by Brett Larner
Along with marathoner Yuki Kawauchi's anchor stage win at the Okumusashi Ekiden, three other ekidens around the country on Sunday saw significant action.
At the biggest of them, the 75th Chugoku Yamaguchi Ekiden, Team Mazda had a surprise upset over local stronghold Team Chugoku Denryoku thanks to a spectacular anchor run from ace Akihiko Tsumurai. Starting the 11.1 km Seventh Stage 43 seconds behind Chugoku Denryoku anchor Takumi Kiyotani, Tsumurai ran him down and won by three seconds, with Mazda finishing in 4:11:49 for the seven-stage, 84.4 km course to Chugoku Denryoku's 4:11:52. Tsumurai clocked a new stage record of 31:21, a flat conversion to 28:07 for a road 10 km, just two seconds off the national record held by Chugoku Denryoku's Atsushi Sato. 2011 national champion Sera H.S. was a surprise 3rd in 4:14:13, one second ahead of the pro Team Sagawa Express thanks to a sizeable lead from opening Kenyan John Gasaya and a new stage record of 45:24 for the 15.9 km Sixth Stage by star Charles Ndirangu. Ndirangu's record translates to 45:57 for 10 miles, just inside the all-time top 100 for that distance.
Near Tokyo, 2012 Hakone Ekiden runner-up Komazawa University set a new record of 2:05:13 at the 58th running of the six-stage 42.195 km Atsugi Ekiden. First Stage runner Shogo Nakamura led off with a strong 29:57 for 10.3 km to give Komazawa a 44-second lead that was never threatened. Komazawa's final margin of victory over runner-up Josai University was nearly two minutes as Josai came through the finish in 2:07:07. Shoin University was a surprise 3rd in 2:08:13 after a Third Stage win by Aritaka Kajiwara.
Komazawa runners were also busy elsewhere. At the first running of the Harenokuni Okayama Ekiden, Komazawa senior Taichi Takase ran 29:40 to win the 10.0 km anchor stage for his hometown of Niimi. Kurashiki H.S. star Shota Baba was an impressive 2nd in 29:44.
As ekiden season winds down, watch for one more competitive men's ekiden, the Feb. 5 Meigi Ekiden, and the Feb. 12 Chugoku Women's Ekiden.
(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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