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Watch the National Women's Ekiden Championships Live Online - Preview

by Brett Larner

The 2011 National Women's Interprefectural Ekiden Championships take place this Sunday, Jan. 16, in Kyoto. With each of Japan's 47 prefectures fielding a team made up of runners from the top pro, university, high school and junior high school teams the Interprefectural Ekiden is the de facto national distance running championship and offers an interesting cross-section of who is who at all domestic levels of the sport. The race is broadcast live nationwide and commercial-free on NHK beginning at 12:15 p.m. Japan time. Overseas viewers should be able to watch via Keyhole TV using the password NHK.

Host Kyoto has long been the dominant force at the Interprefectural Ekiden, winning every year from 2005-2009 and taking a total of 13 wins in the ekiden's 28-year history, more than any other prefecture. Last year Okayama dethroned Kyoto, taking its first-ever win. This year Kyoto and Okayama are again the clear-cut favorites. Okayama returns with a team made up of star members of 2010 National Corporate champions Team Tenmaya and 2010 National High School champions Kojokan H.S. including Kaori Urata, Yuka Izumi, Yurika Nakamura, Katsuki Suga, Miyuki Oka and Mahiro Akamatsu. These six of Okayama's nine runners figure among the top entrants on their stages, making the defending champions a formidable challenge.

It's a challenge for which Kyoto appears ready, however. With the two best individual pro women of 2010, Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) and Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu), top pro rookie Kazue Kojima (Team Toyota Jidoshoki), #1-ranked university woman Kasumi Nishihara (Bukkyo Univ.) and national team-level twins Moe and Haruka Kyuma (Ayabe H.S.) making up the core of its roster Kyoto likewise has six of its nine runners among the best of their stages. Going by PBs and performances throughout the fall season Kyoto has a clear edge over Okayama and should successfully return to the top. Look for Kizaki and Nishihara to give Kyoto a lead over Okayama on the first two stages, Okayama to make up ground on the short middle stages, and then for Fukushi, running for Kyoto rather than her hometown Aomori for the first time in five years, to bring Kyoto back to the front on the anchor leg.

Beyond the two leaders, look for the Hyogo, Aichi and Kanagawa teams to be in contention for 3rd. Hyogo, a three-time winner, has a tremendous advantage in the presence of Second Stage record holder and 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshoki), who returns to the Second Stage after a 2010 that saw her mostly sidelined with injury. Aichi is led by the talented Nanaka Izawa (Juntendo Univ.) who should have a good shot at taking the Sixth Stage record set last year by Okayama's Mahiro Akamatsu (Kojokan H.S.) if she can beat Akamatsu herself. Kanagawa prominently features 1500 m national champion Mika Yoshikawa (Team Panasonic), who will face Kobayashi, Nishihara and Urata on the Second Stage. One other runner who deserves special mention is national collegiate 10000 m record holder Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) who will run the anchor Ninth Stage for her native Kumamoto prefecture rather than the Kyoto team where Bukkyo is based.

2011 National Women's Interprefectural Ekiden Championships
Entry List Highlights
Jan. 16, Kyoto
9 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete entry lists
bib numbers: team - stage

First Stage - 6 km (pro/univ.)
stage record: 18:44 - Miwako Yamanaka (Nara/Team Daihatsu), 2003
25-1. Risa Takenaka (Shiga/Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:24.99
40-1. Hanae Tanaka (Fukuoka/Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:27.55
2-1. Miho Notagashira (Aomori/Team Wacoal) - 15:31.27
26-1. Ryoko Kizaki (Kyoto/Team Daihatsu) - 15:35.12
37-1. Shoko Mori (Tokushima/Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 15:35.12
38-1. Ayuko Suzuki (Aichi/Nagoya Univ.) - 15:37.83
43-1. Seika Nishikawa (Kumamoto/Team Sysmex) - 15:38.22

