Fresh off two hard-fought losses in the season's first two university ekidens and two big 10000 m PBs at yesterday's Nittai University Time Trials, Komazawa University dominated the fall's major Japanese half marathon as fourth-year Kenya Sonota and third-year Yusuke Nishiyama went 1-2 at the Ageo City Half Marathon.
With invites to the 2016 United Airline NYC Half on the line to the top two Japanese collegiate finishers, in light rain and temps in the mid-teens the pack went out on fast on high-1:01 pace, clearing 5 km in 14:40 with a lead pack of around ten gaining separation on a larger chase pack.
The pace slowed slightly over the next 5 km, the leaders going through 10 km in 29:33, with the chase group of around 20 still in sight. On the most technical part of the course near 13 km the leaders slowed as the humidity rose before a move from Taiga Machizawa (Chuo Univ.) shook things up, dropping Shinichiro Nakamura (Waseda Univ.) and Fuminori Shimo (Komazawa Univ.) before regrouping in a lull before the last 5 km.
Behind them, Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), running just two weeks after his 6th-place finish at the TCS New York City Marathon, emerged at the front of the chase pack. As the kilometers went on towards the finish Kawauchi pushed the pace, overtaking Nakamura and Shimo and starting to come within range of the lead group.
Machizawa attacked again, shaking it down to a lead quartet with Sonota, Nishiyama and Haruki Minatoya (Tokai Univ.) who had turned heads two weeks ago at the National University Men's Ekiden Championships. Kawauchi, pursued by Waseda teammates Koki Ido and Rintaro Takeda, overtook Shota Miyagami (Tokai Univ.) to move into 5th with less than 2 km to go.
Eyes on the prize, Komazawa Nishiyama made his first move with 1 km to go, gaining a gap with only Sonota able to follow. Heading onto the track Nishiyama seemed to have it in the bag, but, misjudging the finish, he slowed at the start line with 200 m to go. Sonota was by him before he could realize his mistake, and with a last kick it was all he could do to hold off Minatoya for 2nd. Sonota took the win in 1:02:48, Nishiyama next in 1:02:52, picking up the two invites for the next United Airlines NYC Half Marathon.
Minatoya scored a PB 1:02:54 for 3rd, Machizawa rounding out the sub-63 club in 1:02:57 for 4th. Kawauchi held on to 5th in 1:03:11, his best time of 2015 and well ahead of his planned 1:03:30. Kawauchi will be targeting Rio in his next race at the Dec. 6 Fukuoka International Marathon riding a positive wave after good runs in Ageo and New York. "This was great!" he told JRN post-race. "This was just a training run for Fukuoka but I was really moving well and can go into Fukuoka feeling confident. 2:07 and top three."
Just under 10 minutes later defending women's champion Christy Kit Ching Yiu of Hong Kong came through in 1:12:57, the fourth-fastest winning time in Ageo history, 3 1/2 minutes better than the national record she set in Ageo last year and 2 minutes better than her subsequent national record at March's Matsue Ladies Half Marathon. A camera crew was on-hand at the finish to catch her new national record, her fourth on Japanese soil and a good step toward her goal of making next year's Rio de Janeiro Olympics.
Overall numbers at Ageo were down from the last two record-breaking years with only 360 men breaking 1:10, but the total results were still in the top five in Ageo's 28-year history for depth:
It says a lot about the ongoing explosion in Japanese university men's distance running that numbers like this that would have been spectacular just three years ago could be considered down. Given the recent string of records at just about every other Japanese university men's race things are bound to pick up again next year in Ageo.
The JAAF has announced the men's and women's marathon teams for this year's Budapest World Championships and Hangzhou Asian Games . Japan's MGC Race Paris Olympics marathon trials are scheduled for Oct. 15. With Budapest happening Aug. 19-27 everyone on the Budapest team will have to either double high-level marathon performances seven weeks apart or try to steal the 3rd spot on the Paris team by running a fast time at one of the major winter 2023-24 domestic marathons. With Hangzhou happening Sept. 23 to Oct. 5 it's not likely anyone named to that team will try to double, meaning either a shot at something ambitious next winter or giving Paris a miss. Between the two teams, the two fastest Japanese men at both the Osaka Marathon and Tokyo Marathon this year have been chosen. Heading to Budapest are Ichitaka Yamashita (Mitsubishi Juko), 2:05:51 for 7th in Tokyo, Kenya Sonota (JR Higashi Nihon), 2:05:59 for 8th in Tokyo, and Kazuya Nishiyama (Toyota), 2:06:45 fo
A late update on last weekend's main domestic Japanese road results. At the Niigata Half Marathon , Meiji University 's Shota Morishita dominated with a win by 34 seconds over teammate Hibiki Kikkawa in the men's race, clocking 1:03:26. Ayami Hirano of the Noritz corporate team had an even bigger margin of victory in the women's race, running 1:14:28 and finishing 1:14 up on 2nd-placer Mayuka Fujita from Route Inn Hotels . Complete results . The Matsue Ladies Half Marathon , which doubles as the National University Women's Half Marathon, saw one of the tightest finishes in its history after three-straight years of pandemic-era cancelations. Panasonic 's Yuki Nakamura beat top collegian Hikaru Kitagawa of Osaka Geijutsu University by 2 seconds to win in 1:10:48. A corporate leaguer also took the 10 km division, with Yuna Takahashi from the Shimamura team winning by over 6 minutes in 33:47. Surprisingly, Kitagawa's time of 1:10:50 was the fastest-ev