translated and edited by Brett Larner
For the third year in a row Team Asahi Kasei won the seven stage, 78.8 km Kyushu Corporate Men's Ekiden, dominating the race's 49th edition on Nov. 23. With Olympian Ryuji Ono taking the lead on the Third Stage with a stage best run, anchor Takuya Fukatsu setting a new stage record and every team member finishing in the top four on time on their stage, there was little question of the team securing its 42nd win in the event's history.
Team Yasukawa Denki presented a challenge in the early going with Hiroki Kubota running the fastest time on the Second Stage, but anchor Kentaro Nakamoto, the London Olympics marathon 6th placer, faded and could not maintain position. Team Toyota Kyushu started slow, only getting into the game with a stage best run by ace Masato Imai on the Third Stage and another from Yuya Konishi on the Sixth Stage. World Cross Country Championships silver medalist Paul Tanui blasted the Fifth Stage and brought Team Kyudenko to within one second of leader Asahi Kasei, briefly taking the lead before being outkicked by Asahi Kasei's Tetsuya Yoroizaka, but Kyudenko's final two runners could not improve the team's standing and fell behind.
Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki came up late in the race to take 5th, Team Kurosaki Harima right behind in 6th. With all of its runners finishing 7th on their individual stages, Team Nishitetsu claimed the final New Year Ekiden national championships ticket. Conditions during the race were cloudy, 14.6 degrees, 60% humidity, with 3.4 m/s NNE winds.
The same day as the Kyushu Corporate Men's Ekiden, Asahi Kasei's Ryoichi Matsuo, 21, won the 25th Otawara Marathon. Running just his second marathon, Matsuo broke free of the competition at 24 km to win in 2:16:55 by a margin of 30 seconds. "I was going for the course record (2:14:53), so I can't be satisfied with my time," Matsuo commented afterward. One of coach Takeshi Soh's young hopes for the team's future, Matsuo said, "I want to build on this win in my future races and keep reaching upward."
Kikuyo Tsuzaki (22, Team Noritz) won the women's race in 2:43:50. A first-year pro and like Matsuo running her second marathon, Tsuzaki found herself in the lead after just 3 km. "There weren't any women around me," she said, "but the men in the race helped pull me along." Looking toward her future goals she said, "I want to become an athlete whose name everybody knows."
49th Kyushu Corporate Men's Ekiden
seven stages, 78.8 km
click here for complete results
Top Team Performances - top seven qualify for New Year Ekiden
1. Team Asahi Kasei - 3:52:54
2. Team Yasukawa Denki - 3:55:20
3. Team Toyota Kyushu - 3:56:03
4. Team Kyudenko - 3:56:23
5. Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki - 3:59:15
6. Team Kurosaki Harima - 3:59:17
7. Team Nishitetsu - 4:04:54
8. Team Togami Electric - 4:12:09
9. Kokubun SDF Base - 4:15:11
10. Team Kyocera Kagoshima - 4:16:23
Stage Best Performances
First Stage (13.4 km) - Kazuya Deguchi (Team Asahi Kasei) - 41:54
Second Stage (10.2 km) - Hiroki Kubota (Team Yasukawa Denki) - 31:06
Third Stage (10.5 km) - Ryuji Ono (Team Asahi Kasei) - 28:55
Fourth Stage (12.2 km) -Masato Imai (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 34:58
Fifth Stage (9.2 km) - Paul Tanui (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 25:29
Sixth Stage (9.1 km) - Yuya Konishi (Team Toyota Kyushu) - 26:39
Seventh Stage (14.2 km) - Takuya Fukatsu (Team Asahi Kasei) - 40:58 - CR