I am writing this at 3:30 AM my time because I just bolted up from a deep sleep with the realization that a little more than 12 hours ago I may have attended something HUGE! So I 'just' did some internet research and believe that we present at this race may have witnessed the rarest of xc meets in that the #1 university 'XC' team of America just raced the #1 university 'DISTANCE' team of Japan! Maybe the greatest international 'collegiate' xc race ever!? Northern Arizona University versus Tokai University of Japan, which I "just discovered" is the current victorious Japanese university of the hallowed and prestigious Hakone Ekiden!!!!!!!!
Concerning the men's race, initially, we spectators came to watch a 'very' low key early season 4.5mi xc race with NAU, Arizona Christian Univ, Pima CC, and some unattached/club runners. However, the atmosphere became "suddenly and obviously" more intense among the spectators and runners about 10 minutes before the 1:30pm start time! The 'reason' for the dramatic change in the meet's tenseness rippled through the crowd: a Japanese university team was a late team entrant and was seriously intent on racing NAU! What?!! Japanese runners?! They will try to beat NCAA #1 NAU?! What?! A Japanese university team is here? Yes! And it turned into a real serious fight for the win from the gun! An apparently impromptu 7000ft altitude oxygen-starved gut wrencher of a race! Scored as an American style "dual meet", NAU won this exhilarating hard fought battle with a score of 25-30. Times in this 'early' season opener were excellent, especially knowing that you can take off about 14sec per mile for that 4.5mi race distance at 7000 feet altitude (use NCAA altitude calculator and extrapolate for 4.5mi). The winner averaged 4:52/mi, which can be justifiably and arguably converted/extrapolated to 4:38/mi! Much praise to the talented and courageous Tokai University runners since it would be interesting to see how this race would have turned out "if" run at 'sea level' instead of 7000ft. Maybe an annual international 'collegiate' xc race among several nations would be a fascinating event?!