by Brett Larner
Team Daihatsu outran Team Wacoal for the regional title at the first West Japan Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Oct. 24 in Munakata, Kyushu. A combination of three previous regional qualifiers for December's National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships, West Japan was run on the same course as the former Kyushu Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden. With the influx of teams from two other regions, stage records fell on four of the six stages in the 42.195 km race.
Team Wacoal dominated the early parts of the race, leading for the first four stages thanks to stage record performances by First Stage runner Tomoka Inadomi and Third Stage runner Kayoko Fukushi. At the start of the 10.9 km Fifth Stage, the ekiden's longest, Wacoal was up by 37 seconds over Team Sysmex and 1:02 over Team Daihatsu. Fresh from the World Half Marathon, Daihatsu's Ryoko Kizaki then turned in a big run, taking the stage best in 35:50, well over a minute faster than the next-fastest runner on the stage, Wacoal's Noriko Higuchi, and setting the stage for a classic ekiden anchor leg.
Daihatsu anchor Chizuru Ideta began the 6.395 km final leg up just 13 seconds on Wacoal's Chihiro Takato. Ideta ran for her life, finishing just two seconds off the stage record in 21:09. Takato was hell-bent on catching Ideta and snatching back the lead. Despite setting a new stage record of 20:57, she came up an agonzing step short as she finished one second behind Ideta, with Team Daihatsu clocking 2:17:53 and Team Wacoal 2:17:54. Team Sysmex, empowered in part by the return of marathon national record holder Mizuki Noguchi to competition after nearly 2 1/2 years of injury, hung on for 3rd in 2:19:15, three seconds slower than Noguchi's national record. All three teams qualified for the National Ekiden.
In other noteworthy individual performances, the top seven athletes on the 6.7 km First Stage, led by Inadomi, all broke the previous stage record. Kenyan Sally Chepyego Kaptich (Team Kyudenko) set a stage record on the 3.5 km Second Stage, restricted by discriminatory regulations which limit non-Japanese athletes to the shortest stages in most major ekidens. Former 2:21 marathoner Naoko Sakamoto (Team Tenmaya), seemingly oblivious to overseas proclamations that her career is over, won the 4.2 km Fourth Stage in 13:28 just two weeks after a dismal showing at the Chicago Marathon and demonstrated that perhaps there is more than one way to have a career.
2010 West Japan Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden
click here for complete results
Stage Best Performances
First Stage (6.7 km) - Tomoka Inadomi (Team Wacoal) - 21:17 - CR (top seven broke CR)
Second Stage (3.5 km) - Sally Chepyego Kaptich (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 10:34 - CR
Third Stage (10.5 km) - Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) - 33:44 - CR
Fourth Stage (4.2 km) - Naoko Sakamoto (Team Tenmaya) - 13:28
Fifth Stage (10.9 km) - Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 35:50
Sixth Stage (6.395 km) - Chihiro Takato (Team Wacoal) - 20:57 - CR
Top Team Performances - 42.195 km
1. Team Daihatsu - 2:17:53
2. Team Wacoal - 2:17:54
3. Team Sysmex - 2:19:15
4. Team Tenmaya - 2:20:01
5. Team Otsuka Seiyaku - 2:20:23
6. Team Noritz - 2:20:46
7. Team Juhachi Ginko - 2:22:05
8. Team Kyocera - 2:22:37
9. Team Shikoku Denryoku - 2:22:45
10. Team Kyudenko - 2:23:24
(c) 2010 Brett Larner
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