Kenya’s William Sitonik was victorious in one of the deepest 10,000m races of the year, winning at the Hachioji Long Distance meeting on Saturday (28).
But for the enthusiastic local crowd, the biggest story came from the athletes in third and fourth position as both Kota Murayama and Tetsuya Yoroizaka bettered the long-standing Japanese record.
The race represented an ideal opportunity for athletes wanting to achieve the Olympic qualifying mark of 28:00 before 2016 gets under way. Along with Japan’s best distance runners, there was also a large Kenyan contingent entered for the ‘A’ race, as well as a handful of Ethiopians.
Conditions were a little chilly, but the opening pace was healthy as Sitonik led the field through 1000m in 2:43 and 2000m in 5:27. At this point, Yorozoika was the only Japanese man in the lead pack, but the chasers were not too far behind.
With 8:12 on the clock at 3000m, Murayama was gradually moving closer to the lead group. 4000m was passed in 10:54 as Murayama finally joined about 11 other men in the lead pack. He was one of three Japanese men, along with Yorozoika and Yuta Shitara, who were on pace for the national record.
Sitonik, the 2011 world youth 3000m champion, had a clear lead at half way, which he passed in 13:37. The rest of the leaders were about six seconds behind and the pack soon began to break apart with Shitara drifting back.
The pace remained steady through 6000m in 16:27 and 21:52 at 8000m with Sitonik about 11 seconds in front of Murayama and Yorozoika, both of whom were still on national record pace.
Murayama put in a surge going into the final kilometre with Yorozoika close behind. With one lap left to run, Sitonik was away and clear out in front while Yorozoika edged ahead of his compatriot.
Sitonik crossed the line in a PB of 27:22.12 with fellow Kenyan Johana Maina taking second place in 27:26.92.
Yorozoika was in third place coming off the final bend, but Murayama proved to have the stronger kick as he drew level down the home straight. In a mad dash for the line, Murayama took third place – and the national record – in 27:29.69, just five hundredths of a second in front of Yorozoika.
Murayama’s time – a personal best by 43 seconds – took more than five seconds off the previous Japanese record of 27:35.09, set by Toshinari Takaoka in 2001.
Having represented Japan in the 5000m at the IAAF World Championships Beijing 2015, Murayama could now turn his attention to the longer distance for the Rio 2016 Olympics. He may even end up being joined on the team by twin brother Kenta, who finished 22nd in that event in Beijing.
Meanwhile, Yorozoika’s performance was bittersweet. Although it was a personal best by nine seconds, and was half a minute inside the Olympic qualifying standard, it was the second time this year he had missed out on a national record. Back in July, he clocked 13:12.62 over 5000m, which would have been a national record had Suguru Osako not finished a few seconds ahead of him in that same race.
In total, 17 men bettered the Olympic qualifying standard in the Hachioji ‘A’ race. The first six men across the line all set personal bests.
Jon Mulkeen (with info from Brett Larner) for the IAAF