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Kuraoka and Maeda Take 1500 m Titles on Second Day of National High School Track and Field Championships

by Brett Larner

The second day of the 2014 National High School Track and Field Championships brought even hotter temperatures than the first, 36 degrees at the time of the girls' and boys' mid-afternoon 1500 m finals.  The girls' race started with a mishap as #1-ranked Japanese runner Karin Yasumoto (Suma Gakuen H.S.) was tripped in the first 50 m as the field crowded together, landing flat on her face and ultimately ending up second-to-last.  #1-seeded Kenyan Monica Margaret (Aomori Yamada H.S.) shot to the front and opened a lead of over 50 m by halfway, with the two slowest qualifiers for the final, Nana Kuraoka (Kagoshima Joshi H.S.) and Azusa Sumi (Toyokawa H.S.) breaking from the chase pack early in pursuit.

By 800 m Margaret had started come back, and both Kuraoka and Sumi went by her with 200 m to go.  Kuraoka continued her momentum and dropped Sumi on the curve to take the win in 4:20.82.  Behind her the pack caught Margaret and made contact with Sumi in the home…

World Juniors Silver Medalist Kitagawa Leads First Day of National High School Track and Field Championships

by Brett Larner

With temperatures clipping 35 degrees the 2014 National Track and Field Championships kicked off July 30 in Kofu, Yamanashi, home ground of 2013 National High School Boys' Ekiden champion Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.  The biggest news on the first of the meet's five days of competition came in the boys' 400 m.  48 hours after helping the Japanese team win silver in the 4x400 m relay at the IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, U.S.A., Takamasa Kitagawa (Uruga H.S.) swept through the competition, winning his opening round heat in 48.22 and his semi-final in 47.23 before taking the final in 46.57, the 10th-fastest time ever by a Japanese high schooler.  Satoshi Yamamoto (Amakusa Kogyo H.S.) gave Kitagawa a solid challenge in the final but had to settle for 2nd in 46.61.  Seika Aoyama (Matsue Shogyo H.S.) had a clearer margin of victory in the girls' 400 m final, winning the national title in 53.73 by 0.21 seconds over runner-up Nanako Matsumoto (Hamama…

Four-Channel Live Streaming of Japanese National High School Track and Field Championships

Hot on the heels of a strong team showing at last weekend's World Junior Championships, the 2014 Japanese National High School Track and Field Championships are being streamed live on four separate discipline-specific channels from July 30 to Aug. 3. Watch below. Click here for a complete event schedule.

Track



Jumps



Throws



Combined Events




Izumo Ekiden Announces Teams for 26th Running on Oct. 13

http://www.izumo-ekiden.jp/entry/index.html

The first of the Big Three University Ekidens that make up the core of the year for Japanese collegiate distance men, the six-stage, 45.1 km Izumo Ekiden takes place Oct. 13.  On July 30 organizers released the full of 21 teams that will compete at this year's 26th running, led by defending champion and course record holder Komazawa University and 2014 Hakone Ekiden winner Toyo University.  The U.S, Ivy League Select Team will also return for its 17th Izumo appearance.

2014 Izumo Ekiden Field

Kanto Region
Komazawa University (22nd appearance)
Toyo University (15th appearance)
Nittai University (17th appearance)
Waseda University (22nd appearance)
Aoyama Gakuin University (5th appearance)
Meiji University (6th appearance)
Nihon University (21st appearance)
Teikyo University (6th appearance)
Takushoku University (3rd appearance)
Daito Bunka University (16th appearance)

Tokai Region
Chukyo University (9th appearance)

Kansai Region
Ritsumeikan U…

Hakone Ekiden Course Change Means the End for Current Course Records

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/07/29/kiji/K20140729008649490.html
http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20140728-OHT1T50194.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

The Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto(KGRR) announced on July 28 that changes to the Hakone Ekiden's 23.4 km Fifth Stage and 20.8 km Sixth Stage mean that the existing records for those two stages along with the current Day One, Day Two and overall course records will be replaced at the 91st running of Japan's biggest sporting event on Jan. 2-3, 2015.  The entire course will also be remeasured, meaning additional changes to other stages are possible.

