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Chiba International Cross Country

K. Ken Nakamuta for IAAF

18 February 2001 – The 36th Chiba International Cross Country race, held in Showa no Mori park in Chiba east of Tokyo, was the first of two races which will act as qualifiers for the Japanese team to the World Cross Country championships in Dublin. The second selection race will be the Fukuoka Cross Country on 4 March.

Iulia Oltenau of Romania won the women’s 6km race. Chiemi Takahashi (5th in the Sevilla 99 10,000m), is generally considered the queen of Japanese cross country, for she has been the best Japanese at the Chiba Cross Country each year from 1996 to 1999, and the top Japanese finisher at the 1998 and 1999 World Cross Championships. So when Yoshiko Fujinaga finished ahead of Takahashi in Chiba on Sunday, to take second place behind Oltenau, it is understandable that Fujinaga was quite happy. But Yoshiko Fujinaga is no slouch either. She was third in the junior division of the 1999 World Cross Country Championships, and was 5th in the 3000m at the 1998 World Junior Championships.

In the men’s 8km, Samuel Kabiru of Kenya came from behind in the last 200m to pass Satoshi Irifune. Kabiru is a student of Sendai Ikue high school, and was born in 1983, but prefers to run in the senior division. This particular high school has a history of accepting students from Kenya. Sydney Olympians Esther Wajiru, 4th in the marathon, and Julius Gitahi, who was 9th at 5000m, are both graduates of Sendai Ikue high school. Kabiru is the latest Kenyan recruit, and at last year’s high school ekiden championships he covered the 10km stage in 28:45.

In the junior women’s 4km, Naoko Sakata won by two seconds from Tomomi Tagao. Sakata is one of the top high school runners in Japan, and was 5th in the junior division of the 1999 World Cross Country Championships as a sixteen year old. She has also placed third, first and second at 3000m in the national high school championships over the past three years. Tagao, a year younger than Sakata, was 20th at the 2000 World Cross Country championships as a sixteen year old. She was fourth at the 3000m in the 2000 national high school championships.

Results: JPN unless otherwise noted

Men’s 8km

1) Samuel Kabiru (KEN) 23:33
2) Satoshi Irifune 23:36
3) Nobuya Matsunaga 23:36
4) Daisaku Arakawa 23:37
5) Ken-ichiro Setoguchi 23:38
6) Yoji Yamaguchi 23:41

Women’s 6km

1) Iulia Olteanu (ROM) 19:26
2) Yoshiko Fujinaga 19:28
3) Chiemi Takahashi 19:36
4) Alina Tecuta-Gherasim (ROM) 19:37
5)     Mihaela Botezan (ROM) 19:40
6) Harumi Hiroyama 19:42

Junior Men’s 8km

1) Naoto Kato 24:14
2) Shuichi Fujii 24:18

Junior Women’s 4km

1) Naoko Sakata 12:51
2) Tomomi Tagao 12:53