The 45th Chiba International Cross Country, a race which doubles as the Japanese selection meet for the upcoming World Cross Country Championships, was contested on Sunday 14 February in Showa Woods.
Four of the races - men’s 12Km, women’s 8Km, junior men’s 8Km, and junior women’s 5Km – were qualifying races for the World Championships. However, athletes who finished near the top must await the results of the Fukuoka Cross Country later this month (27 February) before they book their tickets to Bydgoszcz.
Men’s 12Km - Although only a student at Sera high school in Hiroshima, Bedan Karoki of Kenya completely dominated the men’s 12Km. He won in 34:52, 30 seconds ahead of Martin Mukule, a Kenyan living in Japan who runs for Toyota Motors. Finishing third was Charles Nyandarua, a Kenyan teammate of Karoki at Sera high school. The first Japanese was Tetsuya Yoroizaka of Meiji University. He was followed by Takuya Noguchi of Nihon University of Sports Science. Incidentally, Noguchi recorded the fastest stage (21.5Km) at the prestigious Hakone Ekiden, a collegiate ekiden which takes place on 2 and 3 January of each year, while Yoroizaka was third fastest, 22 seconds behind in the same stage. Ryuji Kashiwabara, a Hakone Ekiden hero, pulled out of the race a day before citing inflammation of a ligament in the right knee.
Men’s 4Km - As expected, Martin Mathathi of Kenya and Suzuki motors, the 2007 Worlds bronze medallist at 10,000m, completely dominated the men’s 4Km. He won in 11:14, 28 seconds ahead of Yasunori Murakami of Fujitsu.
Women’s 6Km - Misaki Katsumata, who has been running well on the road, won the women’s 6Km in 19:39, three seconds ahead of Hitomi Niiya, a protégé of legendary coach Yoshio Koide. Risa Takanaka, 26th in a junior race at the 2008 World Championships in Edinburgh, finished third, followed by Nanako Hayashi and Kazue Kojima, the best collegiate women’s Ekiden runner in Japan.
Junior Men’s 8Km - After prohibitive favorite Akinobu Murasawa pulled out of the race citing a health problem, the race was wide open. Kazuto Nishiike of Suma Gakuen high school won the race, four second ahead of Suguru Osako of Saku Chosei high school, thus turning around the finishes from the national inter-high school Ekiden championships. Osako was the fastest at the 10Km first stage, where the big guns of the school contest for supremacy, while Nishiike was sixth fastest, 23 seconds behind. High school freshman Shun Morozumi was a very respectable fourth, only ten seconds behind the winner. Morozumi is the oldest son of coach Morozumi of Saku Chosei High school.
Women’s Junior 5Km - As expected Nanaka Izawa easily won the women’s junior 5Km in 16:24, seven seconds ahead of Chihiro Tanabe. Izawa currently is the best junior women’s distance runner in Japan. She recorded stage bests at the national inter-high school Ekiden three years in a row. She also won the 3000m in the national inter-high school championships. And now she won the junior race of Chiba Cross Country, adding to her victory at the junior race in the Fukuoka Cross Country last year. Thus, she is the best junior runner on the road, track as well as cross country at the moment.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Leading results - Men’s 12Km 1. Bedan Karoki (KEN) 34:52 (high school student) 2. Martin Mukule (KEN) 35:22 3. Charles Nyandarua (KEN) 35:23 4. Tetsuya Yoroizaka 35:31 5. Takuya Noguchi 35:34 6. Kazuya Deguchi 35:36 7. Minato Oishi 35:40 8. Tsubasa Hayakawa 35:43 .. 28. Sam Crawther (AUS) 36:45