The uphill Fifth Stage was lengthened in 2006 at the 82nd running to become the longest of the race at 23.4 km with 864 m of climb.  Since then, every university that has won the Fifth Stage has also taken the Hakone Day One title, earning it the reputation of being the most dramatic and exciting part of the Hakone Ekiden.  From 2009 to 2012 Toyo Univer…

Aiming for Top 10 at World Championships, Matsumoto Wins Second-Straight Fuji Mountain Race Title

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/07/26/kiji/K20140726008632750.html

translated by Brett Larner

3980 people ran the July 25 Fuji Mountain Race's 67th edition in its Fifth Stage and Summit divisions. The men's Summit division winner was defending champion Dai Matsumoto (30, Salomon), who took his second-straight title in 2:47:45. Ruth Charlotte Croft (25, New Zealand) won the women's Summit division in 3:11:44.  Sho Matsumoto (28, Nikkei Business) was the men's Fifth Stage winner, with Yumiko Oishi (43) joining him on the podium in the women's race.

In his sixth time running the Fuji Mountain Race Dai Matsumoto was delighted to keep his place on top.  "People were gunning for me this year," he said of the pressure that pushed him to beat his own winning time from last year of 2:49:40.  A native of Gunma prefecture, his experience with mountain running dates back to his time at Maebashi H.S. and Gunma University where he competed in the event at t…

Kawauchi Wins Fourth-Straight Kushiro Shitsugen 30 km

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/07/28/kiji/K20140728008642240.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

For the fourth-straight year, 2014 Asian Games men's marathon team member Yuki Kawauchi (27, Saitama Pref. Gov't) won the Kushiro Shitsugen 30 km road race Sunday in Kushiro, Hokkaido, beating the next athlete by over four minutes in 1:33:49.  Having struggled in the heat in the past. Kawauchi was pleased with race day temperatures under 20 degrees.  "I love it when it's cool," he said.  "It's hard to run 30 km and focus on quality or quantity back home in Saitama when it's 37 degrees there."  He also spoke against corporate teams' overseas high altitude training camps, saying, "I want to show that you can be successful in the marathon using a training regimen of short domestic training camps and racing here and abroad as an invited athlete."

World Junior Championships Day Six - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

The men's 4x400 m relay team added one more to what looks like Japan's most successful medal haul on the final day of the 2014 World Junior Championships.  With the U.S.A. inevitably ahead for the win in 3:03.31, the Japanese team featuring 400 m silver medalist Nobuya Kato ran an Asian junior record 3:04.11 to again beat Jamaica for silver.

Japanese athletes made the top ten in three other events as the Championships wrapped up.  In the men's triple jump Ryoma Yamamoto cleared 15.89 m for 7th and Yugo Takahashi 15.76 m for 9th.  In the men's javelin throw Shu Mori's 69.73 m was good for 8th, Takuto Kominami joining him with a throw of 67.07 m.  In the men's 3000 mSC Kazuya Shiojiri ran a large PB of 8:45.66 for 9th after finishing only 10th in his qualifying heat.

At the Championships' end, the Japanese medal tally was:
Daisuke Matsunaga: gold, men's 10000 m race walkNobuya Kato: silver, men's 400 msilver, men's 4x400 msilver, me…

World Junior Championships Day Five - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

Men's 100 m bronze medalist Yoshihide Kiryu and teammate Takuya Kawakami joined 200 m 4th and 6th-placers Yuki Koike and Masaharu Mori to outrun Jamaica for silver in the men's 4x100 m relay final at the World Junior Championships.  With the U.S.A. taking first in 38.70, Japan's 39.02 was just enough to beat Jamaica, which took bronze in 39.12.  Japan also beat Jamaica in the men's 4x400 m relay, where 400 m silver medalist Nobuya Kato and finalist Kaisei Yui powered the team to win Heat 2 in 3:05.40, Jamaica next in 3:06.25 and Bahamas picking up the final qualifying spot in a junior national record 3:07.03.  The women's 4x100 m team lacked the same punch, 6th among six finishing teams in the final in 45.40.

