The 41st annual Chiba International Cross Country - IAAF Permit - which doubles as the final selection race for the 34th World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka, will be held on Sunday (19). Although the traditional date of the Chiba race is in mid-February, it was moved this year to be closer to the World Cross date.
Three men - David Galvan, Ian Dobson and Ryan Hall - and three women - Grazyna Syrek, Cristina Cassandra and Sara Hall - were invited from abroad. Galvan of Mexico ran the 10000m in the 2004 Olympics, while Dobson and Hall finished second and third respectively at 5000m in the US National Championships and competed in Helsinki. Syrek of Poland, who ran in the Nagoya Women’s Marathon last weekend, is scheduled to run her second race in as many weeks. Sara Hall was sixth at 5000m in the US nationals, while Cassandra was seventh in the 3000m Steeplechase at the 2005 World Championships.
With few international entrants, the focus of the competition will clearly be on the competition among the Japanese who are all vying for a spot on the Fukuoka squad.
Toshinari Suwa, Michitaka Hosokawa, Yu Mitsuya, Yoshitaka Iwamizu, Yuko Matsumiya and Terukazu Omori are notable invitee to the men’s 12Km. Mitsuya and Omori contested the 10,000m, while Hosokawa ran the marathon in Helsinki last year. At the Olympic Games in Athens, Suwa was on the Marathon team. Iwamizu, the national record holder in the 3000m Steeplechase, ran the steeple chase in Helsinki, Athens and Paris, setting a national record in the French capital. Two potential future stars, now college freshmen, are Hidekazu Sato, who holds the high school 5000m record, and Yuki Sato, who holds the high school 10,000m record.
Fumikazu Kobayashi, Yuichiro Ueno and Toshihiro Iwasa are most notable invited runners in the men’s 4Km. Kobayashi is the national record holder at 1500m, while Iwasa is one of the most versatile runners in Japan, having recorded a 1500m best of 3:46.86 while having a marathon best of 2:10:17. Iwasa, however, does not seem to be in good shape, for he was only 31st in the Fukuoka Cross Country two weeks ago. One of the promising young runners in Japan, Yuichiro Ueno ran the World Cross Country Championships last year, finishing 66th in the short course.
Invited runners with best credentials in the women’s 6Km race are Megumi Oshima, Yumi Sato and Yoshiko Fujinaga. Oshima, who was tenth at 5000m in the 1999 World Championships, was also10th at the Marathon in Helsinki. Fujinaga was third in the junior race at the 1999 World Cross Country Championships. She was also second at 10,000m and third at 5000m in the 2001 World University Games. Sato has a 5000m personal best of 15:19.68 and a 31:48.95 at 10,000m, both set in 2005.
Several finishers from the Fukuoka race are also running in Chiba. On the men’s side, Yuki Sato was sixth and Hidekazu Sato was 19th, while Terukazu Omori was 29th and Toshinari Suwa was 41st. On the women’s side Yoshimi Ozaki was runner-up, Megumi Oshima was fourth, while Kayo Sugihara was fifth and Yumi Sato eighth in the race two weeks ago.
In the junior men’s race, Takuya Fukatsu, Harutomo Kawano, Tsuyoshi Ugachi, who finished second, third, fourth respectively in Fukuoka, return to the start line here. Ugachi and Kawano also competed in the 2005 World Cross Country Championships.
In the women’s junior race, Mekumi Kinukawa, Akane Wakita, Yuri Suzuki, and Kazue Kojima, who finished first, eighth, tenth and 11th respectively in Fukuoka, return as well. In the 2005 World Cross Country Championships, Akane was 11th while Kojima was 17th and Suzuki 25th. Yuriko Kobayashi, the runner-up at 1500m in the World Youth Championships, and Hitomi Niiya, third at 3000m at the World Youth competition, are expected to make the Japanese World Cross team easily. They are the best hope for the hosts at the upcoming global championships.
The Japanese World Cross Country Championships team will be announced on March 20, the day after the Chiba races.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
List of Invited Runners:
Men’s 4Km -
Men’s 12Km -
David Galvan (MEX)
Ian Dobson (USA)
Ryan Hall (USA)
Women’s 6Km -
Cristina Casandra (ROM)
Grazyna Syrek (POL)
Sara Hall (USA)
Junior Men 8Km -
Junior Women’s 5Km -