Skip to main content

Morinomiyako Ekiden Preview: Kojima and Nishihara - Watch Online

by Brett Larner

While the popularity and prestige of the Hakone Ekiden has concentrated Japan's university men's distance talent within the Tokyo-centered Kanto Region, women's university runners are more geographically dispersed. If there is one stronghold it must be the Kansai Region around Kyoto and Osaka, home of the dominant Ritsumeikan University women's team and their cross-town rivals Bukkyo University. The two schools meet again this weekend at the six-stage, 38.6 km Morinomiyako Ekiden, the first of the season's two national university women's ekidens.

Ritsumeikan is the three-time defending Morinomiyako champion and has qualified more than any other school in the field, running in the last twenty of Morinomiyako's twenty seven editions. Ritsumeikan's winning streak exactly coincides with the career of its ace runner Kazue Kojima. Kojima is the best university runner of her generation, a multiple national champion who has never lost an ekiden stage. Now a senior, she is preparing to lead Ritsumeikan on to a fourth title supported by talented younger teammates Michi Numata, Risa Takenaka and others. After a flat spring and summer Kojima comes to the Morinomiyako Ekiden having won the national university 10000 m title in September, but she isn't going to simply walk away with her crown untarnished. Also in the field is Bukkyo University star Kasumi Nishihara.

Nishihara has been on a steady upward trajectory over the last year. After an impressive ekiden season last year, in the spring she cracked Kojima's 5000 m PB, took World Championships marathoner and Ritsumeikan alumna Yuri Kano's 5000 m meet record away at the Kansai Regional University Track and Field Championships and won the Kyoto City Half Marathon. She then went on to win the gold medal in the half marathon at the summer's World University Games before beating Kojima out for silver in the World University Games 5000 m. She beat Kojima again to win the national university 5000 m in September. The list goes on and on, but the point is that she is ready to go. Bukkyo will be hard-pressed to bridge the 1:15 gap to Ritsumeikan from last year's Morinomiyako Ekiden, but Nishihara is no doubt focused on doing her part. In a perfect race the two would race head to head, but Ritsumeikan tends to put Kojima on the longest leg, at Morinomiyako the 9.1 km 3rd stage, wheres Bukkyo uses Nishihara almost exclusively as anchor.

If another team is going to be a factor it will likely be Meijo University. Last year Meijo was 3rd, only 39 seconds behind runner-up Bukkyo. Tamagawa University is the best bet for a contender from the Kanto Region thanks to the re-emergence of team leader Takumi Komiya from a year of injury. Question marks rest upon Nihon University and Josai University, which are heavily dependent on the strengths of their ringers Natsuko Goto and Yui Sakai. Goto has been strong all year, but the talented Sakai has struggled and been a non-factor since last winter.

The Morinomiyako Ekiden takes place Sunday, Oct. 25 in Sendai and will be broadcast live nationwide on Nihon TV from 11:45 a.m. to 2:35 p.m. Nihon TV will also show a special one-hour preview program on Saturday the 24th at 10:30 a.m. International viewers should be able to watch online for free through the site linked here.

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Daniel and Kawauchi Win Saitama International Marathon

After missing a medal by 3 seconds at August's London World Championships, defending champ Flomena Cheyech Daniel (Kenya) made it two in a row as she won a tight battle against Shitaye Habtegebrel (Bahrain) to win the Saitama International Marathon in 2:28:39.

With the onus on Japanese women Reia Iwada (Dome) and Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) to break 2:29:00 in order to qualify for Japan's new-format 2020 Olympic trials race, the pair of them did most of the heavy lifting for the first two-thirds of the race. Yoshida led the early kilometers before Iwade took over, and through strong head and tailwinds, over rolling hills and around sharp turns Iwade kept things moving just under target pace, shaking the pack down to just her, Daniel, Habtegebrel and relative unknown Bekelech Daba (Ethiopia) by 15 km.

Little changed up front until after the lead group hit the start of the hilliest 10 km on the course after 25 km. For the first time Iwade slipped to the rear of the pack, and on a …

Ekiden Weekend Roundup

Ekiden season is in full swing, and across the country it was another busy weekend. Although there were four major ekidens nationwide, the best action came as runners from high school to the pros tuned up for the string of national championship ekiden races stretching from the end of this month to mid-January. At Kanagawa's Nittai University Time Trials meet, two-time steeplechase junior world champion Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu) pipped 5000 m junior world championships bronze medalist William Malel (Honda) at the line in the 10000 m A-heat, winning in 27:22.73 to Malel's 27:22.79. Four other Kenyans including Ndiku's junior teammate Richard Kimunyan broke 28 minutes as their coaches eye who to run at the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden.



Evans Yego of the tiny Sunbelx supermarket team won the more conservative 5000 m A-heat in 13:48.04, a race most notable for high schoolers Luka Musembi (Sendai Ikuei H.S.), Masato Suzuki (Suijo H.S.) and Reito Hanzawa (Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.) …

Breaking Down the Best-Ever Japanese Marathon Times By Country

Japanese marathoners these days have the reputation of rarely racing abroad, and of rarely racing well when they do. Back in the day that wasn't true; Japanese marathoners have won all the World Marathon Majors-to-be except New York, and two of the three Japanese men to have run 2:06 and all three women to have run 2:19 did it outside Japan. Whatever the extent to which things did turn inward along the way, the last few years have seen an uptick in Japanese runners going farther afield and running better there than any others before them.

The lists above and below show the fastest times run by Japanese athletes in different countries to 2:20:00 for men and 2:45:00 for women. Japanese men have run sub-2:20 marathons in 37 countries around the world including Japan, with Japanese women having cleared 2:45 in 33 countries including at home. Breaking it down by IAAF label times, more Japanese men have run label standard times abroad, but women have typically performed at a higher label…