IAAF World Junior Championships Day Five
Eugene, U.S.A., 7/26/14
click here for complete results

Men's 4x400 m Relay Heat 2
1. Japan - 3:05.40 - Q
2. Jamaica - 3:06.25 - Q
3. Bahamas - 3:07.03 - NJR - q
4. Germany - 3:10.75
5. Canada - 3:11.93

World Junior Championships Day Four - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

The fourth day of competition at the 2014 World Junior Championships brought Japan its first gold medal of the week as Daisuke Matsunaga set a championships record 39.27.19 in the men's 10000 m race walk.  Silver and bronze medalists Diego Garcia (Spain) and Paulo Yurivilca (Peru) both set new national junior records to get on the podium, but Matsunaga was in another class as he beat Garcia by almost 30 seconds.  Yuga Yamashita (Japan) came up just short of the medals at 4th in 40:15.27.

Likewise just out of the medals, sprinter Yuki Koike ran 20.34 (+2.3) for 4th in the men's 200 m final, just 0.4 s from claiming bronze.  Teammate Masaharu Mori took 6th in 20.84, the first time a world-level championships has seen two Japanese athletes make a 200 m final.  Both ran the final less than 90 minutes after helping the Japanese men's 4x100 m team make the final by winning Heat 2 in a junior world-leading time of 39.23 just ahead of hosts U.S.A.  The women's …

World Junior Championships Day Three - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

Day three of competition at the IAAF World Junior Championships was a big one for Japan, with two individual medals and a near miss on a third.  In the men's 400 m Nobuya Kato and Kaisei Yui made history with their runs, the first time two Japanese athletes had qualified for a world-level final, and Kato took it one step further when he ran 46.17 for silver behind winner Machel Cedenio (Trinidad and Tobago).  Yui, who ran a PB 46.68 to make the final, was 7th in 47.08 between two American athletes. 

In the men's long jump, Shotaro Shiroyama (Japan) jumped 7.83 m to unexpectedly win bronze, with teammate Kodai Sakuma 5th in 7.71 m.  Chinese athletes Jianan Wang and Qing Lin went 1-2, Wang winning with a jump of 8.08 m.  In the women's 3000 m Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu, the daughter of Japanese and Kenyan parents, ran a 6-second PB of 9:02.85 but came up just over 2 more seconds short of the podium as she was beaten by American Mary Cain in 8:58.48 and Kenyans

Olympic Sprinter Yamagata Turns Down Corporate League Offers to Train in U.S. With Seiko Sponsorship

http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/etc/20140723-OHT1T50329.html

translated by Brett Larner

On July 23 it was announced that London Olympics sprinter Ryota Yamagata (22, Keio Univ.) will join Seiko Holdings Corporation and be based in California, U.S.A.  Yamagata's decision was a big one, made in anticipation of the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  Turning down offers from many top corporate league teams, he entered into a sponsorship agreement with Seiko Holdings, manufacturers of watches and other precision mechanical equipment.

Seiko does not currently have a track and field team, but Yamagata intends to move to California by himself following his graduation next spring and as part of his agreement with Seiko, at his own request he will be responsible for choosing his coach, trainer, training location and environment himself.  "Maybe I could have gotten the best support somewhere else, but I want to open up new ways of doing things," he commented.  Having developed his training menus t…

World Junior Championships Day Two - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner
photo courtesy of David Monti, Race Results Weekly

Asian junior record holder Yoshihide Kiryu (Toyo Univ.) brought Japan its first medal of the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships, taking bronze in 10.34 (-0.6) behind Americans Kendal Williams and Trayvon Bromell.  Kiryu gave the nation a scare by barely making it to the final when he finished 4th in his semi-final.  In both the semi and final he displayed problems with the second half of his race, but what he had on the day proved enough for him to get on the podium and join past World Juniors medalists like Shota Iizuka and Genki Dean in the Japanese books.

