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Asahi Kasei Sets Course Record at Last New Year Ekiden Qualifier

by Brett Larner

Team Asahi Kasei dominated the final regional qualifier for the New Year Ekiden men's national corporate ekiden championships, leading wire-to-wire to set a course record of 3:50:53 at the seven-stage, 78.8 km Nov. 23 Kyushu Corporate Ekiden Championships.  Asahi Kasei runners won the first four stages, with Daegu World Championships marathon 7th-place finisher Hiroyuki Horibata outrunning Team Toyota Kyushu ace Masato Imai to take the 12.2 km Fourth Stage in 34:38.  Fifth Stage Asahi Kasei runner Takehiro Arakawa was beaten on time by Africans Paul Tanui (Team Kyudenko) and Alemu Desta (Team Yasukawa Denki) but had a big enough lead that he was in no danger of being run down.  Asahi Kasei's sixth runner Kenichi Shirashi ran a stage best to further widen the team's lead, with anchor Yuki Iwai bringing the team in for the course record win and a place at the New Year Ekiden.  With several of its best members sitting the regional race out Asahi Kasei will once again head to the New Year Ekiden as one of the favorites if its star runners are back near 100%.

The real races came for 2nd and 7th place.  Toyota Kyushu, Kyudenko and Yasukawa Denki led a tight three-way race for 2nd, the lead turning over repeatedly.  Yasukawa Denki slipped behind late in the race but the final finishing order wasn't determined until the anchor stage where despite going 1-2 on time anchors Ryuji Watanabe (Team Toyota Kyushu) and Daegu World Championships marathoner Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) couldn't manage to run down Kyudenko anchor Masanori Sakai.  Toyota Kyushu finished 14 seconds behind Kyudenko, with Yasukawa Denki another 31 seconds back in 4th.  Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki and Team Kurosaki Harima took 5th and 6th to pick up New Year Ekiden positions.  With seven places available, Team Nishitetsu and Team Sumco started the anchor stage simultaneously, turning the 14.2 km leg into a man-on-man battle between Nishitetsu's Kazuya Ishida and Sumco's Kodai Haraguchi.  Running side-by-side throughout the stage, Ishida emerged the stronger in the final straight as he kicked away to finish 5 seconds up on Haraguchi, sending his team to Nationals and consigning Sumco to the leftovers.

Toyota Kyushu's Imai finished 2nd on the Fourth Stage behind Horibata.  Kyudenko's Kazuhiro Maeda likewise had a good run, 3rd on the First Stage just two seconds behind the stage winner.  Both Imai and Maeda are scheduled to run next week's Fukuoka International Marathon where they, along with amateur runner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref.) are the favorites forearning a spot on Japan's 2012 Olympic marathon team.

2011 Kyushu Jitsugyodan Ekiden Championships
Fukuoka-Kitakyushu, 11/23/11
seven stages, 78.8 km, 18 teams
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (13.4 km) - Kazuya Deguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 40:32
Second Stage (10.2 km) - Satoru Sasaki (Team Asahi Kasei) - 31:31
Third Stage (10.5 km) - Fumihiro Maruyama (Team Asahi Kasei) - 28:54
Fourth Stage (12.2 km) - Hiroyuki Horibata (Team Asahi Kasei) - 34:38
Fifth Stage (9.2 km) - Paul Tanui (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 25:19
Sixth Stage (9.1 km) - Kenichi Shiraishi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 26:30
Seventh Stage (14.2 km) - Ryuji Watanabe (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 41:56

Top Team Performances - top seven teams qualify for New Year Ekiden
1. Asahi Kasei - 3:50:53 - CR
2. Kyudenko - 3:52:28
3. Toyota Kyushu - 3:52:42
4. Yasukawa Denki - 3:53:13
5. Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki - 3:57:37
6. Kurosaki Harima - 3:59:04
7. Nishitetsu - 4:00:32
-----
8. Sumco - 4:00:37
9. Kokubu SDF Base - 4:06:´╝É0
10. Togami Denki - 4:12:00

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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