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Five National Records in Chitose Bring Hokuren Distance Challenge to an End

The 2021 Hokuren Distance Challenge series wrapped up Saturday in Chitose with a big day for Japanese middle distance. Hiroki Minamoto (Kantai Heiyo Univ.) started things off with a 1:45.75 to win the men's 800 m, exactly tying the national and collegiate records. The holder of both records, Sho Kawamoto (Suzuki), was 2nd in 1:45.83, with Mikuto Kaneko (Chuo Univ.) right there in 1:45.85 to come in at 3rd in the race and the all-time JPN lists.

Kazuki Kawamura (Toenec) kept it going in the men's 1500 m, taking over 1.5 sec off Nanami Arai's 7-week-old NR in 3:35.42. U18 NR holder Keita Sato (Rakunan H.S.) was 2nd in 3:37.18, breaking the U20, U18 and H.S. national records and moving up to all-time JPN #3.  Tokyo Olympics 5000 m team member Yuta Bando (Fujitsu) was 3rd in 3:37.99, good for all-time JPN #6, with his teammate in both Fujitsu and the Olympic 5000 m Hiroki Matsueda last in 3:52.01. Although they're listed as DNS in the official results, both Bando and Matsueda doubled in the 5000 m B-heat half an hour later, Matsueda running 8:07 and Bando 8:15 before stopping at 3000 m. Two other men, Ryota Matono (Mitsubishi Juko) and Hideonori Sakuma (Meiji Univ.) went under 3:40, adding to the depth of progress in the least-developed area of Japanese running.

Along with Bando and Matsueda, Olympic-bound Nozomi Tanaka (Toyota Jidoshokki) shaved another fraction off her own record with a 4:04.08 to win the women's 1500 m. 17-year-old Caroline Kariba (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) broke the 3000 m high school girls' national record, winning in 8:47.85 over corporate leaguer Esther Muthoni (Nitori), 2nd in 8:48.90. Kariba's mark was an U18 world lead, and she came just 1.5 seconds short of an U20 WL to match. Struggling to develop fitness this season before the Olympic 10000 m, Hitomi Niiya (Sekisui Kagaku) tripled with two heats of 3000 m and a 1500 m in less than one hour, running 9:11.19, 9:09.27 and 4:28.03. 

Ethiopian Desta Burka (Denso) won the women's 5000 m B-heat in 15:19.17, almost fast enough to have taken the A-heat where Kenyan Naomi Muthoni Kariuki (Univ. Ent.) won in 15:17.70. 18-year-old Takushoku University first-year Seira Fuwa continued to impress, running a PB 15:20.66 for 3rd in the A-heat behind Muthoni and Joan Kipkemoi (Kyudenko). Pauline Kamulu (Route Inn Hotels) soloed a 31:58.88 in the women's 10000 m, winning by almost a minute and a half.

Simon Musio Saiamu (Chuo Hatsujo) won the men's 5000 m B-heat in 13:24.17. With no men's 10000 m on the program the men's 5000 m A-heat brought the meet and series to a close. James Muoki (Konica Minolta) took his second win in the series, 1st in 13:19.92 over Kibet Antipas (SGH Group), 2nd in 13:21.98. Indoor 5000 m NR holder Hyuga Endo (Sumitomo Denko) was 3rd in 13:26.14, outkicking 2021 Hakone Ekiden champ Komazawa University star Ren Tazawa who was the last runner under 13:30, just, in 13:29.91.

The end of the meet brought track season to a close for everyone except the few headed to the Olympics next week. From here out begins the build toward the fall and winter ekiden season, even as uncertainty surrounds which races will actually go ahead.

© 2021 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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