Further history was made when both Nobuya Kato and Kaisei Yui got through the semis to make the men's 400 m final, the first time two Japanese athletes have ever made a world-level final.  Both won their opening heats yesterday.  In semi-final 1, Yui ran a PB 46.68 to get into the final on time.  Kato, running semi-final 2, came from far back in the last 100 …

World Junior Championships Day One - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner

The men's 10000 m rounded out the day as the only final on the first day of competition at the 2014 IAAF World Junior Championships in Eugene, U.S.A.  After a slow first lap Keisuke Nakatani of 2013 National University Ekiden champion Komazawa University went to the front to get the race moving, tailed only by 2014 Hakone Ekiden winner Toyo University's Hazuma Hattori.  Ranked 6th and 7th in the field by PB, the two Japanese athletes, both stage winners at January's Hakone Ekiden, were initially ignored by the faster Africans, allowing them to open a lead that at one point maxed at around 100 m.  Despite the gap, the pair's pace was never unrealistic as Nakatani held close to 29:10 pace, roughly 20 second slower than his best.  His projected finishing time based on his splits through 6000 m show how steadily he ran:

1000 m: 29:18.70 2000 m: 29:15.55 3000 m: 29:13.57 4000 m: 29:09.53 5000 m: 29:10.54 6000 m: 29:11.73
The slight surge between 3 and 4000 m…

Otona no Taimu Toraiaru - Time Trials for Grown-Ups

by Brett Larner


Japan is unique in having one of the most highly-developed elite running systems in the world, an enormous and growing population of amateur runners, and mass popularity among the general public in elite racing as a spectator sport.  But like anywhere else there is separation between those elite and amateur worlds, the university and corporate teams, out of sight except for their televised races and rarely interacting with the public.

A university-aged pacer in a blue and white Otona no Time Trial singlet leads amateur runners in an early heat.
One feature of the elite circuit is the time trial meet.  Time trial meets are day- or weekend-long series of long-distance track races finely graded by target time.  The largest of the them, Yokohama's Nittai University Time Trials series, had 45 heats of 5000 m in 14 hours in one edition last year, each heat with 30-40 runners ranging from serious amateurs in the early heats to Olympians and national champions in the latest…

Imai Wins Second-Straight Shibetsu Half

by Brett Larner

Continuing a solid 2014 that saw him break 2:10 for the first time at February's Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon, course record holder Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) returned to successfully defend his title at Sunday's Shibetsu Half Marathon.  Running in sunny and humid conditions with temperatures around 30 degrees, Imai had no trouble dropping main competition Yusuke Ogura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and 5000 m and 30 km national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya (Team Konica Minolta) late in the race to take the win in 1:04:07, 43 seconds off his record last year but still the 4th-fastest winning time in Shibetsu's 28-year history.  Ogura, only 14th in 1:05:56 last year, held off Matsumiya for 2nd in 1:04:21, the veteran Matsumiya ten seconds back.  Japan-based since April, 2014 Incheon Asian Games marathon medal contender Ser-Od Bat-Ochir (Mongolia/Team NTN) was 6th in 1:04:57.

The women's field was split between the half marathon and 10 km divisions.  A r…

Yoshihide Kiryu Named Captain of Japanese Men's World Juniors Team

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/07/18/kiji/K20140718008583590.html

translated and edited by Brett Larner

A 9-second time would give Japan a jolt of momentum.  100 m sprinter Yoshihide Kiryu (18, Toyo Univ.) left Narita Airport for the World Junior Track and Field Championships starting July 22nd in Eugene, Oregon, U.S.A.  Based on his experience at last summer's World Track and Field Championships and other accomplishments, Kiryu was named captain of the Japanese men's team at World Juniors.  His first time playing such a big role, Kiryu was hopeful for the team's chances, saying, "I've never been captain before so I don't know how reliable I'll be, but I want everyone to have a great time racing." 

Kiryu has fully recovered from the pain in his right foot that was bothering him before last month's National Track and Field Championships and has set his sights on both Japan's first sub-10 clocking and the 100 m gold medal.  With the …

Omuta H.S. Second-Year Shota Onizuka Heads to World Juniors: "I Want to Test My Strength"

http://www.nishinippon.co.jp/nnp/f_chikugo/article/101635

translated by Brett Larner
photo by rikujolove

Omuta H.S. second-year Shota Onizuka, 16, is bound for Eugene, Oregon in the U.S.A. where he will compete in the July 22-27 World Junior Championships.  The meet features outstanding under-20 competitors from around the world including 43 from Japan selected from among the country's best high school and university athletes.

