Sunday at the Nittai University Time Trials meet in Kanagawa, 17-year-old Keita Sato (Rakunan H.S.) ran a U18 world-leading 13:31.19 in the men's 5000 m Heat 20 to take 3.55 seconds off the high school 5000 m national record of 13:34.74 set in September last year by Kosuke Ishida (Saitama Sakae H.S.). Sato's time also took 5.38 seconds off the U18 national record of 13:36.57 set last November by Taishi Ito (Saku Chosei H.S.).
In July at the Hokuren Distance Challenge Chitose Meet 1500 m Sato ran 3:37.18, breaking the high school national record of 3:38.49 set in 1999 by Kiyoharu Sato (Saku Chosei H.S.) and setting a new U18 record. He followed up in January with an 8:00.09 for 3000 m, also a new U18 national record and less than a second off the high school NR.
Sunday was another historic day on his resume. At last December's National High School Ekiden Championships Sato was the top Japanese finisher at 5th on the Third Stage, helping Rakunan H.S. to finish 3rd overall. After winning the Fourth Stage and this spring's Ina Ekiden in Nagano he said, "My goal this year is to break the high school NR for 1500 m, 3000 m and 5000 m." He's now checked off #2 on his list, and all that remains is the 3000 m high school record of 7:59.18 set by Hyuga Endo (Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.) in 2016.
But he's not just thinking about fast times. He wants to be #1 in Japan in the ekiden as well. "At the National High School Ekiden, I want all my teammates to work together to get the win," he said. And he is also thinking further down the road. "In the future I want to run the 5000 m and 10000 m at the Olympics and World Championships. As a step toward that, I want to make an impact at the Hakone Ekiden," he said. And he has Suguru Osako's 5000 m national record of 13:08.40 in his sights. "I want to be the first Japanese runner to break 13 minutes for 5000 m." Keep an eye on this one.
Translator's note: Also in Heat 20 at Nittai, Hiroto Yoshioka (Saku Chosei H.S.) ran 13:38.96 and Yuki Murao (Saku Chosei H.S.) 13:58.04. In Heat 18, Itta Tameiki (Rakunan H.S.) ran 13:55.97.
translated and edited by Brett Larner