by Brett Larner
The last race of the year for university women is the National University Women’s Invitational Ekiden, a relatively young event in Tsukuba, Ibaraki prefecture with six stages covering 30.67 km. Titan Ritsumeikan University has won every year the National Ekiden has been held. This year is the final time the team’s star Kazue Kojima will wear the school’s uniform in an ekiden, one last race to complete an undefeated stage record for her university career.
Earlier in the season Ritsumeikan looked unbeatable, running better than ever at October’s Morinomiyako Ekiden, but they were easily beaten by rivals Bukkyo University, led by the talented Kasumi Nishihara. After placing 2nd by just 3 seconds at last year’s Nationals Bukkyo looks set to break Ritsumeikan’s stranglehold on the national title. Nishihara has been dealing with injuries throughout the fall and may not be in condition to challenge Kojima, but her team overall is strong, tough and ready.
There are of course more than these two schools in the National Ekiden, but realistically none stand a hope of challenging the two big ones up front. Last year’s 3rd placer Meijo University is again the best hope for the 3rd position.
The National University Women’s Invitational Ekiden will be broadcast on TV Tokyo at 4:00 p.m. on Dec. 27. Overseas viewers should be able to watch online for free using the Keyhole TV software available here.
© 2009 Brett Larner
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