Onizuka is the first-ever Omuta H.S. student to be picked for the national team.  Last year he was Omuta's anchor in its runner-up finish at the National High School Ekiden Championships.  On the track he was also 2nd in a tight race at the National High School Championships, but the disappointment of losing by a margin of only one second served as motivation for his training and at a time trial meet this May he ran 13:58.43, the fastest time so far this year by a Japanese high schooler [above photo].

Onizuka leaves Japan on July 17 and will run the 5000 …

Kaori and Shiori Morita, Twin Sisters Dreaming of 2020

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/local/kanagawa/news/20140714-OYTNT50555.html

translated by Brett Larner

Yokohama natives and graduates of the city's Eda H.S. where they made a major impact on the distance events at last year's National High School Track and Field Championships, 18-year-old identical twin sisters Kaori and Shiori Morita joined the Yokohama-residing Panasonic women's corporate team this spring with the shared dream of making the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.  While working office jobs in the same division at Panasonic, the pair are pouring their sweat and tears into their training, preparing themselves with a solid base.

The sisters began to run seriously their first year of junior high school and, both showing exceptional coordination and ability, together qualified for the 800 m and 1500 m at Nationals just a year later.  At home they studied running form by trying to copy what they saw in videos, devoting themselves more and more to the world of competition.

At Eda H.S. t…

Kawauchi's Asian Games Sendoff Party Cancelled After Death of Alma Mater Staff Member

http://www.sponichi.co.jp/sports/news/2014/07/14/kiji/K20140714008562000.html

translated by Brett Larner

Saitama's Kasukabe Higashi High School, alma mater of 2014 Incheon Asian Games marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (27, Saitama Pref. Gov't), planned to hold an Asian Games sendoff party for its most famous alumnus on July 14, but following the death of a school staff member on July 13 the party has been cancelled.  According to a school spokesperson, the decision to cancel the event was made in consideration of students' feelings.  The school administration has not yet decided whether the sendoff party will be rescheduled.

Kawauchi was a notable member of Kasukabe Higashi High School's track team before his graduation in 2005.  He currently works in Saitama as an administrative staff member at Kuki Part-Time High School, a special school for students seeking to finish their degrees while working.  Kawauchi is training for the Asian Games while working full-time at the school.

Weekend Track Roundup

by Brett Larner

Following up last week's Cork City Sports meet in Ireland that saw a sizeable group of mostly collegiate Japanese women in the 3000 m, Japanese men got started on their annual European track junket at meets in the Netherlands and Belgium.  2014 Waseda University graduate Suguru Osako (Team Nissin Shokuhin) was due to run the two mile at the Diamond League Glasgow meet, but with the cancellation of that distance he instead headed to the Netherlands' Runnersworld Track Meeting, where he ran 8:02.11 for 2nd in the 3000 m as a tuneup for next weekend's KBC Nacht meet in Belgium, where he and rival Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) will run 5000 m.

Also tuning up for the KBC Nacht was a large group of young corporate league runners and 2014 Asian Games track team member Kota Murayama (Josai Univ.) in the 1500 m at Belgium's Guldensporenmeeting.  Led by former Japanese university 10000 m record holder Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei), 2nd overall in 3:42.2…

"My Goal is to Make the National Team in the Marathon" - Kansai Region University Distance Star Kentaro Hirai

http://www.kobe-np.co.jp/news/sports/201407/0007125999.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

The biggest attraction in Kansai university athletics long distance these days is without a doubt Kyoto University junior Kentaro Hirai.  A graduate of Hotoku Gakuen H.S., Hirai won this spring's Kansai University Track and Field Championships 10000 m and finished 2nd in both the 5000 m and half marathon.  Running as Kyoto's best runner at last month's National University Ekiden Championships Kansai Region Qualifier, he finished 1st overall to lead Kyoto University to qualify for Nationals for the first time in 41 years, showing the strong and inspiring impact he is having on his teammates.  Hirai envisions a place for himself on a Japanese national team in the marathon.  We talked to this 21-year-old about his current situation and about his vision for the future.

You had a very strong first half of this season.

The Kansai Regionals meet lists people who score 20 or more points as indiv…