Australia's Collis Birmingham (© Getty Images)
The 48th annual Chiba Cross Country, an IAAF Cross Country Permit meeting and one of the qualifying races for the Japanese team for the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz, is scheduled to take place on February 10 in Showa Woods in Chiba.
Nine races are scheduled to take place, and four of them – men’s 12km, women’s 8km, junior men’s 8km and junior women’s 5km – are World Cross Country Championships qualifying races.
Ten runners, including five from abroad, have been invited to men’s 12km race. Australia’s Collis Birmingham, who last Sunday won the Marugame Half-marathon, is the tentative favourite after showing great shape in his runaway victory in Marugame.
Ireland’s Alistair Cragg is also entered the race, however he was only 36th in Marugame so is something of a question mark. Other runners from abroad are Russia’s Nikolay Chavkin, fourth in the 3000m Steeplechase at the 2011 World University Games, Youssef El Kalai of Portugal, third at the 2010 European Cross Country Championships, and Tsetserukou Ihar of Belarus.
Invited domestic runners are Yasunori Murakami, the 2009 East Asian Games 1500m champion, Keisuke Tanaka, the Japanese 1500m champion, Masahiro Takaya, third in Chiba two years ago, Hiroyoshi Umegae, who has finished eighth in Chiba in the last two years, and Minato Yamashita, the Japanese 3000m Steeplechase champion.
The women’s 8km will feature several promising young Japanese runners, including Ayuko Suzuki, fifth over 5000m at the 2010 World Junior Championships, Hanae Tanaka, second in the 10000m at the 2011 World University Games.
As the Japanese junior women have won the team bronze medal seven times in last ten years at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships, the selection of the team is an important aspect of the Chiba Cross Country. As such, several runners with international experience have entered the junior women’s 5km race.
Miyuki Uehara and Misuzu Nakahara were eighth and 17th respectively in the 3000m at last year’s World Junior Championships, while Saki Yoshimizu was 11th in the 1500m and Shiori Yano was 11th in the 5000m. Furthermore, Shiho Takeda was eighth in the 1500m at the 2011 World Youth Championships.
The junior men’s 8km race also has a couple of Japanese runners with global championships experience – Yuki Hirota and Yusuke Uchikoshi were ninth and 10th respectively in the 3000m at the 2011 World Youth Championships.
Since the domestic fields are relatively weak – unlike previous years – there’s a sense of anticipation as to which new stars will emerge.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Collis Birmingham (AUS)
Alistair Cragg (IRL)
Nikolay Chavkin (RUS)
Youssef El Kalai (POR)
Tsetserukou Ihar (BLR)
Alena Berasniova (BLR)
Sara Pinho (POR)
Amelie De Fenoyl (CAN)
Heather Slinn (CAN)
Michelle Gutmanis (CAN)
Junior men’s 8km
Junior women’s 5km
Adrianne Erdman (CAN)