Second Stage - 4 km (pro/univ.)
stage record: 12:07 - Yuriko Kobayashi (Hyogo/Team Toyota Jidoshoki), 2009
28-2. Yuriko Kobayashi (Hyogo/Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 15:05.37
26-2. Kasumi Nishihara (Kyoto/Bukkyo Univ.) - 15:25.50
14-2. Mika Yoshikawa (Kanagawa/Team Panasonic) - 15:28.44
33-2. Kaori Urata (Okayama/Team Tenmaya) - 15:31.47

Third Stage - 3 km (J.H.S.)
stage record: 9:11 - Yui Takahashi (Yamagata/Tobishima J.H.S.), 2004
11-3. Ayaka Nakagawa (Saitama/Asaka San J.H.S.) - 9:22.54
28-3. Yuki Honbo (Hyogo/Amuro J.H.S.) - 9:26.87
14-3. Saori Imamura (Kanagawa/Kamisugita J.H.S.) - 9:27.18

Fourth Stage - 4 km (open)
stage record: 12:43 - Mari Ozaki (Kyoto/Team Noritz), 2006
33-4. Yuka Izumi (Okayama/Team Tenmaya)- 15:25.68
26-4. Kazue Kojima (Kyoto/Team Toyota Jidoshoki) - 15:35.87
11-4. Michi Numata (Saitama/Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:41.00

Fifth Stage - 4.1075 km (H.S.)
stage record: 12:53 - Taeko Igarashi (Miyagi/Sendai Ikuei H.S.), 1995
26-5. Moe Kyuma (Kyoto/Ayabe H.S.) - 9:09.75
33-5. Katsuki Suga (Okayama/Kojokan H.S.) - 9:11.63
44-5. Saori Makishima (Oita/Oita Nishi H.S.) - 9:12.14

Sixth Stage - 4.0875 km (open)
stage record: 12:42 - Mahiro Akamatsu (Okayama/Kojokan H.S.), 2010
38-6. Nanaka Izawa (Aichi/Juntendo Univ.) - 9:08.44
33-6. Mahiro Akamatsu (Okayama/Kojokan H.S.) - 9:11.06
44-6. Ayumi Takada (Oita/Canon AC Kyushu) - 9:11.98
26-6. Haruka Kyuma (Kyoto/Ayabe H.S.) - 9:12.06

Seventh Stage - 4 km (H.S./univ.)
stage record: 12:21 - Kazue Kojima (Kyoto/Ritsumeikan Univ.), 2007
46-7. Misuzu Nakahara (Kagoshima/Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 9:15.04
28-7. Risa Yokoe (Hyogo/Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 9:15.70
33-7. Miyuki Oka (Okayama/Kojokan H.S.) - 9:18.23
36-7. Mao Kiyota (Aichi/Chukyo Prep H.S.) - 9:18.30

Eighth Stage - 3 km (J.H.S.)
stage record: 9:41 - Moe Kyuma (Kyoto/Ayabe J.H.S.), 2009
28-8. Nana Yoshijima (Hyogo/Arai J.H.S.) - 9:34.88
13-8. Hanami Sekine (Tokyo/Kanai J.H.S.) - 9:36.31
14-8. Maho Matsumoto (Kanagawa/Midorigaoka J.H.S.) - 9:36.99

Ninth Stage - 10 km (pro/univ.)
stage record: 30:52 - Kayoko Fukushi (Aomori/Team Wacoal), 2004
26-9. Kayoko Fukushi (Kyoto/Team Wacoal) - 30:51.81
43-9. Hikari Yoshimoto (Kumamoto/Bukkyo Univ.) - 31:30.92
33-9. Yurika Nakamura (Okayama/Team Tenmaya) - 31:31.95
13-9. Yuri Kano (Tokyo/Second Wind AC) - 31:53.07
10-9. Remi Nakazato (Gunma/Team Daihatsu) - 31:53.22

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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