The 2005 Chiba International Cross Country will take place on Sunday 20 February in the Showa no Mori cross country course in the city of Chiba.
Along with the upcoming Fukuoka International Cross Country race, the 40th annual Chiba Cross Country race is one of the selection races for the 2005 World Cross Country Championships team.
Because the Japanese juniors are much better in cross country than their senior counterpart, as far as selection race is concerned, the junior races are more significant.
Men’s Long course
Lee Bong-ju, Fabiano Joseph and Terukazu Omori are the top runners in the men’s long course (12Km).
Lee of Korea was the 1996 Olympic marathon silver medallist and two-time Asian Games marathon champion, while Joseph of Tanzania is a silver medallist at both the 2003 and 2004 World Half Marathon Championships and 2004 World Junior championships 10,000m. He was also seventh in the long course at the 2004 World Cross Country championships.
Joseph, perhaps, is the favourite, for he has been running well in cross country races lately. He was second in Amorebieta and third in Elgoibar.
The best Japanese in the long course is Terukazu Omori, who recorded the fastest 10,000m time, 27:43.94, of the year in Japan. Omori passed 29 runners and recorded the stage record (23:26 for 8.5km) in the 2005 Inter-Prefectural Men’s Ekiden championships in January.
Men’s Short course
Yuichiro Ueno, former 10,000m high school record holder, is in a class of his own in the men’s short course (4km). Ueno, a college freshman, was the best high school runner last year. He won the junior 8km race at both the Chiba International Cross Country race as well as the Fukuoka International Cross Country race.
He should have been the top Japanese junior in the 2004 World Cross Championships, but suffered untimely injury in Bruxelles just before the race. He has since recovered and in the January’s Inter-Prefectural men’s Ekiden championships, Ueno brought victory to his team with his well timed blazing kick.
Other top runners in the 4km are Hidenobu Koshikawa, 2004 national inter-collegiate 3000m Steeplechase champion, and Takuji Matsubara, 2003 national inter-collegiate 800m champion.
Turning attention to the women’s race, Sonia O’Sullivan, Alla Zhilyayeva, and Cristina Casandra are top runners in the women’s 6km.
O’Sullivan, of course, is a double (short & long course) World Cross Country champion as well as double (5000m & 10,000m) European champion in 1998.
Alla Zhilyayeva of Russia was eighth in the 2003 World Cross Country Championships and fifth at 10,000m in the 2003 World Championships in Paris. A steeplechaser Cristina Casandra of Romania was third in the 1996 World Junior 5000m. Casandra has been running well in cross country races lately, having finished sixth in Vilamoura and third in Talayuela.
The top Japanese challenge will come from Miwako Yamanaka, who was fourth at the 2002 World Cross Country championships and her teammate at Daihatsu track team, Kazue Ogoshi.
Yamanaka has been struggling for the last few years in the process of recapturing her old form, having recorded the second fastest time, 19:15 for uphill 6km first stage, in the 2005 Inter-Prefectural women’s Ekiden championships in January.
Although Ogoshi, the 20km World junior record holder, ran a disappointing marathon in Osaka (2:32:11 for the eleventh place), she has done much better at the shorter distance, having recorded the second fastest time in the anchor stage (31:51 for the 10Km) of the 2005 Inter-Prefectural Women’s Ekiden.
Other top runners are two-time Olympian Yoshiko Ichikawa, who was fourth in Chiba Cross Country and first in the Fukuoka Cross Country last year, and Kayo Sugihara, 2003 national champion at 1500m.
Hidekazu Sato and Yuki Sato (no relation), by far the best high school runners in Japan, resume their rivalry in the junior 8km race in Chiba. Last year, as a high school junior Yuki was second in the Chiba Cross Country and third in the Fukuoka Cross Country races, while Hidekazu was fifth in the Chiba and fourth in Fukuoka.
However, they have moved up another level in their senior year. In the 5000m race at the national games, Hidekazu Sato recorded 13:39.87, national 5000m high school record. Then on 27 November, Yuki Sato and Hidekazu Sato recorded 28:07.39 and 28:10.32 respectively for 10,000m. They both ran under the old high school record, 28:27.39, set by Yuichiro Ueno last year.
Other top runners in the junior men’s 8km are Kazuya Takahashi, 2004 national junior 1500m champion, and Keiji Akutsu, 2004 national inter-high school 3000m Steeplechase champion.
Many of the best Japanese high school runners - Hitomi Niiya, Yuko Nohara, Yuriko Kobayashi, Ayumi Takada, Yae Nishiyama and Mai Tanabe - are running the junior women’s 5km race in Chiba.
Niiya is the hottest junior runner in Japan, while Nohara was third at 3000m in the 2003 World Youth Championships and seventh at 5000m in the 2004 World Junior Championships. Sixteen years old Niiya, who was third at 3000m in the national high school championships in August, recorded a huge stage best, 18:53, for the (uphill) 6km first stage in the December’s national high school Ekiden championships.
Later she was fourth among the best runners in Japan at the first stage of the 2005 Inter-Preferctural Women’s Ekiden championships in January. Niiya won the junior 4km race last year in the Chiba Cross Country race.
Kobayashi was second at both 800m in the national junior championships and 1500m in the national inter-high school championships, while Takada was third at 1500m in the national inter-high school championships.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
JPN unless otherwise noted
Lee Bong-ju (KOR)
Fabiano Joseph (TAN)
Gudisa Shentama (ETH)
Jorge Borralho (POR)
Lee Duhaeng (KOR)
Huh Jangkyu (KOR)
Sonia O'Sullivan (IRL)
Cristina Casandra (ROM)
Alla Zhilyayeva (RUS)
Lee Eunjeung (KOR)
Lee Sunyoung (KOR)
Junior Men 8km
Junior Women 5km
Kim Heeyeon (KOR)
Seo Hyunjin (KOR)
Park Hosun (KOR)