Cross Country race - general view (Getty Images) © Copyright
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Japanese World XC selection firms up over ‘Power’ and ‘Camel’ hills - Fukuoka Cross Country

The 24th Fukuoka International Cross Countryan IAAF XC Permit – took place today (27) in Fukuoka, Japan, and was basically a domestic affair as the hosts Japan selected their team ahead of next month’s 38th IAAF World Cross Country Championships.

College runners excelled in the races, which were contested over the same course as the 2006 World Cross Country Championships.

The winner of both the men and women’s race are still in college. In the men’s 10Km race, Tetsuya Yoroizaka out-sprinted Akinobu Murasawa to finish first in 29:04, two seconds ahead of Murasawa; they are both freshmen.

“I was not in good shape, but I was able to stay with the leader and then run very well in the closing stage of the race,” said satisfied Yoroizaka, who was the first Japanese in the Chiba Cross Country. He thus should be selected for the World Cross team. The second place Murasawa was disappointed. He said, “This is the first time Yoroizaka beat me.” 

In the women’s 6Km, Kazue Kojima out-sprinted Freya Murray of Great Britain and won by a second with 19:32. Kojima thus improved her fifth place finish in Chiba Cross Country. Seven second behind Murray was Hitomi Niiya, who was second in Chiba Cross Country.
Nanako Izawa, as expected, won the junior women’s race, while Kenyan high school student from Fukuoka Dai-ichi High school Steven Njeri won the junior men’s race. Kazuto Nishiike, Chiba Cross Country winner, closed the gap well in the end and finished close second. Like Izawa, Nishiike should be selected for the world cross team.

Men’s 10Km 

A huge pack led by Yuki Sato passed 1Km in 2:49. After going through 2km in 5:35, by 3Km the lead pack, led by the defending champion Joseph Birech of Kenya and Akinobu Murasawa, a junior runner (he will turn 19 in March), was reduced to 10 runners. The second lap (2Km) was covered in 5:50 and the third lap in 5:55. Going in the fourth lap, Sato surged followed by Tetsuya Yoroizaka and Birech.  By 7Km, the lead pack was reduced to seven runners. Then at the start of the fourth lap Hiroyoshi Umegae 3000m cteeplechaser made a decisive move and opened the gap on Birech and Murasawa by the big hill (elevation gain of 6m) named ‘Power Hill.’ They were followed by Sato and Yoroizaka. The fourth lap was covered in 5:50. And at the beginning of the big hill in the fifth lap, both Murasawa and Yoroizaka passed Umegae. The lead pack was now down to three. Sato and Birech were left behind. Murasawa continued to push the pace and soon only Yoroizaka was able to stay close.  After passing 9Km in 26:12, the race was decided by the kick and Yoroizaka was faster at the end. He won by two seconds.  

Women’s 6Km

After a huge pack passed 1Km in 3:15, in the middle part of the race, Freya Murray of Great Britain led the race, followed by Hitomi Niiya and Yuko Shimizu. Twelve runners were still together with 2Km to go, at which point Murray increase the pace and only four runners were able to follow closely. Over ‘Power Hill,’ Murray started to break away.  Soon the chase pack of four led by Kazue Kojima was reduced to three. And from this pack of three, Kojima broke away and she started to close the gap on Murray. Eighteen minutes into the race, Kojima caught Murray. Then over the three humps named “Camel Hill” Kojima took the lead and held on for the win by a second.

Junior men’s 8Km

The race was contested over the four laps around the 2Km loop course. Kenyan student in Fukuoka Dai-ichi high school Steven Njeri went into the lead immediately and slowly increased his lead over his pursuers. At one time, he led by more than 20 seconds, but in the final lap Kazuto Nishiike broke away from the chase pack and started to chase Njeri. Although Nishiike really closed well in the last few hundred meters, he fell short by three seconds. 

Junior women’s 6Km

A large pack of 14 runners stayed together after two of the three 2Km loops. In the next Km one runner was dropped. Erika Ikeda made her move first with 900m to go, but was not able to shake off her pursuers. The race was decided in the last 200m when Nanaka Izawa moved ahead and won by one second but convincingly. 

Ken Nakamura for the IAAF

Weather:  temperature: 12.5C; humidity: 69%; wind: 6.2m/s North


Junior men’s 8Km
1. Steven Njeri (KEN 23:20
2. Kazuto Nishiike 23:23
3. Yuta Shitara 23:32
4. Shun Osako 23:32
5. Takashi Ichida  23:33
6. Hirotaka Tamura 23:35
7. Shun Morozumi 23:40

Junior women’s 6Km
1. Nakako Izawa  19:50
2. Yuka Ando 19:51
3. Minori Suzuki 19:52
4. Akane Sueyoshi 19:52
5. Haruka Kyuma 19:54
6. Erika Ikeda 19:54
7. Moe Kyuma 19:54

Men 10Km
1. Tetsuya Yoroizak  29:04
2. Akinobu Murasawa  29:06
3. Hiroyoshi Umegae  29:11
4. Yuki Sato  29:15
5. Joseph Birech (KEN)  29:18 
6. Kazuya Deguchi  29:24
7. Yusuke Takabayashi 29:30

Women 6Km
1. Kazue Kojima 19:32
2. Freya Murray (GBR)  19:33
3. Hitomi Niiya  19:40
4. Risa Takenaka  19:45
5. Yuko Shimizu  19:46
6. Yuko Mizuguchi 19:47
7. Machi Tanaka 19:48
8. Mika Yoshikawa  19:50