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Sendai Ikuei Course Record at Tohoku Region High School Ekiden

by Brett Larner

Earlier this season Samuel Wanjiru's disaster-hit alma mater Sendai Ikuei H.S. had a big run to win the Miyagi Prefecture High School Ekiden.  Sendai Ikuei followed up Nov. 10 with another big one, setting a 2:04:43 course record to win the seven-stage, 42.195 km Tohoku Region High School Ekiden over rival Aomori Yamada H.S.  Sendai Ikuei started slow, running 3rd behind early leader Tamura H.S. and Aomori Yamada after the first two stages before current Kenyan ace Hiram Ngatia got things into gear.  Ngatia outran Aomori Yamada's John Maina to set a 22:53 record on the 8.1075 km Third Stage, handing off to Fourth Stage runner Tadashi Isshiki in 2nd.  Isshiki, one of the best Japanese high schoolers this year, had little trouble making up the 5-second deficit to leader Aomori Yamada over the 8.0875 km stage, setting a 23:51 course record of his own to put Sendai Ikuei 18 seconds up.  Sendai Ikuei's next two runners kept up the lead before anchor Yuki Ajima put it away with a 14:26 stage record for 5 km.  Aomori Yamada finished 35 seconds back in 2:05:18 to likewise clear the old stage record.

Sendai Ikuei's performance is most noteworthy for what it suggests for December's National High School Ekiden Championships.  In 2004 Sendai Ikuei set the course record of 2:01:32 at the National race thanks in part to a brilliant stage record by senior Samuel Wanjiru, the race that first made Wanjiru's name in Japan.  The current team is close to the best it has had since then.  Its time at the Tohoku ekiden was more than 3 minutes off the Wanjiru-era Nationals mark, but with continued progress in the remaining weeks and a faster course awaiting them Sendai Ikuei may be in position to have a go at the record come December.

The day was almost a double for Sendai Ikuei's girls' team.  On a five-stage, 21.0975 km course, the Sendai girls went out hard, leading with three successive stage bests including a new record of 9:54 on the 3.0 km Third Stage by senior Natsumi Yoshida.  Up 45 seconds, Sendai Ikuei maintained the lead over the 3.0 km Fourth Stage despite first-year Mizuki Abukawa running only the 7th-fastest time on the stage.  It all fell apart on the 5.0 km anchor leg, however, as senior Eri Kitayama could only muster up a 17:12.  Starting in 3rd, Aomori Yamada H.S. Kenyan first-year Rosemary Wanjiru had the individual performance of the day as she blasted a 15:29 to knock 22 seconds off the stage record and bring Aomori Yamada home in 1st in 1:09:29, more than a minute ahead of the hapless Sendai Ikuei.  Morioka Joshi H.S. anchor Mizuki Hirano also put in a quality run of 16:28 to overtake Kitayama for 2nd in 1:10:18.

The top teams will meet again next month at the National High School Ekiden Championships.  Both the boys' and girls' Nationals are scheduled for Dec. 25 in Kyoto and will be broadcast live and commercial-free on NHK.  Check back closer to race date for previews and information on watching online.

2011 Tohoku Region High School Ekiden
Nagai, Yamagata, 11/10/11
click here for complete results

Boys - Stage Best Performances
First Stage (10.0 km) - Kenya Sonota (Aomori Yamada H.S.) - 30:06
Second Stage (3.0 km) - Shinji Sakai (Tamura H.S.) - 8:43
Third Stage (8.1075 km) - Hiram Ngatia (Kenya/Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 22:53 - CR
Fourth Stage (8.0875 km) - Tadashi Isshiki (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 23:51 - CR
Fifth Stage (3.0 km) - Akihito Kobari (Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.) - 9:15
Sixth Stage (5.0 km) - Arata Yamamoto (Aomori Yamada H.S.) and Shohei Yoshida (Iwaki Sogo H.S.) - 14:44
Seventh Stage (5.0 km) - Yuki Ajima (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 14:26 - CR

Top Teams - seven stages, 42.195 km
1. Sendai Ikuei H.S. - 2:04:43 - CR
2. Aomori Yamada H.S. - 2:05:18 - CR
3. Gakuho Ishikawa H.S. - 2:07:31
4. Ichinoseki Gakuin H.S. - 2:07:36
5. Hanawa H.S. - 2:08:49

Girls - Stage Best Performances
First Stage (6.0 km) - Michi Horikawa (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 19:29
Second Stage (4.0975 km) - Hanami Sekine (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 13:41
Third Stage (3.0 km) - Natsumi Yoshida (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 9:54 - CR
Fourth Stage (3.0 km) - Kaede Ogasawara (Morioka Joshi H.S.) and Rika Sawata (Hanawa H.S.) - 10:01
Fifth Stage (5.0 km) - Rosemary Wanjiru (Kenya/Aomori Yamada H.S.) - 15:29 - CR

Top Teams - five stages, 21.0975 km
1. Aomori Yamada H.S. - 1:09:29
2. Morioka Joshi H.S. - 1:10:18
3. Sendai Ikuei H.S. - 1:10:41
4. Yamagata Johoku H.S. - 1:10:53
5. Hanawa H.S. - 1:10:54

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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