The 22nd annual Fukuoka Cross country which doubles as a selection meet for the upcoming World Cross Country Championships in Edinburgh is scheduled to be held on Saturday 1 March.
Four selection races – junior women’s 6km, junior men’s 8km, women’s 6km and men’s 10km – will be run on the course built for the 2006 World Cross Country Championships in Fukuoka. The Japanese team for the upcoming World Cross Country Championships will be selected from the top finishers from Chiba Cross Country and Fukuoka Cross Country races.
Japanese selection for Edinburgh
Ali Hasan Mahboob (formerly Silas Kirui of Kenya) of Bahrain, the 2006 Asian Games champion at 10,000m, is invited to run the men’s 10km race. He will be challenged by some of the best distance runners in Japan. They are Shigeru Aburaya, Yu Mitsuya, Yuki Sato, Terukazu Omori, Masato Imai, Makoto Tobimatsu, Satoru Kitamura, Yoshitaka Iwamizu, Hiroyoshi Umegae, Tsuyoshi Ugachi and Yuki Nakamura.
Tobimatsu, Kitamura, Iwamizu, Umegae, Ugachi and Nakamura finished third, fourth, fifth, sixth seventh and eighth, respectively in the Chiba Cross Country three weeks ago, and thus have a good chance to make the World Cross team.
Aburaya, who was fifth in the 2001 World Championships, 2003 World Championships and 2004 Olympics, is one of the best marathon runners in Japan. On the other hand Mitsuya, Omori and Sato are excellent track runners.
Mitsuya, who has a best of 13:18.32 for 5000m and 27:41.10 for10,000m was 19th at 10,000m at the 2005 World Championships. Like Mitsuya, Omori also ran the 10,000m in the 2005 World Championships, finishing 22nd in Helsinki. His 10,000m best of 27:43.94 was recorded four years ago, but Omori recorded 27:51.90 last year.
Sato is the brightest star in distance running in Japan. Twenty-one years old Sato, national high school record holder at 10,000m, has recorded the 10,000m best of 27:51.65 in 2007. Masato Imai, on the other hand is an ultimate strength runner. His claim to fame is the fantastic stage bests he recorded in the uphill (elevation gain of more than 800m) stage of the famed Tokyo to Hakone Collegiate Ekiden. After graduation, Imai joined Toyota Kyushu track team and now coached by Koichi Morishita, Olympic marathon silver medallist. His team mate includes Samuel Wanjiru, the half marathon World record holder.
Junior races – a remake of Chiba?
Top finishers in both (men and women) junior races in Chiba Cross Country are scheduled to return to cross country racing in Fukuoka.
In the men, the top eight finishers in Chiba are Akinobu Murasawa, Tomohiro Tanigawa, Shun Kurihara, Kenta Chiba, Hiroyuki Sasaki, Ryuji Kashiwabara, Hirotaka Tamura and Suguru Osako, while the top eight finishers in the women’s race are Ayaka Mori, Risa Takenaka, Atsuko Matsumura, Asami Kato, Rei Ohara, Yukari Abe, Yukako Eto and Naomi Komai.
Murasawa was sixth at 5000m in the national inter-high school championships and fourth in the 10km first stage of the national high school ekiden championships, while Kurihara was fifth in the same ekiden. On the women’s side Mori was third at 1500m in the national inter-high school championships, while Obara was fourth in the same race.
Kinukawa and Kobayashi to run for national honour in women’s race
Maria Konovalova of Russia and Anna Worland of Australia are invited to run the women’s 6km race. Konovalova was sixth in the 1995 World Championships, seventh in the 1999 World Championships and eleventh in the 2007 World Championships all at 5000m. She recorded the stage best in the Yokohama Women’s Ekiden last weekend.
Two of the brightest stars – Megumi Kinukawa, the brightest young long distance runner in Japan, and Yuriko Kobayashi, the brightest young middle distance runner in Japan, will be running the Fukuoka Cross Country.
Kinukawa is the defending champion at the women’s 6km. She also won a junior race two years ago. In 2007 Kinukawa set the national junior record of 31:35.27 at 10,000m and finished 14th in the World Championships. She was also 14th in the junior race at the 2006 World Cross Country Championships, which was held on the same course. Kinukawa will be graduating from high school in March and then join the Mizuno track team in April.
Kobayashi won a bronze medal in the 2006 World Junior Championships and silver medal in the 2005 World Youth Championships both at 1500m. She also won a silver medal in the 2006 Asian Games, also at 1500m. Although Kobayashi was only seventeen years old, she was 30th in the short course in the 2006 World Cross Championships in Fukuoka.
Other Japanese challengers are Minori Hayakari, Kazuki Wakamatsu, Megumi Seike, Aimi Horikoshi and Aya Manome. Wakamatsu was the top Japanese finisher in Chiba Cross Country, while Seike, Horikoshi and Manome finished fourth, fifth and sixth, respectively. Hayakari is a national 3000mSC record holder, who finished 12th at 3000mSC in the 2005 World Championships. She was eighth in the junior race in the 1991 World Cross Country Championships.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF