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Toyokawa Returns to Top in National High School Girls Ekiden Championships

by Brett Larner

Toyokawa H.S. senior Beatrice Murugi Wainaina for the win at the 2011 National High School Girls Ekiden Championships. Click photo for video highlights via broadcaster NHK.

For the second time in three years, Kenyan Beatrice Murugi Wainaina led Toyokawa High School to the National High School Girls Ekiden Championships title as she crossed the line in 1:07:29, the fifth-fastest time ever on the five-stage, 21.0975 km course through Kyoto on Dec. 25.  Defending champion Kojokan High School ace Katsuki Suga faltered on the 6.0 km opening stage, the day's longest, finishing only 6th on the stage and putting Kojokan permanently out of contention.  Only one second behind the lead at the handoff, Toyokawa's Kanayo Miyata had little trouble taking over on the 4.0975 km Second Stage.  After a brief challenge from the strong Suma Gakuen High School's Yui Fukuda on the 3.0 km Third Stage, Toyokawa's Fourth Stage runner Shiho Fukuzawa blew the race apart, opening a 13-second gap before handing over to anchor Wainaina.

Wainaina, suffering from a mild injury, ran steadily without pushing.  Kojokan anchor Miyuki Oka closed to within 9 seconds, but Wainaina mustered up a strong last km to reopen the lead to 24 seconds and return Toyokawa to the victory stand.  Oka still managed to get Kojokan under 68 minutes, holding on to 2nd in 1:07:53, just 3 seconds slower than its winning time last year.  A short distance back, Sendai Ikuei High School's Mary Waithira ran the fastest time on the 5.0 km closing leg, 15:20, to overtake Suma Gakuen's Mika Kobayashi on the track for 3rd in 1:08:19, an impressive feat considering the stress and difficulties Sendai Ikuei has faced this year following March's tsunami.

2011 National High School Girls Ekiden Championships
Kyoto, 12/25/11
five stages, 21.0975 km
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (6.0 km) - Yuriko Kosaki (Narita H.S.) - 19:21
Second Stage (4.0975 km) - Risa Yokoe (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 12:55
Third Stage (3.0 km) - Yui Fukuda (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 9:44
Fourth Stage (3.0 km) - Fumika Sasaki (Nagano Higashi H.S.) - 9:32
Fifth Stage (5.0 km) - Mary Waithira (Kenya/Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 15:20

Top Team Performances
1. Toyokawa H.S. (Aichi) - 1:07:29
2. Kojokan H.S. (Okayama) - 1:07:53
3. Sendai Ikuei H.S. (Miyagi) - 1:08:19
4. Suma Gakuen H.S. (Hyogo) - 1:08:25
5. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. (Kyoto) - 1:08:29
6. Hakuho Joshi H.S. (Kanagawa) - 1:08:51
7. Narita H.S. (Chiba) - 1:08:57
8. Nagano Higashi H.S. (Nagano) - 1:09:12
9. Osaka Kunei H.S. (Osaka) - 1:09:12
10. Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S. (Fukuoka) - 1:09:35

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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