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Tanui, Mokaya, Endo, Ichiyama and Fujimoto Top Weekend Track Roundup

by Brett Larner

Most of the country's corporate leagues held their regional track and field championships this weekend, but superseding them all was the Golden Grand Prix Kawasaki meet.

With a shortage of candidates for the London World Championships men's 5000 m the JAAF doctored in a sub-7:55.00 qualifying standard for men to get into next month's National Track and Field Championships, adding a 3000 m to the normally sprint, middle distance and field event GGP.  In the midst of his best season in years, Yuichiro Ueno (Team DeNA) took it out close to national record pace through the first half before abruptly slowing and dropping off the back. Rio Olympics 10000 m silver medalist Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko) took over, with only Evans Keitany Kiptum (Team Toyota Boshoku), Hiroki Matsueda (Team Fujitsu), Hayato Seki (Tokai Univ.) and Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei).

Never do this.

Kiptum looked set for the win with a strong kick over the last 200 m, but Tanui came back to clip him at the line as Kiptum stopped his watch, winning by 0.01 in 7:52.67 to Kiptum's 7:52.68. Yoroizaka dropped off the pace, but in the home straight Matsueda and Seki kicked in to try to break 7:55. Matsueda just got there, running a PB 7:54.33 for 3rd. In 4th Seki missed the mark, but his 7:55.44 PB put him at all-time #6 among Japanese collegiate men. Yoroizaka was the only other man to break 8 minutes, running 7:58.40 for 5th and breaking his PB by 0.50.

The best women's mark of the weekend also came outside the corporate regionals. At the Oita Prefecture High School Championships, local Kenyan Marta Mokaya (Oita Tomei H.S.) won the girls' 3000 m by more than a minute with a PB of 9:02.93. A meet record, Mokaya's time was also a worldwide 2017-leading time in the U18 category and put her at #2 in the U20 category behind fellow Japan-resident Kenyan high schooler Helen Ekarare (Sendai Ikuei H.S.).


Among the corporate league regionals, the best Japanese women's results came in Osaka at the Kansai Corporate meet. Up-and-coming Mao Ichiyama (Team Wacoal), age 19, pulled off an impressive double, winning Friday's 10000 m over Olympian Wacoal teammate Kayoko Fukushi in 32:48.15, then returning Saturday to win the 5000 m in 15:49.63. Getting his pro career off to a great start, 18-year-old Hyuga Endo (Team Sumitomo Denko) did his own double, winning Saturday's 5000 m in 14:00.23 and Sunday's 1500 m in 3:47.72. Both wins came in slow races with blazing sprint finishes, a good sign that Endo is handling the transition from high school straight to the pros.

In the East Japan Region Kenyans dominated the distance events. Rosemary Wanjiru (Team Starts) ran 31:41.23 to win the women's 10000 m by 4 seconds over Pauline Kamulu (Team Route Inn Hotels). Kamulu was back the next day to win the 5000 m in 15:34.47, top Japanese woman Moeno Nakamura (Team Universal Entertainment) just bettering Ichiyama's time to record the fastest Japanese women's time of the weekend, 15:49.55 for 2nd. In the men's 10000 m Alexander Mutiso (Team Software) won another close race, running 27:58.66 to beat Bernard Kimani (Team Yakult) by 0.32 seconds. Jonathan Ndiku (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) ran 13:23.24 to top a competitive 5000 m that included the likes of Wesley Ledama (Team Subaru), William Malel (Team Honda) and Yuta Shitara (Team Honda).

In the Kyushu Region, continuing to build back from her 2:27:08 breakthrough at February's Tokyo Marathon, 19-year-old Ayaka Fujimoto (Team Kyocera) won the women's 10000 m in a PB of 32:40.63, the weekend's top Japanese women's time. Ethiopian Shuru Bulo (Team Toto) won the women's 5000 m by more than 30 seconds in 15:23.79, with Fujimoto doubling in 16:23.85 for 4th. Joel Mwaura (Team Kurosaki Harima) won the men's 10000 m in 27:52.66, beating Daniel Kipkemoi (Team Nishitetsu) by over 5 seconds. In third, 2016 National XC champion Takashi Ichida (Team Asahi Kasei) became just the second Japanese man so far this year to break 28 minutes, 3rd in 27:59.76. London World Championships marathon team member Hiroto Inoue, 2:08:22 in Tokyo, took 5 seconds off his PB with a 28:08.04 for 5th. His London teammate Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) was less than 5 seconds off his PB, running 28:58.98 for 15th.

In the lone sour note among London marathon team members who raced this weekend, Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) ran just 34:27.76 for 3rd in the Chugoku Region meet women's 10000 m. Her Tenmaya teammate Rei Ohara, the top Japanese half marathoner so far this year, resurfaced from a stress fracture she suffered after winning January's Osaka Half Marathon, running 35:40.90 for 4th. Veteran Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku) won an uneventful men's 10000 m in 29:08.18

Tanui photo © 2017 Tsukasa Kawarai, all rights reserved
text © 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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