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Mizuki Noguchi Wins W. Japan Ekiden Stage, Will Run Osaka International Women's Marathon

by Brett Larner

note: International travel resulted in a delay to posting these results.  Apologies.

Three big road races produced noteworthy results across Japan over the past weekend.  At last year's Takashimadaira Road Race 20 km, the completely unknown Takehiro Deki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) exploded onto the Kanto region university men's distance scene by tying the course record of 58:51 while winning by a margin of 1:30.  This year as a more established name Deki successfully repeated, winning Takashimadaira again in warm conditions in 59:44 by a margin of 1:13.  Veteran Yoshimi Hoshino (eAthletes AC) took her fifth win in the women's division, running 1:15:12, while five-time women's 10 km division winner Maki Inami (Kita AC) made it six as she won in 34:50.  Komazawa University graduate Akinori Iida (Team Honda) won the men's 10 km in 29:59.

Further north in Sendai, Ritsumeikan University scored a major upset as it beat rival and defending champion Bukkyo University to win the Morinomiyako Ekiden, the national university women's ekiden championships.  Talented senior Risa Takenaka got Ritsumeikan off on the right foot with a soaring 18:16 stage record on the 5.8 km First Stage.  As with Komazawa University at the recent Izumo Ekiden, pre-race favorite Bukkyo fell victim to a bad run from its star new recruit, in Bukkyo's case Risa Shibuya who finished 14th on the First Stage 1:28 behind Takenaka.  Like Komazawa, Bukkyo spent the rest of the race trying to work its way out of the hole but despite stage bests from Hikari Yoshimoto and Chinami Mori only ended up earning 10 seconds as it finished the six-stage, 38.6 km course in 2:07:47 to Ritsumeikan's 2:06:29.  Perpetual 3rd-placer Meijo University actually gave Bukkyo a scare, 3rd again in 2:07:58 after a stage best from anchor Eri Yagi.  The surprise upset restored the Ritsumeikan dynasty and underlined the fact that as opposed to traditional cross-country team scoring, in ekidens every single runner's performance counts.

But the biggest news of the weekend came from Fukuoka.  Marathon national record holder and Athens Olympics gold medalist Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex), who made an abortive two-race comeback from long-term injuries last year only to suffer a stress fracture in the second race, made a strong statement of her determination to make the London Olympics with a stage win at the six-stage, 42.195 km West Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden, the regional qualifier for December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships.  Picking up the tasuki already in the lead at the start of the 10.2 km Third Stage, Noguchi opened 50 seconds over pursuing national champion Team Tenmaya as she ran 32:25 to establish the record on the new stage.  Up by 1:07 at the end of Noguchi's run, Sysmex's remaining three runners did their best to ride her momentum but could not hold off the steady Tenmaya, whose last runners each chipped 20-30 seconds off the margin.  One of three anchors to tie the 20:57 record on the 6.495 km Sixth Stage, Tenmaya's Risa Shigetomo succeeded in catching Sysmex anchor Misato Tanaka, outkicking her by 5 seconds to give Tenmaya the win in 2:18:31 to Sysmex's 2:18:36.  The tiny Team Juhachi Ginko was a surprise 3rd, running 2:20:06.

Post-race, Noguchi buoyed national spirits when she announced that she will run January's Osaka International Women's Marathon in a bid for the Japanese team for next summer's London Olympics.  Only one woman, the great Catherine Ndereba (Kenya), has ever beaten Noguchi in the marathon, but with her last marathon being four years ago and having run only two marathons in the nearly eight years since winning Olympic gold in Athens time may be against her as she faces her last chance to redeem the last four years of recovery from the injuries that knocked her out of the Beijing Olympics.  She may also face an even greater challenge to making the team: half-marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal).

2011 West Japan Corporate Women's Ekiden
regional qualifier for National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships
Munakata, Fukuoka, 10/23/2011
click here for complete results

Top Team Performances - six stages, 42.195 km
1. Tenmaya - 2:18:31
2. Sysmex - 2:18:36
3. Juhachi Ginko - 2:20:06
4. Kyocera - 2:20:20
5. Edion - 2:20:23

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (6.7 km)  - Ai Igarashi (Team Sysmex) - 21:22
Second Stage (3.5 km) - Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 10:41
Third Stage (10.2 km) - Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex) - 32:25 - CR
Fourth Stage (4.5 km) - Naoko Sakamoto (Team Tenmaya) / Rina Utta (Team Juhachi Ginko) - 14:34 - CR
Fifth Stage (10.8 km) - Mai Ito (Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 36:38 - CR
Sixth Stage (6.495 km) -  Hiromi Chujo (Team Wacoal) / Chizuru Ideta (Team Daihatsu) / Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) - 20:57 - CR

2011 Morinomiyako Ekiden
National University Women's Ekiden Championships
Sendai, 10/23/11
click here for complete results

Top Team Performances - six stages, 38.6 km
1. Ritsumeikan Univ. - 2:06:29
2. Bukkyo Univ. - 2:07:47
3. Meijo Univ. - 2:07:58
4. Kyoto Sangyo Univ. - 2:11:00
5. Matsuyama Univ. - 2:11:15

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (5.8 km) - Risa Takenaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 18:16 - CR
Second Stage (6.8 km) - Akane Yabushita (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 22:26
Third Stage (9.1 km) - Hikari Yoshimoto (Bukkyo Univ.) - 30:06
Fourth Stage (4.9 km) - Mutsumi Ikeda (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 15:20
Fifth Stage (4.0 km) - Chinami Mori (Bukkyo Univ.) - 12:56
Sixth Stage (8.0 km) - Eri Yagi (Meijo Univ.) - 26:21

2011 Takashimadaira Road Race
Takashimadaira, Tokyo, 10/23/11
click here for complete results

Men's 20 km
1. Takehiro Deki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 59:44
2. Yudai Fukuda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:00:57
3. Kohei Ogino (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:19
4. Kento Sato (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:35
5. Naoki Inoue (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:38

Women's 20 km
1. Yoshimi Hoshino (eAthletes AC) - 1:15:12

Men's 10 km
1. Akinori Iida (Team Honda) - 29:59

Women's 10 km
1. Maki Inami (Kita AC) - 34:50

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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sponsor: Chugoku Denryoku
graduated from: Tottori Chuo Ikuei H.S., Meiji University

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