady Tokyo Olympic test event Sunday in Tokyo's Olympic Stadium, which took place amid an air quality rating of "Unhealthy" and a small anti-Olympic demonstration immediately outside the stadium. Already the U20 national record holder for 3000 m steeplechase and half marathon at age 18 during his first season at Juntendo University last year, 19-year-old Ryuji Miura led the entire way in the men's 3000 mSC to take a second and a half off the national record set the year after he was born to win in 8:17.46. Miura was almost five seconds under the Tokyo Olympics qualifying standard, the first Japanese man to break it, with Philemon Kiplagat (Aisan Kogyo) just getting under in 8:21.10 for 2nd. 

Previous top-ranked Japanese man Kosei Yamaguchi (Aisan Kogyo) missed by an agonizing 0.39 with an 8:22.39 PB for 3rd, short of the standard but enough to further solidify his spot near the very top of the list of people hoping to make it to the Olympics on world rankings. #4 man Ryohei Sakaguchi (SGH Group) beat #3 man Kazuya Shiojiri (Fujitsu) by almost 9 seconds with a 8:23.93 for 4th, enough to put them almost side-by-side in the battle to score the third spot on the Olympic team.

With women's 3000 mSC winner Joan Kipkemoi (Kyudenko) running 9:39.29 nobody was close to the standard, but at least two of the three women currently in the rankings quota for Olympic team spots strengthened their positions. Yuno Yamanaka (Ehime Ginko) ran a PB of 9:46.72 for 2nd, with top collegiate steepler Reimi Yoshimura (Daito Bunka Univ.) 3rd in 9:52.43. The third woman in the quota, Yukari Ishizawa (Edion), pretty well held even with a 10:04.28 for 6th, beaten by Mori who returned from her 5000 m PB the day before at Nittai with a 9:58.40 season best for 5th.

Daito Bunka's top current male alumnus Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei) kicked hard from 300 m out to win the men's 5000 m in a PB 13:27.73, holding off Kenyan Cleophas Kandie (Aisan Kogyo), teammates Akira Aizawa and Keijiro Mogi, and Hazuma Hattori (Toenec), younger brother of Olympic team marathoner Yuma Hattori (Toyota). Kandie was 2nd in 13:29.33, 10000 m NR holder Aizawa next in a PB 13:29.47, Hattori 4th in a PB 13:29.65, and Mogi likewise dealing up a PB of 13:31.08 for 5th.

The women's 5000 m came closer to the Olympic standard, winner Teresia Muthoni (Daiso) missing by less than a second with a PB of 15:10.91 and Judy Jepngetich (Shiseido) 2nd in 15:11.52. After having run 15:05.78 last summer during the blackout period on Olympic qualifying, 20-year-old Kaede Hagitani (Edion) just missed becoming the fourth Japanese woman to hit the standard inside the window with a 15:11.84 for 3rd. Her next big chance will come at next month's National Championships in Osaka.

Outside the distance events, the race of the day at the Olympic test event was the men's 400 mH. Kazuki Kurokawa (Hosei Univ.) ran a PB 48.68 for the win, with Hiromu Yamauchi (Waseda Univ.) and Masaki Toyoda (Fujitsu) both running PBs for 2nd and 3rd. All three cleared the Olympic standard, meaning we're likely to see a full squad in one of Japan's traditionally strong events this summer.

© 2021 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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