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Sato, Matsumiya, Nakamura and More to Run Fukuoka International XC

translated and edited by Brett Larner

Rikuren has announced the elite field for the 23rd Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet, to be held Mar. 7 in Fukuoka's Uminonakamichi Park. Together with the Feb. 15 Chiba International Cross Country Meet, Fukuoka serves as a selection race for the national team which will compete in the Mar. 28 World Cross Country Championships in Amman, Jordan. Despite the meet's name, only three non-Japanese runners are scheduled to run. Joseph Kiptoo Birech (Kenya) and Jay Twist (Australia) will run in the senior men's 10 km, while Kseniya Agafonova (Russia) will run the senior women's 6 km.

At the top of the senior men's 10 km race are Beijing Olympians Atsushi Sato (marathon, Team Chugoku Denryoku), Takayuki Matsumiya (5000 m, 10000 m, Team Konica Minolta) and Yoshitaka Iwamizu (3000 m SC, Team Fujitsu). Other competitors include Athens Olympics 10000 m runner Terukazu Omori (Team Shikoku Denryoku), two-time World Championships track runner Yu Mitsuya (Team Toyota Kyushu), 2007 World Half Marathon team member Kenji Noguchi (Team Shikoku Denryoku), and three-time Hakone Ekiden stage record breaker Yuki Sato (Tokai Univ.). The top two domestic finishers at last month's Chiba International Cross Country Meet, Makoto Fukui (Team Fujitsu) and Yuta Takahashi (Josai Univ.) will be back, and the three scoring members of the Japanese national team at last week's Asian Cross Country Championships, Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin), Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) and Hideaki Date (Chugoku Denryoku) will also run. Most of these top athletes have experience on past World Cross Country Championships teams.

Beijing Olympics marathoner Yurika Nakamura (Team Tenmaya) is entered in the senior women's 6 km race, where she will go up against last month's Chiba International Cross Country Meet winner Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui). Joining them are university stars Kazue Kojima (Ritsumeikan Univ.) and Michi Numata (Ritsumeikan Univ.) and 3000 m steeplechase runner Yoshika Tatsumi (Team Noritz).

The junior men's 8 km race promises a great matchup, with high school superstar Akinobu Murasawa (Saku Chosei H.S.) battling against the only runner even close to his abilities, Wataru Ueno (Sendai Ikuei H.S.). Murasawa won Chiba last month as well as both Chiba and Fukuoka last year. He will be joined by his 2008 National High School Ekiden champion teammates Kenta Chiba and Tsubasa Fujii and ace runners from several other top high schools.

Fresh from an individual bronze medal at the Asian Cross Country Championships last week, Aki Odagiri (Nagano Higashi H.S.) is the favorite in the junior women's 6 km race. Other strong runners in the field include Rei Ohara (Kojokan H.S.), Ayaka Mori (Suma Gakuen H.S.), Yukino Ninomiya (Toyokawa H.S.) and Ikumi Natsuhara (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.).

A complete listing of the elite field for all four races is available in Japanese here. The 2009 Fukuoka International Cross Country Meet will be broadcast nationwide Mar. 7 on TBS from 3:30 p.m. to 5:00 p.m. International viewers should be able to watch online through one of the sites listed here.


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