Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya, who won the Chiba Cross Country race two weeks ago, was victorious at yesterday’s Fukuoka - IAAF permit - cross country meeting at the distance of 10Km in 29:20, while the Olympic 5000m champion Meseret Defar of Ethiopia won the women’s 6Km race in 19:16.
In the absence of Yuki and Hidekazu Sato, Satoru Kitamura won the junior men’s 8Km in 24:20 while Hitomi Niiya, a prohibitive favourite, was victorious in the women’s 6Km, as expected, in 20:04.
Although snow fell in Fukuoka the night before, it had all melted away by the race time, which turned the course into a mud bath.
Starting fast, Samuel Wanjiru of Kenya stretched out the men’s 10Km race early on, passing the first Km in 2:49. By 2Km (5:44), the lead pack was reduced to four runners – Terukazu Omori, John Yuda of Tanzania, Samuel Wanjiru and Yuki Nakamura, which was further reduced to three runners – Yuda, Wanjiru and Nakamura – by 3Km (8:42). Three continued to run together until 5Km (14:37) when Nakamura started to lose contact with Wanjiru and Yuda.
By 6Km (17:35), Nakamura was 10 seconds behind Yuda and Wanjiru, while Omori was another 20 seconds behind. Yuda and Wanjiru continued to run together, each taking turn in the front. Two Km later at 8Km (23:35), Omori got little closer, 20 seconds behind the leader.
“I knew Yuda was a strong runner, so I was worried during the last 2Km,” said Wanjiru after the race in Japanese.
Then 27:20 into the race, Wanjiru made a decisive move to run away from Yuda. “I was very happy when I broke away from him,” said Wanjiru who is a high school senior in Japan. Yuda finished second 9 seconds behind while Yuki Nakamura finished third. He was the first Japanese in the race, as he has in the Chiba Cross Country two weeks ago. “The fact that Omori was also running with the leaders really motivated me. I didn’t think I was going to be the first Japanese, so I am very happy,” said Nakamura. Two high school runners, Yuki Sato and Hidekazu Sato, finished ninth and tenth respectively.
After graduating from high school at the end of the month, Wanjiru will be joining the team of Toyota Kyushu and will run under the guidance of Koichi Morishita, an Olympic marathon silver medallist. “I would like to start training for the marathon in Kyushu,” concluded Wanjiru.
As in the men’s race, the lead pack was stretched out early in the women’s 6Km. The first Km was passed in 3:11. Soon after passing the second Km in 6:13, Ethiopia’s Meseret Defar broke away from the leaders. The chase pack included Evelyn Kimwei and Catherine Ndereba of Kenya, Kazue Ogoshi, Miwako Yamanaka and Yumi Sato.
Defar continued to lead while by 4Km Ndereba moved into a lone second place, 10 seconds behind Defar. Yumi Sato was in the third place. A Km later the Kazue Ogoshi replaced Sato in third place behind Defar and Ndereba.
But Defar was never challenged seriously, and won by 16 seconds in 19:16.
“Today, I have found that I can also run well in the cross country. This race will be good for my track race later in the season” said a happy Defar. “Now that I have seen the venue of the next year’s World Cross Country Championships, I can tell everything about it to my teammates after I return home.”
Finishing second in the race was the 2003 World Marathon champion Catherine Nderaba. “I had a little problem breathing in a cold weather, but otherwise everything was fine,” said Ndereba after the race.
Finishing third as the first Japanese in the race was Kazue Ogoshi, who said, “I was not even competitive, but I tried to chase the leaders hard. Since it was my first cross country race in a while, I figured it probably was better to run near the front.”
In the junior men’s race, Harumoto Kawano and Hiroyuki Ono, who finished third and fourth in the junior men’s race in the Chiba Cross Country finished second and third respectively in the Fukuoka Cross Country.
Ken Nakamura for the IAAF
With assistance by Akihiro Onishi
(weather at the start: rain 5.8C, 83%, wind 0.7m/s)
1) Samuel Wanjiru (KEN) 29:20
2) John Yuda (TAN) 29:29
3) Yuki Nakamura 29:50
4) Terudazu Omori 30:03
5) Ken-ichi Takahashi 30:11
6) Yuki Matsuoka 30:12
7) Hideaki Date 30:17
8) Masaru Takamizawa 30:21
9) Yuki Sato 30:23
10) Hidekazu Sato 30:24
1) Satoru Kitamura 24:20
2) Harutomo Kawano 24:35
3) Hiroyuki Ono 24:37
4) Tsuyoshi Ugachi 24:44
5) Kenji Higashino 24:50
6) Takahiro Mori 24:51
1) Meseret Defar (ETH) 19:16
2) Catherine Ndereba (KEN) 19:32
3) Kazuo Ogoshi 19:41
4) Yumi Sato 19:46
5) Miwako Yamanaka 19:49
6) Evelyn Kimwei (KEN) 19:51
7) Shiori Ishiyama 19:59
8) Yoshiko Ichikawa 20:10
1) Hitomi Niiya 20:04
2) Yurika Nakamura 20:06
3) Akane Wakita 20:08
4) Kazue Kojima 20:15
5) Yuri Suzuki 20:28
6) Terumi Takahashi 20:38