The Japanese team for the 33rd World Cross Country Championships was selected from the top finishers of the recent IAAF Cross Country Permit races in Chiba (20 Feb) and the Fukuoka (6 Mar).
Junior medal success
Historically the junior teams have done much better than their senior counterpart. In fact, the junior women’s team has won the team medal for ten consecutive years until 2002 and again in 2004. Japan did not send a junior team in 2003.
The best runner in the women’s junior team is the fast improving Hitomi Niiya who has just turned seventeen. In the 2004 national high school ekiden championships, Niiya recorded 18:53 for the uphill 6Km stage, shattering the record held by Yoshiko Fujinaga, who was third in the 1999 World Cross Country junior race. Niiya won both Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country races and has the 5000m best of 15:49.15. She is expected to improve her 19th place finish from Brussels. Other rising stars on the team are Yuuri Suzuki, who was second in Chiba Cross Country and Akane Wakita, who was 4th and 3rd in Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country respectively. They stayed with Niiya longest in Chiba.
Because of two super stars, Hideaki Sato and Yuki Sato, the men’s junior team is much stronger than last year, when the team finished fifth in Brussels. Hideaki is a national high school record (13:39.87) holder at 5000m, while Yuki is a national high school record (28:07.39) holder at 10000m. Last year, Hidekazu was the best Japanese in the junior men’s race, finishing 17th in Brussels. Harutomo Kawano, who won both the 1500m and 3000m at the national junior high school championships is the latest rising star. As a freshman he was fourth in the most competitive stage one of the high school ekiden championships. Satoru Kitamura, who was 24th last year in Brussels, has improved 10,000m best to 28:12.81.
Turning the attention to the seniors, Miwako Yamanaka, who was 4th in the 2002 World Cross Country Championships is re-gaining her old form. Yamanaka recorded the second fastest 6Km stage time (19:15) at the 2005 Inter-Prefecture Ekiden. She won the Chiba Cross Country, while her teammate at Daihatsu track team, Kazue Ogoshi was third, the first Japanese, in the Fukuoka Cross Country. The 10,000m best for Ogoshi and Yamanaka are 31:24.00 and 31:32.10 respectively.
Two rising stars in the men’s senior team are Yuki Nakamura and Terukazu Omori, who were first and second Japanese at both Chiba and Fukuoka Cross Country races. Omori, who recorded 27:43.94 for the 10,000m also won the Lake Biwa Cross Country in 2004. More recently, he passed 29 runners and recorded the stage record (23:26 for 8.5Km) in the 2005 Inter-Prefecture Ekiden. Yuki Nakamura, a team-mate of Toshinari Takaoka, is known for his blazing kick.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF