The 46th annual Chiba International Cross Country which is an IAAF XC Permit meeting takes place in Showa woods in Chiba, Japan on Sunday (13).
The races, along with the Fukuoka Cross Country later in the month, will double as the Japanese qualifying races for the 39th edition of the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain (20 March).
In addition to the qualifying races of men’s 12km, women’s 8km, junior men’s 8km and junior women’s 5km; a men’s 4km and junior high school (13 to 15 years old) races will be held.
The best invited runners in the men’s 12km race are Yuki Sato, Yuichiro Ueno, Yusei Nakao, and Satoru Kitamura.
Sato is the fastest active 10,000m runner in Japan, having recorded 27:38.25 in 2009. He ran the World Cross Country Championships thrice, in 2004, 2005 and 2008.
Ueno, a former high school record holder at 10,000m, ran 5000m in the 2009 World Championships. He also ran the World Cross Country Championships thrice, in 2004, 2005 and 2006. Based on their recent Ekidens, both Sato and Ueno are running well.
Yusei Nakao, a son of Takayuki Nakao, the first Japanese to crack 2:20 at the Marathon, has never run in the World Cross Country Championships, but he was fifth at the 2008 World Half Marathon Championships.
Satoru Kitamura, who ran the 10,000m in the 2010 Asian Games, ran 2004 and 2005 World Cross Country Championships.
However, the victory may not go to one of the invited runners, for several Kenyans running for Japanese Corporate team, have entered the race. Bidan Karoki, who now runs for S&B Foods after graduating from Sera High school in Hiroshima, has won the Chiba XC 12km race back in 2009, and thus could be a favourite. However, Martin Mathathi, third in 2006 World Cross Country Championships, has entered the race, and if he is in shape, he would have to be considered as the favourite.
The invited runners in the women’s 8km are Hitomi Niiya, Kazue Kojima, Tomoka Inadomi and Hanae Tanaka. Both Niiya and Kojima previously ran in the World Cross Country Championships, 2004, 2006 and 2010 for Niiya and 2005, 2006, 2008 and 2010 for Kojima.
Several years ago, Niiya was a high school sensation, having set stage bests in JPN high school Ekiden championships, while Kojima was best collegiate Ekiden runner while in college, having set stage best for four straight years in the JPN Collegiage Ekiden Championships. Hanae Tanaka, the best collegiate runner currently, is the reigning JPN Collegiate Champion at 10,000m.
Among the junior men, Kazuto Nishiike, who won the junior race in 2010 Chiba Cross Country and finished second in 2010 Fukuoka Cross Country, may be the best runner in the field. Nishiike was 38th in the World Cross Country Championships in Bydgoszcz. Takashi Ichida also ran in the World Cross in 2010, finishing 40th. In the High school ekiden championships in Kyoto last December, Nishiike was first while the Ichida was second in 10Km stage one, the stage for the best runners on the team. Nishiike was also 7th at 5000m in the 2010 World Junior Championships.
On the junior women’s side, Yuka Ando and Minori Suzuki have finished 22nd and 24th in the 2010 World Cross Country Championships, respectively. However, they may not be the best runners in the field. Mahiro Akamatsu, who won the 2010 Asian Junior Championships at 3000m, as well as 1500m in the 2010 JPN Inter-high school championships, may be the best runners in the field. Since their junior high school days, Moe Kyuma, who was fifth at 3000m in the 2009 World Youth Championships, and her twin sister Haruka, who was 12th at 3000m in the 2010 World Junior Championships, have attract attention for their talent. Their breakthrough to higher level is awaited with much anticipation.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
Junior men 8km
Junior women 5km