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New H.S. 5000 m NR Holder Hiroto Yoshioka - On Track to Be Faster Than Osako

There's a monster new record on the books. At a time trial meet on Nov. 13, Saku Chosei H.S. 3rd-year Hiroto Yoshioka ran a new 5000 m high school national record of 13:22.99. Yoshioka himself is humble about it, saying, "I might be the fastest high schooler ever, but I'm not the strongest." Yoshioka is now hot on the heels of the country's best, including Saku Chosei alumnus and Tokyo Olympics marathon 6th-placer Suguru Osako, in the hunt to make the Paris Olympic team.

In his record-breaking run Yoshioka was in the lead pack of foreign athletes when its pace slowed with 1000 m to go. "I was feeling better than I expected," he says. "I decided to go back to the front." With two laps to go he sped up, setting himself up for a massive time. Yoshioka broke the previous high school record, 13:31.18 by Keita Sato of Rakunan H.S., by over 8 seconds. When he had run the fastest-ever time by a 10th grader, Yoshioka and head coach Masaru Takamizawa, 41, had casually planned "to go for 13:40 in 11th grade and 13:30 in 12th grade." With this run Yoshioka made that goal a reality.

Yoshioka is growing at a rate that puts him on track to be faster than Osako. Osako's high school best was 14:07.93, followed up by 13:20.80 in college and the 13:08.40 NR after graduating. Just comparing 5000 m times at the same point in their lives, high school record holder Yoshioka is ahead. But, he says, "Osako isn't just fast, he also has strength. I'm not even close yet." In Osako's third year at Saku Chosei he won the First Stage at the National High School Ekiden with a kick that dropped all his competition. That run made a big impression on Yoshioka.

One of the catalysts for Yoshioka's rapid growth was his first international racing experience. In August he ran the 5000 m at the Cali U20 World Championships, experiencing firsthand how foreign athletes shake the pace up. Thinking the pace would stay stable at 20 seconds per 100 m, Yoshioka was suddenly dropped at one point when it instantly sped up to 15 seconds per 100 m without any warning. His finished a creditable 7th, but he felt disappointed that he hadn't known how to handle it and be competitive. "I want to run in international championships again as a senior, and ultimately to be a medalist," he says.

Coach Takamizawa said that Yoshioka's "lack of gaps" is his strongest characteristic. "He keeps the purpose of workouts in mind and runs them as instructed. He never misses practice, and he hardly ever gets injured." That shows up in his day-to-day life too. During surprise team dorm checks, Yoshioka's room is always tidy and well-organized. "I hope that he'll continue to value that strength of character, and keep running faster times in university and beyond."

Yoshioka will enter Juntendo University in April. "I want to run fast times in college and make the Paris Olympics," he says. He's also excited about getting to train alongside Juntendo's Ryuji Miura, 7th in the 3000 m steeplechase final at the Tokyo Olympics. But before he moves on to bigger things, there's December's National High School Ekiden Championships, where Yoshioka hopes to leave a big impression.

Hiroto Yoshioka - Born May 18, 2004 in Nagano. 18 years old. Began running in 6th grade, and placed 6th in the 3000 m at the National Junior High School Championships while a 9th-grader at Kawanakashima J.H.S. Placed 7th in the U20 World Championships 5000 m while a 12th-grader at Saku Chosei.

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translated by Brett Larner

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Rigajags said…
Yoshioka seems to be saying and doing all the right things.
What he singled out about the change of pace at International races Is precisely what gets most japanese guys in trouble at those events, so it's really good he had that experience.

His run was impressive.
I checked and seems that like Sato he is Born in 2004 but he is still in HS. Any particular reason for that?

I hope the kid can take It to the next level.
We have seen with Ishida how hard It can be to keep having success and improving.
Ishida was setting records and Miura was a good but not blossomed talent and now look at the different trajectory they are on.

What i am most curious about Is seeing what Yoshioka inclination will be: developing on distances from 5000 and shorter or going for half marathons and longer.
Miura other than Juntendo ekidens and XC focuses srrictly on sub 5k, Sato seems to be doing the same.
Wonder what Yoshioka talent Is more suited for.

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