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Hironaka and Aizawa Win 10000 m National Titles

A crowd reported at over 6000 filled the lower stands at Tokyo's National Stadium Saturday to see the 10000 m component of this year's National Track and Field Championships. In the women's race, Ririka Hironaka (Japan Post) and Rino Goshima (Shiseido) sealed up their places on the Oregon World Championships team by going 1st and 3rd, with NR holder Akira Aizawa (Asahi Kasei) making a comeback for the win in the men's race but falling short of the Worlds standard.

The dynamic in the women's race was changed dramatically a few hours before the race when top-ranked Seira Fuwa (Takushoku Univ.) announced she had withdrawn after not making enough progress in her comeback from an injury in January. In her absence Goshima took things out on pace to crack the standard, which only she, Hironaka and top collegian Narumi Kobayashi (Meijo Univ.) held going into the race. Following Goshima's lead were Hironaka, Kaede Hagitani (Edion), Mikuni Yada (Denso), Sayaka Sato (Sekisui Kagaku) and Kenyan pacer Tabitha Njeri Kamau (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo). Limping visibly, Kobayashi was never a part of it and ultimately finished 15th in 33:35.89. Njeri didn't go to the front until after 4000 m, and when she did everyone stayed keyed onto Goshima and ignored her.

Hironaka stayed on Goshima's shoulder as the pace slowed, then took off after 6000 m with Hagitani in tow. Hagitani, a sub-15 5000 m runner making her 10000 m debut, took the lead after 8000 m, but on the last lap she didn't have it in her to stay with the more experienced Hironaka's closing speed. Hironaka cut down the distance to Njeri over the last lap but couldn't quite make it, Njeri crossing the line first in 31:29.73 with Hironaka just behind in 31:30.34. Hagitani took the 2nd Japanese spot in 31:35.67, with Goshima hanging on to 3rd in 31:38.97.

Under the JAAF's selection policy, with the standard and top 3 finishes both Hironaka and Goshima scored places on the Worlds team. Just over 10 seconds off the 31:25.00 standard, 2nd-placer Hagitani will have the chance to chase it next month at the Hokuren Distance Challenge. If she and the 11 other Japanese women who finished ahead of Kobayashi miss, there's a chance Kobayashi may still be named to the team.

The men's race was split into fast and slow heats, although what purpose the slow heat served wasn't clear. Pacer Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Aisan Kogyo) kept control of the fast heat start to finish, with 2nd pacer Cleophas Kandie (Mitsubishi Juko) dropping back at times to help the Japanese pack regain contact. Behind Kwemoi the first half of the race was chaotic as none of the big names were willing to step up. At least five different men occupied the top Japanese spot, from 38-year-old amateur Takahiro Nakamura (Kyocera Kagoshima) to 2:06 marathoner Hiroto Inoue (Mitsubishi Juko) to 5000 m Olympian Hiroki Matsueda (Fujitsu).

Matsueda led from after 4000 m to almost 8000 m before Aizawa finally emerged, breaking away with Kwemoi and running unchallenged the rest of the way. Kwemoi was first across the line in 27:42.19, Aizawa taking the national title in 27:42.85. Behind him, Ren Tazawa (Komazawa Univ.), the only Japanese man in the race to hold the Worlds standard going in, lost touch when Aizawa made his move. Tatsuhiko Ito (Honda), Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei), Tatsuya Oike (Toyota Boshoku) and Tomoki Ota (Toyota) battled it out for the 2nd and 3rd Japanese spots. Ito got it in 27:47.40 with Ichida 3rd in 27:49.12. Tazawa ended up 10th in 28:06.34.

None of the top 3 currently holds the 27:28.00 standard, a time only Aizawa, Ito and Tazawa have ever broken. With quota spots not looking likely Aizawa and Ito will have to do it again at Hokuren next month to have sure places on the team. Like Kobayashi in the women's race, Tazawa still has a chance if Ichida and the other 6 in line ahead of him all miss, a scenario pretty likely to come to reality. But while Kobayashi and Tazawa might still squeeze onto the World team, between them and Fuwa, it's pretty safe to say that this wasn't a great day for collegiate runners, especially right after the news of the postponement of this summer's World University Games.

