Japan's outdoor track season got moving with Saturday's Kanakuri Memorial Meet in Kumamoto. Mostly geared toward setting up chances for people to hit qualifying marks for this season's National Championships, the day's biggest race was the men's 1500 m. NR holder Kazuki Kawamura (Toenec) was a late scratch, but on the starting line were all-time JPN #2 Nanami Arai (Honda), U20, U18 and HS NR holder Keita Sato in his debut wearing the Komazawa University uniform, 3000 mSC NR holder Ryuji Miura (Juntendo Univ.), indoor 5000 m NR holder Hyuga Endo (Sumitomo Denko) and more of Japan's best.
Sato spent most of the race up front, going through the first three laps in 56-1:55-2:55, while Endo hung back until the bell. Going right past the lead group, Endo had a lead of almost 2 seconds over Arai with 200 m to go. But in the home straight Miura launched an incredible kick that just got Endo at the line. Miura clocked 3:36.59, good for all-time JPN #2 at 1.17 sec off Kawamura's NR, and the fastest-ever by a Japanese-born college runner, with Endo across in 3:36.69 for all-time JPN #3. Endo was so surprised at getting caught that he just laughed and shook his head in amazement at Miura's finish.
Having just turned 20 Miura still plans to keep the steeple as his main focus, but with range from this run to the Asian U20 half marathon record already under his belt today's run reinforced that he's the Japanese man to watch in the next few years, whatever he decides to do.
The high school girls' 3000 m and women's 5000 m both saw new meet records c/o Japan-based Kenyans. In the 3000, Caroline Kariba (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) took almost 15 seconds off the old record to win in 8:53.56 over 27 seconds ahead of 2nd place. In the 5000, top two Tabitha Njeri Kamau (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) and Helen Ekalale (Toyota Jidoshokki) both cleared the meet record on 15:04.9 set way before either of them was born back in 1994. Kamau took the top spot in 15:03.51, with Ekalale next in 15:03.94.
That wasn't even the closest finish of the day. In the men's 10000 m, Evans Keitany (Toyota Boshoku) and Tatsuhiko Ito (Honda) dueled over an incredible 55-second last lap to finish just 0.02 apart. Keitany got the win in 27:42.46, with the top 8 breaking 28 minutes including NR holder Akira Aizawa (Asahi Kasei), 5th in 27:45.26 in a comeback run from injury, and last year's top Japanese half marathoner Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei), 8th in 27:48.22. Japan's third-best 10000 m runner Kazuki Tamura (Sumitomo Denko) made a tentative comeback from a long injury of his own, finishing 22nd in 29:48.64.
The women's 10000 m had another comeback run, with Tokyo Olympics marathoner Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post) trying to hit the 32:30.00 standard to get into next month's 10000 m National Championships. Suzuki fell off early, ultimately finishing 3rd in 33:07.41, with steeple specialist Yumi Yoshikawa (Uniqlo) cutting over a minute off her PB for the win but coming in just short of the standard in 32:32.83. Post-race Yoshikawa said that she plans to run her marathon debut within the next year and will be aiming to qualify for the MGC Olympic trials race.
Another Olympic steepler, Yuno Yamanaka (Uniqlo) ran the women's 1500 m, taking 7th in 4:19.63. Sendai Ikuei H.S. star Nanaka Yonezawa made her debut with national champ Meijo University in the same race, finishing 3rd in 4:18.35.
18-year-old Benson Kiplangat (Subaru) took the top spot in the men's 5000 m in 13:16.48 to lead the top three under 13:20. Ren Tazawa (Komazawa Univ.) was the top Japanese man, taking 5th in 13:22.60. Fujitsu teammates Kiseki Shiozawa and Kazuya Shiojiri were the only other Japanese men under 13:40, Shiozawa 7th in 13:31.31 and Shiojiri 9th in 13:37.77.
© 2022 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
I think Miura had the NR in his legs yesterday, at the start of the last lap when Endo attacked Miura was about to follow him but got stuck on the outside behind 2-3 other runners who were fighting and had to lose his momentum a bit and spend the turn outside losing a lot of ground and time on Endo.
Without that issue and following Endo who knows what the final time would have been.
It still feels he is much more comfortable on shorter distances (despite holding the u20 half marathon record), I hope switching from 1500 to 3000SC to ekidens and stuff isn't impacting his development too much. The sky is the limit for this guy, his final kick ability is what separates him from possibly everyone else in the current japanese field and I hope it will translate on international level like Tokyo olympics semifinal last year showed.
Amazing race by Endo as well and good debut for Sato (who also got involved in that early last lap stumble among runners and lost a bit of ground).
Given it's still April it was a nice showing by Tazawa and Yegon, the 10000m race was also a good showing for Ito and Aizawa. They didn't get the world standard but it's still early April and it was a nice run.
Brett, are we seeing these runners next week at the university nationals? Or are the top names going to hold out for some reason?
I tried to look for the schedule and athletes already registrered but couldn't find it yet.
Thanks in advance.