by Brett Larner
Regional qualification for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships wrapped up Nov. 23 in Fukuoka with the 50th edition of the Kyushu Jitsugyodan Ekiden. Driven by a mid-race stage win by this year's fastest Japanese marathoner, 2:08:00 man Kazuhiro Maeda, and a new stage record by Moscow World Championships 10000 m bronze medalist Paul Tanui, the Kyudenko team covered the seven-stage, 78.8 km ekiden in a course record 3:50:36 to take the win over favorites Asahi Kasei and Toyota Kyushu.
Strong in the early going, the relatively minor Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki and Kurosaki Harima teams led for the first three stages, Kyudenko close behind but Asahi Kasei and Toyota Kyushu, running without its four best men including New York City Marathon 6th-placer Masato Imai, getting off to a slow start. Down 1 second on Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki and 46 seconds on leader Kurosaki Harima at the handoff, Maeda went to work on the 12.2 km Fourth Stage, running 27 seconds faster than the next-best man to pass both teams and open a 14-second lead. Further back, Maeda's Moscow World Championships marathon teammate Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) ran 35:26, the fourth-fastest time on the stage.
Picking up the tasuki from Maeda, Tanui lopped a stunning 27 seconds off the record for the 9.2 km Fifth Stage, running 24:52 to give Kyudenko a comfortable lead of 1 minute over Kurosaki Harima. Toyota Kyushu's Titus Waroru was the next fastest on the stage in 25:32, moving the team into the top three for the first time while Asahi Kasei remained stalled in 4th.
Asahi Kasei got down to business on the 9.1 km Sixth Stage as Komazawa University alum Takuya Fukatsu ran a stage record 26:13 to overtake Toyota Kyushu for 3rd and coming within 20 second of 2nd-place Kurosaki Harima, but despite the advance Kyudenko's lead over 2nd grew to 1:29 after a solid run from Kazuaki Iwami. Asahi Kasei anchor Yuki Iwai won the 14.2 km Seventh Stage in 41:45, overtaking Kurosaki Harima anchor Junichi Tsubouchi for 2nd and closing the gap to Kyudenko but out of range of the win as Kyudenko's Akiyuki Iwanaga brought the team home to the course record. Kurosaki Harima held off Toyota Kyushu for 3rd by 10 seconds, both teams over two minutes behind the winners. Toyota Kyushu's results were strong given the absence of its best men, but the important question is whether its top four were all held in reserve to rest up for New Year's Day and give the younger team members more corporate league experience or whether the team has been hit by a string of injuries among its best men. With Toyota Kyushu a potential winner at the New Year Ekiden the national championships' outcome will be heavily influenced by the answer to that question.
50th Kyushu Jitsugyodan Ekiden
16 teams, 7 stages, 78.8 km
click here for complete results
Top Team Results - top seven qualify for New Year Ekiden national championships
1. Kyudenko - 3:50:36 - CR
2. Asahi Kasei - 3:51:48
3. Kurosaki Harima - 3:53:05
4. Toyota Kyushu - 3:53:15
5. Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki - 3:54:12
6. Yasukawa Denki - 3:55:19
7. Nishitetsu - 3:56:36
8. Togami Denki - 4:05:35
Stage Best Performances
First Stage (13.4 km) - Ryo Kiname (Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 40:25
Second Stage (10.2 km) - Hayato Sonoda (Kurosaki Harima) - 31:17
Third Stage (10.5 km) - Takashi Goto (Nishitetsu) - 29:05
Fourth Stage (12.2 km) - Kazuhiro Maeda (Kyudenko) - 34:46
Fifth Stage (9.2 km) - Paul Tanui (Kenya/Kyudenko) - 24:52 - CR
Sixth Stage (9.1 km) - Takuya Fukatsu (Asahi Kasei) - 26:13 - CR
Seventh Stage (14.2 km) - Yuki Iwai (Asahi Kasei) - 41:45
(c) 2013 Brett Larner
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