An unusual accident happened right after the lead group of men finished. As a two-person TV camera crew zoomed in on Aizawa and the others the camera operator stepped out onto the track, a cable stretching out at almost shoulder height to the second crew member. Just starting his kick for his last lap, Shinji Mita (Sunbelx) ran straight into it and got clotheslined. A pack of 4 just behind him ran around the mayhem, and ultimately 3 of them beat him by a fraction of a second, Mita ending up 26th in 28:58.87. Post-race Sunbelx issued a statement saying that he was unhurt, while the JAAF deleted a video showing the incident in the background from its official Twitter feed. But the Internet never forgets.

The men's B-heat was relatively uneventful, the most notable thing about it being that all 20 men entered had qualifying times within a 7.76 second spread. Past sub-28 man Shuho Dairokuno it an Asahi Kasei double, soloing the 2nd half of the race to win in 28:12.77.

106th National Track and Field Championships 10000 m

National Stadium, Tokyo, 7 May 2022

OP - Tabitha Njeri Kamau (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 31:29.73
1. Ririka Hironaka (Japan Post) - 31:30.34
2. Kaede Hagitani (Edion) - 31:35.67
3. Rino Goshima (Shiseido) - 31:58.97
4. Momoka Kawaguchi (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 32:11.83
5. Madoka Nakano (Iwatani Sangyo) - 32:13.01
6. Mikuni Yada (Denso) - 32:13.03
7. Yumi Yoshikawa (Uniqlo) - 32:18.01
8. Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) - 32:20.33
9. Wakana Itsuki (Kyudenko) - 32:23.06
10. Sakiho Tsutsui (Yamada Holdings) - 32:32.44
15. Narumi Kobayashi (Meijo Univ.) - 33:35.89

Men A
OP - Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Aisan Kogyo) - 27:42.19
1. Akira Aizawa (Asahi Kasei) - 27:42.85
OP - Cleophas Kandie (Mitsubishi Juko) - 27:46.46
2. Tatsuhiko Ito (Honda) - 27:47.40
3. Takashi Ichida (Asahi Kasei) - 27:49.12
4. Tatsuya Oike (Toyota Boshoku) - 27:53.79
5. Tomoki Ota (Toyota) - 27:54.88
6. Hiroki Matsueda (Fujitsu) - 27:57.72
7. Shingo Moriyama (YKK) - 27:59.90
8. Wataru Tochigi (Hitachi Butsuryu) - 28:02.47
9. Kazuya Shiojiri (Fujitsu) - 28:04.70
10. Ren Tazawa (Komazawa Univ.) - 28:06.34

Men B
1. Shuho Dairokuno (Asahi Kasei) - 28:12.77
2. Hiroto Hayashida (Mitsubishi Juko) - 28:19.64
3. Takashi Nanba (Toenec) - 28:21.14
4. Ayumu Kobayashi (NTT Nishi Nihon) - 28:35.40
5. Taishi Yamada (Aichi Seiko) - 28:44.93
6. Genki Nakanishi (Aisan Kogyo) - 28:47.27
7. Yuta Nakayama (Nihon Yakka Univ.) - 28:48.04
8. Rintaro Takeda (Yakult) - 28:52.34
9. Atsushi Kato (Sumitomo Denko) - 28:55.97
10. Kira Migita (Toyota Kyushu) - 29:17.14

© 2022 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Stefan said…
Ririka Hironaka was superb! Turning up fully fit and delivering on the big day. She did it at the Olympics and she did it here. Honestly, I didn't expect her to do as well as she did. Congrats to her and her coaching team. 2nd place, Kaede Hagitani put in an impressive performance. I hope she can make the standard and qualify for the World Champs.

As an afterthought, I wonder if Seira Fuwa has actually re-injured her achilles in an attempt to make it to the starting line and they are keeping it under wraps versus not being race fit. Her increased risk of injury is exactly as you forecast last year as she went up in distance. Perhaps, too much too soon. I wonder how long it will be before we see her perform again at her best?

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