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Kyoto Takes Back National Women's Ekiden Championship Title - Video Highlights

by Brett Larner

Click photo for video highlights.

Despite a slow start which saw it fall as low as 16th by the end of Third Stage, host Kyoto Prefecture did the expected, dismantling defending champion Okayama Prefecture to return to the top of the 2011 National Women's Interprefectural Ekiden Championships on Jan. 16. 2010's #2-ranked Japanese woman Ryoko Kizaki got Kyoto back in the game on the Fourth Stage, bringing Kyoto up to 6th. With strong runs on the next three stages including a new stage record of 12:39 by Nanako Kanno on the 4.0875 km Sixth Stage Kyoto advanced to 1st, leaving the door open for anchor and stage record holder Kayoko Fukushi to sail on unchallenged to the win. Despite being the only woman on the 10 km Ninth Stage to break 32 minutes Fukushi was so relaxed that she repeatedly laughed and waved to spectators on the course throughout the second half. Fukushi crossed the line in 2:17:06 to give Kyoto its 14th win in 29 editions of the National Women's Ekiden.

Although featuring primarily members of the 2010 national champion Tenmaya corporate team and 2010 national champion Kojokan high school team, Okayama finished only 2nd without a single stage best performance by one of its team members. Three Okayama runners took 2nd on their stages, but a weak performance by Second Stage runner Kaori Urata, beaten by two high schoolers, hurt the team's position heading into the middle stages. Sixth Stage runner Katsuki Suga was second on her leg behind Kyoto's Kanno but likewise broke the former stage record held by teammate Mahiro Akamatsu and helped to move Okayama into contention. Akamatsu dramatically underperformed on the Seventh Stage, finishing 40 seconds slower than she predicted and eliminating any chance of anchor Risa Shigetomo outrunning the superior Fukushi.

Expected 3rd-placers Hyogo Prefecture duelled with the unexpectedly strong Fukuoka Prefecture for the lead much of the way thanks in large part to a stage-record run by Hyogo's 1500 m NR holder Yuriko Kobayashi, but a disastrous turn by anchor Akane Wakita knocked the team down to 9th. Fukuoka was excellent in 3rd, leading early on after a stage win by Hanae Tanaka, the anchor of the International Chiba Ekiden-winning Japanese University Select Team. Chiba Prefecture and Nagasaki Prefecture came up to round out the top five thanks to outstanding anchor runs from Hitomi Niiya and Yoshiko Fujinaga.

The men's edition of the National Interprefectural Ekiden Championships takes place Jan. 23 in Hiroshima, featuring a 7-stage, 48.0 km course.

2011 National Women's Interprefectural Ekiden Championships
Jan. 16, Kyoto
9 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
click stage header for video highlights
First Stage - 6 km
1. Hanae Tanaka (Fukuoka/Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 19:41
2. Yurika Nakamura (Okayama/Team Tenmaya) - 19:42
3. Risa Takenaka (Shiga/Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 19:43


Second Stage - 4 km
1. Tomoka Kimura (Fukuoka/Chikushi Jyogakuen H.S.) - 12:22
2. Chikako Mori (Nagasaki/Isahaya H.S.) - 12:32
3. Kaori Urata (Okayama/Team Tenmaya) - 12:38


Third Stage - 3 km
1. Hanami Sekine (Tokyo/Kanai J.H.S.) - 9:21
2. Yuka Kobayashi (Tochigi/Nakamura J.H.S.) - 9:23
3. Saori Imamura (Kanagawa/Kamisugesta J.H.S.) - 9:32

Fourth Stage - 4 km
1. Yuriko Kobayashi (Hyogo/Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 12:41 - CR
2. Ryoko Kizaki (Kyoto/Team Daihatsu) - 12:52
3. Kazuka Wakatsuki (Fukuoka/Team Toto) - 12:53

Fifth Stage - 4.1075 km
1. Mutsumi Ikeda (Hyogo/Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 13:26
1. Erina Maki (Kyoto/Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 13:26
3. Mao Kiyota (Aichi/Chukyo Prep H.S.) - 13:32

Sixth Stage - 4.0875 km
1. Nanako Kanno (Kyoto/Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 12:39 - CR
2. Katsuki Suga (Okayama/Kojokan H.S.) - 12:40 (CR)
3. Rina Yonetsu (Kanagawa/Hadano H.S.) - 13:06

Seventh Stage - 4 km
1. Ayano Ikeuchi (Kyoto/Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 12:35
2. Mahiro Akamatsu (Okayama/Kojokan H.S.) - 12:51
3. Shiori Yano (Fukuoka/Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S.) - 12:52

Eighth Stage - 3 km
1. Ayaka Nakagawa (Saitama/Asaka Dai-San J.H.S.) - 10:02
2. Yoshie Inoue (Fukuoka/Toho J.H.S.) - 10:25
3. Yui Shiokawa (Shizuoka/Fujimiya Dai-San J.H.S.) - 10:27
3. Kanna Tamaki (Nagano/Kawanakajima J.H.S.) - 10:27

Ninth Stage - 10 km
1. Kayoko Fukushi (Kyoto/Team Wacoal) - 31:53
2. Risa Shigetomo (Okayama/Team Tenmaya) - 32:13
3. Hitomi Niiya (Chiba/Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 32:22

Top Team Performances
1. Kyoto - 2:17:16
2. Okayama - 2:18:07
3. Fukuoka - 2:19:00
4. Chiba - 2:19:21
5. Nagasaki - 2:19:38
6. Aichi - 2:19:48
7. Kanagawa - 2:19:49
8. Kumamoto - 2:19:52
9. Hyogo - 2:20:03
10. Osaka - 2:21:08

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

TokyoRacer said…
I just love Fukushi. Whether she runs poorly or great, she always has a good time.
I'll never forget her answer to an interviewer's typical question: What you are plans for the future?
She said: I'm going to drink a lot of beer tonight.
yuza said…
Yamagata finished 30th, or thereabouts, but it is okay because they managed to beat bitter rivals Akita.

In your face Akita. We do not get very excited about much other than rice here in Tohoku.

Brett, any idea if Fukushi is going to enter a marathon this year? It does not appear likely, but I can live in hope.
Brett Larner said…
Yeah, that's the kind of talk I like to hear.

No particular reason to think so, but I have the feeling Fukushi will do a serious marathon this spring. I think a lot of things in 2010 pointed that way. I would be very surprised if she didn't go for the marathon for '12, and it would be a little surprising if she didn't start this time around. But at the same time it wouldn't be that surprising if she never seriously moved up.

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