Sunday, December 25, 2011

Charles Ndirangu Leads Sera Back to National High School Boys Ekiden Championships Title

by Brett Larner


Sera H.S. wins the 2011 National High School Boys Ekiden Championships in 2:03:50. Click photo for video highlights via broadcaster NHK.

As in the girls' race, the 2009 National High School Boys Ekiden champion took back the top position Dec. 25 in Kyoto, with Hiroshima's Sera H.S. taking the win in an all-time top ten 2:03:50 for the hilly seven-stage, 42.195 km course.  Many of the favorites, including defending national champion Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S., 2008 champ Saku Chosei H.S., Samuel Wanjiru's alma mater Sendai Ikuei H.S., and the powerful Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S., suffered pre-Championships setbacks with injuries to their star runners, paving the way for the unheralded Kurashiki H.S. to take the runner-up spot in 2:05:13, both its best placing and fastest time ever.

Kyushu Gakuin H.S. ace Kazuma Kubota got things off on the right foot, winning the 10.0 km First Stage in 29:38 in a beautiful performance that saw him run away from the pack after the halfway point with three distinct gear changes and open a gap of 22 seconds.  Sera was 5th after the First Stage and fell to 8th by the end of the 3.0 km before the main action got started.  Much of the pre-race buzz focused on Sera's Charles Ndirangu and whether he would be able to take down Wanjiru's long-standing record of 22:40 for the 8.1075 km Third Stage, having missed by only 1 second last year and then setting the Japanese high school record of 13:15.44 in October.  Ndirangu blasted away from the start, going from 8th to 2nd by the time he hit 1 km in 2:33, a split fast enough that it started trending.  Going through halfway 3 seconds ahead of Wanjiru's split, Ndirangu paid for his opening km in the second half, fading to miss the record by 11 seconds but still recording another of the fastest times ever on the leg.

Starting 37 seconds down and finishing 52 seconds ahead, Ndirangu put Sera in a position that was never threatened.  Sera's final four runners did their job, with three of them contributing to widen the team's final margin of victory to 1:23.  Kurashiki was the surprise of the day, never lower than 3rd and running 2nd all the way from the Fourth Stage on to the finish.  Kyushu Gakuin H.S. did its best to run Kurashiki down, with anchor Shota Miyagami going from 46 seconds behind Kurashiki's Toshiki Hishimo to only 10 seconds at the finish, simply running out of room with only 5.0 km to work with.

Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. managed to rally for 4th, but none of the other main powerhouses managed to crack the top 10 in the absence of their biggest names.  Sendai Ikuei H.S. managed 12th and Saku Chosei H.S. 22nd, with defending champion Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S. was a lowly 23rd out of 47.  Look for members of these and the top-placing teams to face off again at next month's National Men's Ekiden in Hiroshima.

2011 National High School Boys Ekiden Championships
Kyoto, 12/25/11
seven stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (10.0 km) - Kazuma Kubota (Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 29:38
Second Stage (3.0 km) - Koki Maeda (Omuta H.S.) - 8:17
Third Stage (8.1075 km) - Charles Ndirangu (Kenya/Sera H.S.) - 22:51
Fourth Stage (8.0875 km) - Kazuma Taira (Toyokawa Kogyo H.S.) - 23:32
Fifth Stage (3.0 km) - Shoya Okuno (Toyokawa Kogyo H.S.) - 8:54
Sixth Stage (5.0 km) - Hiram Ngatia (Kenya/Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 14:23
Seventh Stage (5.0 km) - Tadashi Isshiki (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 14:13

Top Team Performances
1. Sera H.S. (Hiroshima) - 2:03:50
2. Kurashiki H.S. (Okayama) - 2:05:13
3. Kyushu Gakuin H.S. (Kumamoto) - 2:05:23
4. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. (Hyogo) - 2:05:42
5. Aomori Yamada H.S. (Aomori) - 2:05:51
6. Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. (Aichi) - 2:06:03
7. Hamamatsu Nittai Prep. H.S. (Shizuoka) - 2:06:07
8. Tono Daini H.S. (Gunma) - 2:06:08
9. Tosu Kogyo H.S. (Saga) - 2:06:14
10. Kobayashi H.S. (Miyazaki) - 2:06:28

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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