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Koech and Maeda Run Year's Best 10000 m Times in Fukagawa

Conditions were on the humid side for the second meet in the four-part Hokuren Distance Challenge series Wednesday in Fukagawa, Hokkaido, but that didn't stop the fast times.

In the race of the day, Benard Kibet Koech (Kyudenko) went out front in the men's 10000 m from the gun, opening a lead of more than 5 seconds over a small chase pack led by Bedan Karoki (Toyota) at just over 27:20 pace. Karoki reeled Koech in over the second half, but when he was caught Koech didn't lie down, fighting back and retaking the lead repeatedly. With 200 m to go it looked like Karoki would get away, but in the home straight Koech came back again to win in 27:14.84, a PB and the fastest time in the world so far this year. Karoki was next in a quality 27:15.97, with Cleophas Kandie (MHPS) 3rd in 27:51.19. Tatsuhiko Ito (Honda), one of the stars of the Second Stage at this year's Hakone Ekiden, running a 60-second final lap to clear 28, taking 4th in 27:58.43 in his corporate league debut. 3000 m world leader Dan Kiplangat also got under 28 at 27:59.95 for 5th.

The women's 10000 m was full of marathon heavyweights, led by 2020 Olympic marathon team members Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) and Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal), and 2:21:36 woman Yuka Ando (Wacoal). All three broke away from the rest of the field early on 31:40 pace. Ando was the first to drop away, taking 3rd in 32:15.38, followed by Nagoya winner Ichiyama, who landed 2nd in 32:03.65. Maeda, winner of last September's Olympic marathon trials and who went on to break marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi's 30 km national record in February and run a 5000 m PB earlier this month in Shibetsu, took 40 seconds off her PB with a world-leading 31:34.94 for 1st. Maeda ran the Olympic trials like a medalist and has gone from strength to strength since then. Let's hope there's an Olympics for her to shine in, and a legit shot at Noguchi's marathon NR if there isn't.

Men's 5000 m A-heat winner Benard Kimeli (Fujitsu) came up 5 seconds short of a world-leader in a close race against Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu) and Richard Yator Kimunyan (Hitachi Butsuryu), winning in 13:16.61 to Ndiku's 13:17.98 and Kimunyan's 13:18.76. Hiroki Matsueda (Fujitsu) was the fastest Japanese man of the day, running a PB 13:26.25 for 7th. 19-year-old Ren Tazawa (Komazawa Univ.) ran a PB 13:37.28 for 11th, but in the B-heat 18-year-old Yamato Yoshii (Chuo Univ.) almost equalled him with a 13:38.79 PB for the win. If there are chances for the two of them to go head-to-head over the next year there should be some great racing ahead.

Top Japan-based Kenyan Rosemary Monica Wanjiru (Starts) dominated the women's 5000 m A-heat, taking 5 seconds off her PB for the win in 15:03.49. After a stellar marathon debut in Nagoya in March and a 3000 m PB on the 4th, Sayaka Sato (Sekisui Kagaku) clipped a second off her best for 2nd in 15:26.66. Performances were also good in the 3000 m and 3000 m steeplechase, with a PB 8:41.35 from Nozomi Tanaka (Toyota Jidoshokki), who dipped under the NR this time after miscounting laps last year, runner-up Hellen Ekarare (Toyota Jidoshokki) 2nd in 8:43.33 and an 8:48.12 breakthrough for 3rd and all-time JPN #3 from 19-year-old Kaede Hagitani (Edion), and a 9:53.50 in the steeple from top collegian Reimi Yoshimura (Daito Bunka Univ.).

Next up in the Hokuren Distance Challenge series is the July 15 Abashiri meet. Check back closer to race date for live streaming and other info.

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Stefan said…
This event lived up to all my expectations. In the womens 10k, Honami Maeda is simply remarkable. I didn't think Mao Ichiyama would fall away in that race but Maeda proved herself once again and continues improving every event she enters. I hope she stays injury free and she can compete in the Olympic Marathon next year. I get the feeling Ichiyama prefers to run in cooler conditions as she didn't fare well in the heat during last year's MGC Tokyo marathon qualifier but did outstandingly well in the much cooler Nagoya marathon in March. Of course, this race was only 10K.

Sayaka Sato is the one to watch for me as she has already proven herself in middle to long distances and continues improving. It is a shame she missed the Olympic Marathon qualification as I think in a year's time she will have improved yet again. I would love to see how she does in the Nagoya marathon next year if she participates and if it is run. I believe she can now give Honami Maeda a good run in the marathon distance. I just hope they race in the same event.

And how can I possibly neglect Nozomi Tanaka who won the 1500m a few days ago in a great time and then backed it up by breaking the National Record in the 3000m. Simply outstanding! And yes, I watched the race from last year where she miscounted her laps. I was thinking ...hmm, she's got a lot left in the tank to be going at such a fair clip with 2 laps to go!!! I wonder how she felt realising she still had a lap left to run. Not good I'd imagine.

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