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Shibui Slays Tenmaya for Kita-Kyushu Invitational Win

by Brett Larner

You can't keep a great champion down. Mostly absent from competition with injuries and motivation issues for the two years since winning the 2009 Osaka International Women's Marathon, 10000 m national record holder Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) looked well on her way to staging the nth comeback of a career full of ups and downs Jan. 23 at the Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden, the last major women's ekiden of the season. Starting the 11.7 km anchor leg 47 seconds back from leader Yurika Nakamura of 2010 National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden winners Team Tenmaya, Shibui virtually singlehandedly won the race as she finished the stage 48 seconds ahead in 1st. Although she was far from the stage record, Shibui also took the best time on the stage by 15 seconds over 2010 Nagoya International Women's Marathon winner Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC), clocking 37:12.

Before Shibui's outstanding performance Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo was running 4th in the field of 29 pro, university and high school teams including the 2010 national champions at all three levels. The race appeared to be between Team Tenmaya, which led through the First Stage after a strong opening run from Rei Ohara, and Team Kyudenko, which took the lead on the Second Stage thanks to Kenyan Sally Chepyego. Kyudenko's Mika Okunaga, in her final tuneup for next weekend's Osaka International Women's Marathon, took the stage best on the Third Stage to keep her team in the lead, while further back local girl Kasumi Todaka (Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S.) overtook Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo's Eri Sato to move into 3rd. Tenmaya's Kaori Urata took the best time on the Fourth Stage to move back into the lead, while high schooler Ayano Ikeuchi (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) was only one second slower, clocking a new H.S. stage record of 19:06 for the 5.9 km leg to replace Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S. in 3rd.

While Shibui blew out the 11.7 km open division anchor leg, the high schoolers split the stage into two shorter distances, 4.9 km and 6.8 km. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. was assured of the win thanks to a stage best by Nanami Aoki on the shorter Fifth Stage. On the H.S. anchor stage 2010 national champion Kojokan H.S.' Katsuki Suga, fresh from a stage record at last weekend's National Interprefectural Women's Ekiden, rocked another stage record by 26 seconds, 20:00 for 6.8 km.

At December's National Jitsugyodan Women's Ekiden Championships Shibui said that her decent run had been a lot of fun and had reawoken her urge for the marathon. Following her first-rate Kita-Kyushu Invitational performance Shibui announced that she will make a return to the marathon at next month's Tokyo Marathon alongside teammate Reiko Tosa's return from childbirth. Nakamura, who ran over 1 1/2 minutes slower than Shibui, likewise announced plans for a spring marathon, returning to the site of her debut marathon victory at March's Nagoya International Women's Marathon.

2011 Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden
Jan. 23, Kita-Kyushu
Open Division
5 stages, 32.8 km
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
First Stage - 4.2 km
1. Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya) - 13:17
2. Kazuka Wakatsuki (Team Toto) - 13:20
3. Hanae Tanaka (Kita-Kyushu Select Team) - 13:23

Second Stage - 5.9 km
1. Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 18:24
2. Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) - 19:01
3. Yoshika Arai (Team Deodeo) - 19:35

Third Stage - 5.1 km
1. Mika Okunaga (Team Kyudenko) - 16:44
2. Mayumi Fujita (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 16:47
3. Eri Sato (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 16:48

Fourth Stage - 5.9 km
1. Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya) - 19:05
2. Ikuyo Yamashita (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 19:19
3. Madoki Ogi (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 19:31

Fifth Stage - 11.7 km
1. Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 37:12
2. Yuri Kano (Second Wind AC) - 37:27
3. Chieko Kido (Canon AC Kyushu) - 37:59

Top Team Results - 32.8 km
1. Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo - 1:46:40
2. Team Tenmaya - 1:47:28
3. Team Kyudenko - 1:47:48
4. Team Juhachi Ginko - 1:48:30
5. Canon AC Kyushu - 1:49:56

High School Division
6 stages, 32.8 km
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
First Stage - 4.2 km - Mika Kobayashi (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 13:27
Second Stage - 5.9 km - Shiori Yano (Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S.) - 19:03

Third Stage - 5.1 km - Kasumi Todaka (Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S.) - 16:47
Fourth Stage - 5.9 km - Ayano Ikeuchi (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 19:06 - CR
Fifth Stage - 4.9 km - Nanami Aoki (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 16:04
Sixth Stage - 6.8 km - Katsuki Suga (Kojokan H.S.) - 20:00 - CR


Top Team Results - 32.8 km
1. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. - 1:46:50
2. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. - 1:47:28
3. Kojokan H.S. - 1:48:21
4. Isahaya H.S. - 1:49:50
5. Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S. - 1:51:11


(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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