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William Malel Drives Honda to Second-Straight Towada Hachimantai Ekiden Title

by Brett Larner

Despite thunderstorms bringing heavy rain that shut down highways and roads in the area, the Honda corporate team came through with its second-straight win today at the 67th Towada Hachimantai Ekiden in Akita.  The rain may actually have helped the situation by alleviating Towada's normal summer heat as times were fast across the board compared to other years.  None was faster than Honda's William Malel (Kenya), who covered the 13.4 km, 180 m downhill Second Stage in 35:27 and took an incredible 45 seconds off the stage record set just last year.  Malel started the Second Stage in 7th, but by the time he handed off to Honda's third man Hiroaki Sano he had a lead of 33 seconds and from there Honda never looked back.

Sano, the top Japanese man at last year's Chicago Marathon, extended the lead to 1:29, running 46:23 for the 16.2 km Third Stage.  Honda's Keita Baba ran 49:17 for the 16.4 km Fourth Stage, its fastest mark by over a minute, to put the team 2:40 ahead.  Anchor Shota Hattori, a winner of the Hakone Ekiden's uphill Fifth Stage, made his pro ekiden debut on Towada's likewise uphill Fifth Stage, but although he faltered with only the tenth-fastest time on the stage Honda's lead was enough to guarantee the win.

Honda totalled 3:45:10 for the complete 73.7 km, 1:28 ahead of runner-up Yakult.  First Stage leader Komori Corporation, missing its star member and 2014 Commonwealth Games 1500 m silver medalist Ronald Kwemoi (Kenya), was close behind in 3rd in 3:46:54.  Top ten team times were two minutes faster than last year on average, with four of the five stages seeing faster winning times.  All told the weather proved a lucky break after speculation that the race would be cancelled due to flooding.

67th Towada Hachimantai Ekiden
Kazuno, Akita, 8/7/14
5 stages, 73.7 km, 29 teams
click here for complete results 

Overall Team Results
1. Honda - 3:45:10
2. Yakult A - 3:46:38
3. Komori Corporation - 3:46:54
4. Yachiyo Kogyo - 3:47:33
5. Yakult B - 3:48:26
6. JR Higashi Nihon - 3:49:12
7. East Japan Corporate Select Team - 3:50:05
8. Kokushikan University A - 3:52:55
9. Omokawa Lumber - 3:53:03
10. Tokyo Police Department - 3:53:13

First Stage - 13.6 km
1. Hirotoshi Sato (Komori Corp.) - 41:00
2. Yoshihiro Nishizawa (Tamagawa Club) - 41:12
3. Shota Yamazaki (Yakult B) - 41:12
4. Kenta Kitazawa (Yachiyo Kogyo) - 41:15
5. Sho Matsumoto (Arata Project) - 41:20

Second Stage - 13.4 km, ~180 m descent
1. William Malel (Kenya/Honda) - 35:27 - CR
2. Kassa Mekashaw (Ethiopia/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 36:21
3. Joseph Onsarigo (Kenya/Nanyo City Hall) - 36:24
4. Naohiro Domoto (JR Higashi Nihon) - 36:25
5. Norio Kamijo (Omokawa Lumber) - 37:13

Third Stage - 16.2 km
1. Bernard Kimanyi (Kenya/Yakult A) - 45:00
2. Cyrus Gichobi Njui (Kenya/Arata Project) - 45:40
3. David Njuguna (Kenya/Yakult B) - 46:06
4. Hiroaki Sano (Honda) - 46:23
5. Dishon Karukuwa Maina (Kenya/Omokawa Lumber) - 46:38

Fourth Stage - 16.4 km
1. Keita Baba (Honda) - 49:17
2. Koji Gokaya (JR Higashi Nihon) - 50:23
3. Masahiro Kawaguchi (Yakult A) - 50:28
3. Kazuyoshi Shimozato (Komori Corp.) - 50:28
5. Norikazu Kato (Yakult B) - 50:32

Fifth Stage -14.1 km, ~680 m ascent
1. Tomohiro Tanigawa (Tamagawa Club) - 50:18
2. Tatsunori Hamasaki (Komori Corp.) - 50:37
3. Tsukasa Koyama (East Japan Corp. Select Team) - 50:56
4. Akihiro Hirai (Yachiyo Kogyo) - 51:10
5. Soji Ikeda (Yakult A) - 51:15

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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