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Weekend(s) Track Roundup

Track time trial meets are a fact of life in the Japanese system, running all the way through the fall up to championship ekiden season in December. And with the conservative response to the pandemic in Japan in terms of road race cancelation, that's gone even longer, pretty much through the end of the academic and fiscal year in March. But this weekend did have the last major full track meet of the season, the National Corporate Track and Field Championships at Osaka's Yanmar Stadium Nagai.

But before we get to that, last weekend's Nittai University Time Trials meet in Yokohama produced one major result that has to be mentioned. With Saturday's usual program of everything except men's 5000 m moving to the public holiday on Monday, Joseph Lemeteki Razini (Takushoku Univ.) took two seconds off the Japanese 10000 m collegiate record, winning in 27:25.65 over Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu) and Ledama Kisaisa (Kanebo). The previous record of 27:27.64 was set by the great Mekubo Mogusu in 2008 during his time at Yamanashi Gakuin University, and with Mogusu also holding the collegiate half marathon record of 59:48 there's a chance Razini, still a 3rd-year, could be turning out at least one more record before he graduates.

James Muoki (Konica Minolta) ran the fastest time in the men's 5000 m heats at Nittai, winning Heat 13 in 13:28.56. Hanae Tanaka (Daiichi Seimei) ran the fastest time in the women's 5000 m at 15:48.51, with Margaret Akidor (Comody Iida) taking the 3000 m in 8:50.09 and Yoshino Namiki (Tokiwa H.S.) 2nd in 9:08.06.

Back to Corporate Nationals, which were on Friday through Sunday this weekend. The sentimental highlight of the meet was the men's pole vault, where national record holder Daichi Sawano (Fujitsu), now 41, wrapped his career with a 7th-place finish after clearing 5.20 m. At the end of the competition Sawano's friends and competitors celebrated his retirement, throwing him into the air and cheering three times.Kosei Takekawa (Marumoto) took 1st with a 5.50 m clearance on his first attempt.

A lot of the Tokyo Olympians on the program scratched, but among them the MVP of the meet was Kaede Hagitani (Edion), part of the women's Olympic 5000 m squad. Hagitani started her weekend off in the 1500 m on Friday, where Helen Ekarare (Toyota Jidoshokki broke the 1994-era meet record to win in 4:06.38. Hagitani outkicked 1500 m Olympian Ran Urabe (Sekisui Kagaku) for 2nd in 4:11.34 and breaking Harumi Hiroyama's record for the fastest-ever time at Corporate Nationals by a Japanese athlete, also dating back to 1994. Sunday she was back the 5000 m, finishing 4th in 14:59.36 to become the fourth Japanese woman under 15 minutes in the last year. 18-year-old Judy Jepngetich (Shiseido) won in a PB 14:57.66, with Rebecca Mwangi (Denso) and Naomi Muthoni Kariuki (Univ. Ent.) also under 15 minutes.

Sayaka Sato (Sekisui Kagaku) was the second Japanese woman in the 5000 m at 7th overall in 15:08.72, a solid run after running 31:52.34 for 2nd in Friday's 10000 m. Tabitha Njeri Kamau (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) had a narrow win there, beating Sato by a fraction of a second in 31:52.08. Club runner Shiho Kaneshige (GRlab Kanto) tuned up for next month's Boston Marathon by doubling in the Nittai and Corporate Nationals 5000 m, running 15:57.92 for 6th at Nittai on Monday and 15:58.27 for 7th in the B-heat at Corporate Nationals on Sunday.

Kenyans went 1-2 in the junior women's 3000 m, Esther Muthoni (Nitori) winning in 8:54.16 and Agnes Mukari (Kyocera) 2nd in 8:58.57. Meet records also came in the women's 400 m, with a 52.60 by Seika Aoyama (Osaka Seikei Gakuen Staff) and the 3000 mSC with a solid 9:33.42 by Joan Kipkemoi (Kyudenko).

In men's races, Richard Kimunyan (Hitachi Butsuryu) had the fastest time in the 10000 m, winning the A-heat in 27:44.51 with five other Kenyans going under 28. Naoki Koyama (Honda) was the fastest Japanese man, 7th in the A-heat in 28:01.42. 

Honda runners took the top two spots in the 5000 m, Justus Soget winning in 13:17.21 after having also taken the 1500 m a day earlier in 3:39.91, and Olympic steepler Ryoma Aoki 2nd in 13:21.81, the fastest-ever by a Japanese man at Corporate Nationals. The top 13 in the A-heat broke 13:30, making it one of the deepest 5000 m ever on Japanese soil. 

Olympic 4x100 m team member Yuki Koike (Sumitomo Denko) won the 100 m final in 10.19 (-0.5), his Olympic teammates Shuhei Tada (Sumitomo Denko) and Ryota Yamagata (Seiko) both scratching from the final after running 10.36 (-0.8) and 10.43 (-1.1) in the heats. Koike also won the 200 m in 20.55 (+2.9). 

New meet records came in the 400 m, with a 45.84 by Fuga Sato (Nasu KGC), and the 110 mH, with Taio Kanai (Mizuno) running 13.48 (+1.1) and 2nd-placer Shuhei Ishikawa (Fujitsu) 13.50, both under the old meet record.

At Saturday's Ichinoseki Time Trials meet in Iwate, the Sendai Ikuei H.S. girls and boys tore up the 3000 m and 5000 m., taking the top 8 places in both races. In the girls' 3000 m, Nanaka Yonezawa won in an impressive 8:59.57 PB, good for all-time #8 on the Japanese U20 rankings and #7 on the high school rankings. Teammate Kokone Sugimori just missed joining Yonezawa under the 9-minute mark, running 9:00.75 for all-time high school #9. 

In the boys' 5000 m, Sendai Ikuei's Boniface Mutech ran 13:53.17 for the win. His teammates Shunsuke Yoshii, younger brother of U20 NR holder Yamato Yoshii, and Sosuke Hori both cleared 14 minutes, Yoshii in 13:56.16 and Hori in 13:58.00, with another two Sendai Ikuei boys under 14:10 and four more under 14:20.

Results at the Tokai University Time Trials in Kanagawa were low-key, with only one woman going under 16 minutes for 5000 m, two men under 14 minutes for 5000 m and two under 29 minutes for 10000 m. Taisei Nakamura (Yakult) won the 10000 m in 28:55.25, with Akira Tomiyasu (Raffine) tuning up for November's TCS New York City Marathon with a 29:00.70. Since running a 2:10:29 debut at February's Lake Biwa Marathon Tomiyasu has run PBs for 1500 m, 5000 m and half marathon. Here he was 11 seconds off his 10000 m best in the midst of marathon training. Both he and Kaneshige in Boston will be running with support from JRN.

© 2021 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Stefan said…
Sayaka Sato is in a rich vein of form for the middle distance events. A 3000m PB of 8:52.43 on 10 July 21 and now a 5000m PB of 15:08.72 yesterday. I hope she can translate this speed into whatever long distance events she has on her agenda. It would be good if she gets the opportunity to train at altitude to give her a better chance in these events too. She is a very consistent performer who always seems to be on the improve.
But yes, the deserved performer of the meet, Kaede Hagitani, was outstanding. I've noticed her quietly going about her work over the last year or so. To achive a sub 15 min 5000m was great and, for me, a bit of a surprise. It is nice to see such depth at this distance. I can see her doing well in the Exiden events and she will no doubt provide worthy competition to Nozomi Tanaka and Ririka Hironaka in the future.
It was wonderful that the event was live streamed on YouTube. Kudos to the organisers and the athletes.

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