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Kizaki Powers Kyoto to National Women's Ekiden Win

by Brett Larner
click photo for video highlights via broadcaster NHK

Driven in part by a stage record by Moscow World Championships marathon 4th-placer Ryoko Kizaki, the hometown Kyoto team scored the win in a fast and competitive 32nd National Women's Ekiden under nearly perfect conditions Jan. 12 in Kyoto.  The season-ending women's national championship ekiden, the National Women's Ekiden features teams from each of Japan's 47 prefectures made up of junior high, high school, university and pro runners competing over 9 stages and 42.195 km broadcast live nationwide and commercial-free.

Osaka led with with a strong opening leg from Natsuki Omori, but on the 4.0 km Second Stage last year's Third Stage course record-setter Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu, daughter of 2001 Nagano Marathon winner Maxwell Musembi (Kenya), fumbled and dropped Osaka to 11th.  Taking over the lead spot was Azusa Sumi (Aichi), who opened a lead of 12 seconds over Akari Ota (Okayama) by stage's end, Yuka Kobayashi (Gunma) moving up to 3rd another 8 seconds back while defending champion Kanagawa sat 8th.

On the 3.0 km Third Stage Gunma made up the ground to the lead and more, opening a 14-second thanks to a superb run from Wakana Kabasawa of 2013 National Junior High School Ekiden champion Fujimi J.H.S.  But there was a surprise.  Tearing up the stage and coming in one second faster than Kabasawa was Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu, the younger sister of the Second Stage's Takamatsu, who passed 8 people to return Osaka to contention for the podium.  Gunma's lead stayed almost unchanged on the 4.0 km Fourth Stage, but behind her Kizaki took one second off the stage record held by 1500 m national record holder Yuriko Kobayashi (Hyogo), running 12:40 to put Kyoto just 13 seconds back.  Kyoto's Fifth Stage runner Kureha Seki was very impressive as she ran down Gunma's Haruna Takada, passing with power late in the stage and putting Kyoto 6 seconds ahead.

From there Kyoto's lead only grew, 7 seconds after the Sixth Stage as Aichi overtook Gunma for 2nd, 16 seconds after the Seventh Stage, and 29 seconds separating them from Aichi after the Eighth Stage with Gunma another 2 second back.  Over the same stages Hyogo advanced to 4th, thanks in part to an Eighth Stage win just off the stage record from Nozomi Tanaka, daughter of sub-2:30 amateur Chihiro Tanaka (Athlec AC) who set a 2:36:53 CR at the Kobe Marathon in November at age 44.  Defending champion Kanagawa moved up to 5th 6 seconds behind Hyogo, with Okayama 21 seconds further back in 6th.

The 10.0 km anchor stage, the ekiden's longest and home of most of the top competition, proved tense and dramatic.  Kyoto anchor Mao Kuroda set out at a steady but conservative pace, while 31 seconds back former Bukkyo University ace Kasumi Nishihara (Gunma) burned up ground to catch her, equally steady in pacing as she took 3 seconds per km off Kuroda's lead.  At that rate she had a shot of catching Kuroda on the final lap of the track, but from 5 km to 8 km Kuroda picked it up just enough to stay out of range, crossing the finish line in 2:15:32 with Nishihara bearing down on her in the home straight to take 2nd just 7 seconds behind.

Aichi's Mai Shoji couldn't stay with Nishihara and dropped nearly a minute back.  With just over a km to go she was run down by London Olympic marathoner Risa Shigetomo, who looked formidable as her 31:50 took the stage win and moved Okayama up from 6th to 3rd in 2:16:13.  Shoji brought Aichi home 4th in 2:16:25, Gunma, Okayama and Aichi all recording their fastest-ever times at the National Women's Ekiden.  Kanagawa held on to 5th in 2:17:15, just 4 seconds ahead of 6th-place Hyogo.  Far back in the field, Moscow World Championships marathon bronze medalist Kayoko Fukushi (Aomori) started in 37th and moved up all the way to 25th, but although she was characteristically quick in 31:59 she finished only 2nd-best on the stage behind Shigetomo's time.  Having won the Osaka International Women's Marathon in 2012, Shigetomo certainly looks ready to contend later this month when she returns to Osaka.

National championship ekiden season draws to a close next weekend with the 19th running of the National Men's Ekiden in Hiroshima.  Check back later in the week for a race preview, and follow @JRNLive on Twitter for live coverage.

32nd National Women's Ekiden
Kyoto, 1/12/14
47 teams, 9 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Kyoto - 2:15:32
2. Gunma - 2:15:39
3. Okayama - 2:16:13
4. Aichi - 2:16:25
5. Kanagawa - 2:17:15
6. Hyogo - 2:17:19
7. Shizuoka - 2:17:36
8. Fukuoka - 2:18:07
9. Osaka - 2:18:13
10. Nagano - 2:18:17

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (6.0 km)
1. Natsuki Omori (Osaka) - 19:19
2. Nanako Kanno (Kyoto) - 19:21
3. Ayuko Suzuki (Aichi) - 19:22

Second Stage (4.0 km)
1. Azusa Sumi (Aichi) - 12:15
2. Akari Ota (Okayama) - 12:20
3. Yuka Kobayashi (Gunma) - 12:23

Third Stage (3.0 km)
1. Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka) - 9:23
2. Wakana Kabasawa (Gunma) - 9:24
3. Miyu Nishikawa (Kyoto) - 9:27
3. Miku Moribayashi (Nagasaki) - 9:27

Fourth Stage (4.0 km)
1. Ryoko Kizaki (Kyoto) - 12:40 - CR
2. Yuika Mori (Gunma) - 12:48
2. Kanayo Miyata (Aichi) - 12:48

Fifth Stage (4.1075 km)
1. Kureha Seki (Kyoto) - 12:58
2. Yuka Hori (Aichi) - 13:03
3. Haruna Takada (Gunma) - 13:17

Sixth Stage (4.0875 km)
1. Hanami Sekine (Aichi) - 12:42
2. Tomoyo Adachi (Okayama) - 12:50
2. Kaori Morita (Kanagawa) - 12:50

Seventh Stage (4.0 km)
1. Sakiho Tsutsui (Kyoto) - 12:32
1. Misaki Hayashida (Hyogo) - 12:32
3. Shiori Morita (Kanagawa) - 12:36

Eighth Stage (3.0 km)
1. Nozomi Tanaka (Hyogo) - 9:46
2. Reina Shinozaki (Gunma) - 9:54
3. Yurina Aoyama (Kyoto) - 10:01

Ninth Stage (10.0 km)
1. Risa Shigetomo (Okayama) - 31:50
2. Kayoko Fukushi (Aomori) - 31:59
3. Kasumi Nishihara (Gunma) - 32:22
4. Misaki Kato (Fukuoka) - 32:28
5. Kayo Asaba (Shimane) - 32:35
6. Mao Kiyota (Shizuoka) - 32:40
7. Mao Kuroda (Kyoto) - 32:46
8. Tomomi Tanaka (Tokyo) - 32:52
9. Miho Shimizu (Hokkaido) - 32:59
10. Rika Shintaku (Tokushima) - 33:01

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Anna Novick said…
Great to see Kizaki come back strong.

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