The Japanese team for next weekend’s 32nd IAAF World Cross Country Championships, Brussels, Belgium (20/21 March) has been announced.
The team was selected from the top finishers in the Chiba Cross Country (15 Feb), Asian Cross Country Championships (22 Feb), and Fukuoka Cross Country races (29 Feb).
Junior women -
Historically the junior teams have done much better than their senior counterpart. In fact, the Japanese junior women won team medals for ten consecutive years until 2002. (Last year JPN did not send a full team)
The junior women’s team members Yuko Nohara, Saori Makishima, Misaki Katsumata, Hitomi Niiya, and Tomoka Inadomi are some of the fastest track runners at junior level, for they have 5000m personal best of 15:44.5, 15:52.32, 15:54.56, 15:54.99, and 15:57.5 respectively.
However, they are not only fast on the track, and also excel at cross country, for Hitomi Niiya, Hitomi Miyai, Tomoka Inadomi, Misaki Katsumata and Saori Makishima finished first, third, fourth, fifth and sixth respectively in Chiba, while in Fukuoka, Hitomi Miyai, Megumi Terada, Natsumi Fujita and Hitomi Niiya finished second, third, fourth and fifth respectively.
Some of the team members also have international experience. Katsumata, who finished second in the Asian Cross Country Championships this year, was 49th in the World Cross Country junior race in 2002. Yuko Nohara was a bronze medallist at 3000m in the last year’s World Youth Championships. Nohara, who was eighth in Chiba, has the fastest 3000m time, 9:05.63, among juniors.
Junior men -
In 2002 in Dublin, the junior men’s team finished fourth.
The members of this year’s team are the best high school runners in Japan. The team members Satoru Kitamura, Yuichiro Ueno, Hideaki Date, Yuki Matsuoka, and Yuki Sato have 5000m personal best of 13:45.86, 13:48.06, 13:55.95, 13:57.6, and 14:02.82 respectively.
In the national high school championships, Ueno, Date, Kitamura, Matsuoka, Yuki Sato and Hidekazu Sato finished 5th through to 10th positions. The top 4 spots were Kenyan students in Japan. In addition, Ueno is the national high school record holder at 10,000m, having run 28:27.39 last November. Yuki Sato is also a national junior high school record holder at 3000m.
They are good cross country runner also. Yuichiro Ueno, Yuki Sato, Yuki Matsuoka and Satoru Kitamura finished first, second, third and fourth respectively in the Chiba. In the Fukuoka race they finished first, third, second and fifth respectively, and in the Asian Cross Country Championships, Kitamura, Sato and Ueno swept the top three spots.
Senior men -
Turning the attention to the senior team, the runner with the best credentials on the men’s team is Yoshitaka Iwamizu. Iwamizu set a national record (8:18.93) in the heat of 3000mSC at the 2003 World Championships in Paris. Three days later, he finished 11th in the final.
Kenta Oshima is the fastest 10,000m track runner in the field, having recorded 27:54.88 last September. Yu Mitsuya has run in the World Cross Country Championships in 2002; he was 32nd in the junior race.
Senior women -
The members of the women’s team have a lot of international experience. Kazue Ogoshi, who was 2nd in Fukuoka, was 36th and 24th in the World Cross Country Championships in 2002 and 2003 respectively. She is the junior record holder (1:06:25) at 20Km road race.
Yoshiko Ichikawa who won the Fukuoka race is a two-time Olympian at 5000m. She was 7th and 12th respectively at 1500m in the 1992 and 1994 World Junior Championships respectively. She was also 15th in the 1995 World Cross Country championships, and has run the second fastest half marathon among the Japanese. Yumi Sato won the Asian Cross Country championships.
With 2006 World Cross Country Championships scheduled in Fukuoka, it is time for Japanese to really take cross country race seriously.