by Anna Novick
Note: Welcome to Novick in her first piece for JRN.
Team Denso ran for redemption from last year's 2nd place at today's snowy, slippery National Corporate Women's Ekiden, taking victory by over two minutes and a new record of 2:16:37 for the six-stage, 42.195 km course. Just about everyone who is anyone in Japanese women's running toed the line today, and those women tore the frigid roads of Sendai apart.
Denso's runners had nothing to lose, having faced the disappointment of 2nd place, or first loser, in last year's race. They would, however, have to hold off their attack until the Second Stage as their first runner, Mai Ishibashi relinquished the lead to Team Yamada Denki's Yuika Mori who began gaining distance from the pack with 2 km to go in the 7 km leg. Mori set a new course record to 22:10 before sending Maki Suzawa off on a defensive Second Stage. Going into the 3.9 km Second Stage, Sayaka Murakami (Team Daihatsu) and Mizuki Tanimoto (Team Tenmaya) sandwiched Suzawa away from 4th place Naoko Koizumi (Team Denso), but it was clear as to who commanded the race. By 2.6 km, Koizumi had Suzawa in her sights and spent no time deliberating to overtake her for 1st.
Meanwhile it was a battle of attrition in the second place group with Chiaki Morikawa (Team Starts) throwing down the hammer with just 1.5 km to go, followed by Misaki Onishi (Team Sekisui Kagaku), toughened up from representing Japan in the 5000 m at the World Championships in Moscow. It was match set by Onishi who singlehandedly took Sekisui Kagaku from 10th to 3rd place. Last year's winner Team Universal Entertainment suffered from the absence of Moscow star Hitomi Niiya due to injury. This year they fell to 12th place heading into the Second Stage when Rui Aoyama fell back on the hills of the First Stage, but Natsuko Goto recovered the team's position to 7th place heading into the wind of the third and longest leg of the race.
The Third Stage saw Japan's All Stars gut it out. In the same race were: Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal), Yukiko Akaba (Team Hokuren), Yoko Shibui (Team Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo), and Mizuki Noguchi (Team Sysmex). Akaba took the Third Stage on time in 14th, behind Misaki Kato (Team Kyudenko), Yuki Mitsunobu (Team Kyocera), and Sayuri Oka (Team Daihatsu). Closely behind them came Fukushi, who began her assault immediately after hitting the road. For a good while, it seemed like the group would hold together. But Fukushi eventually fell in the wayside of a charging Akaba, who took her team from 14th to 6th place in what deserves to be called a race of her life leading up to her retirement from competition in January. Other favorites were not as fortunate. Misato Tanaka (Team Sysmex) was the first to fall back during the First Stage. Unlike Universal, though, Tanaka's team never quite recovered. Old-time favorite Noguchi gained her team two places, going from 24th to 22nd, but the team would ultimately finish in that range.
Back in the leading pack, Denso, Yamada, Sekisui Kagaku, and Tenmaya took to the course in lockstep. Strong winds and a long course suggested nobody would stride out solo anytime soon, but wind or no wind, 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Team Toyota Jidoshokki) meant nothing but business even if she had the slowest 10 km PR of the four. The first casualty was Kasumi Nishihara (Team Yamada Denki), leaving Kobayashi, Yuko Mizuguchi (Team Denso), and Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) to deck it out among the three of them. Nishihara was soon caught by Universal's Kaoru Nagao, who was now on a chase for the two runners ahead; her team had gone from 12th to 4th place.
Tables turned in the penultimate Fifth Stage, with Denso's Yuka Takahashi taking the lead by over a minute to Miho Ihara (Team Sekisui Kagaku), Rei Ohara (Team Tenmaya), and Miho Nasukawa (Team Universal). Kyudenko moved up from last year's 21st place into podium range in 5th, and would eventually finish 6th, an improvement on the team's best-ever placing from their 8th place finish in 2007. Also noteworthy in the fifth leg was Daihatsu's Ryoko Kizaki, 4th in the marathon in Moscow, overtaking Universal's Mizuho Nasukawa, but their position didnt last long as Universal's ammunition came in the form of their anchoring runner, Moeno Nakamura.
At 168 cm, and by far the tallest of the group, Nakamura's performance deserves the title of royalty in today's race. Hitting the ground in 5th place and 50 seconds behind Tenmaya's Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya), Chizuru Ideta (Team Daihatsu) and Korei Omata (Team Sekisui Kagaku), Nakamura ate up 40 of those seconds in a matter of 3 km. And she kept pushing after taking 2nd place, blowing by Tenmaya without as much as a sideways glance. Nakamura probably knew Denso had too big of a lead by now for her to catch up, but she wasn't taking 2nd without a fight. At stage record pace, Nakamura defended Universal's dignity, taking her team home from 5th place to 2nd place in 2:18:43. Denso was far ahead, setting a new overall course record of 2:16:37 to claim the 2013 National Corporate Women's Title.
33rd National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships
27 teams, 6 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results
Top Team Results
1. Team Denso: 2:16:37 - CR
2. Team Universal Entertainment: 2:18:41
3. Team Tenmaya: 2:18:49
4. Team Daihatsu: 2:19:15
5. Team Sekisui Kagaku: 2:19:34
6. Team Kyudenko: 2:20:19
7. Team Otsuka Seiyaku: 2:20:32
8. Team Yamada Denki: 2:20:45
9. Team Daiichi Seimei: 2:21:31
10. Team Starts: 2:21:38
Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (7.0 km)
1. Yuika Mori (Team Yamada Denki) - 22:10
2. Ayumi Sakaida (Team Daihatsu) - 22:26
3. Akari Ota (Team Tenmaya) - 22:28
Second Stage (3.9 km)
1. Naoko Koizumi (Team Denso) - 12:18
2. Misaki Onishi (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 12:22
2. Natsuko Goto (Team Universal Entertainment) - 12:22
Third Stage (10.9 km)
1. Yuko Shimizu (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 35:51
2. Risa Shigetomo (Team Tenmaya) - 35:55
3. Yuko Mizuguchi (Team Denso) - 36:16
Fourth Stage (3.6 km)
1. Susan Wairimu (Kenya/Team Denso) - 11:28
2. Felista Wanjugu (Kenya/Team Universal Entertainment) - 11:34
3. Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Team Kyudenko) - 11:47
Fifth Stage (10.0 km)
1. Ryoko Kizaki (Team Daihatsu) - 32:40
2. Yuka Takashima (Team Denso) - 32:51
3. Kotomi Takayama (Team Sysmex) - 33:48
3. Miho Ihara (Team Sekisui Kagaku) - 33:48
Sixth Stage (6.795 km)
1. Moeno Nakamura (Team Universal Entertainment) - 20:51
2. Kayo Asaba (Team Denso) - 21:15
3. Kaori Urata (Team Tenmaya) - 21:23
(c) 2013 Anna Novick
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