Skip to main content

Unstoppable Ritsumeikan University Wins Fourth-Straight National University Women's Ekiden Title - Weekend Road Review

by Brett Larner

With ekiden season in full swing it was the busiest weekend so far this fall as high schools across Japan competed in regional qualifiers for December's National High School Ekiden.  At the university level, the dynastic Ritsumeikan University women led start to finish to win their fourth-straight National University Women's Ekiden, bringing the school's total record to nine national titles.  With the last team to have beaten them, crosstown Kyoto rival Bukkyo University, having faded away following the departure of head coach Kenichi Morikawa for the Yamada Denki corporate women's team and Kanto Region rivals Tsukuba University likewise a ghost of their former selves with the decline of twin stars Haruka and Moe Kyuma, it fell to last year's runner-up Daito Bunka University to give Ritsumeikan a go for the title.

DBU's leading runner Rina Koeda was only a second behind Ritsumeikan's Natsuki Omori to get things off to a promising start, but on the 5.6 km Second Stage the combination of a new stage record of 17:29 from Ritsumeikan's Kotona Ota and a breakdown by DBU's Eri Tayama put DBU over a minute behind, a margin it spend the rest of the race trying to close.  Osaka Gakuin University got into the mix with a Fifth Stage record of 29:40 for 9.2 km by Saori Noda to get into 2nd, but DBU anchor Chikako Mori ran another stage record 17:06 for 5.2 km to retake 2nd and come within 21 seconds of Ritsumeikan's Ayaka Kikuchi.  Despite the big performance Mori couldn't carry the race entirely by herself as Ritsumeikan won in 2:04:36 to DBU's 2:04:57, Osaka Gakuin just 3 second back in 2:05:00 for 3rd.  Although Kanto is the dominant region in university men's distance running thanks to the legendary Hakone Ekiden, DBU was the only Kanto region women's program to make the top 8 and get seeded for 2015.

At the corporate level, West Japan's regional qualifier for December's National Corporate Women's Ekiden was also packed with new records.  Team Kyudenko led the entire way, Yuka Miyazaki leading off strongly just 2 seconds from the First Stage record and 2014 World Half Marathon bronze medalist Sally Chepyego taking 4 seconds off the record for the 3.5 km Second Stage in 10:26 to put Kyudenko into a relatively safe position against its toughest rival, Team Daihatsu led by Asian Games marathon silver medalist Ryoko Kizaki.  Daihatsu fought back with a Third Stage win by star rookie Sairi Maeda and a new record of 20:27 for the 6.495 km anchor stage by Kizaki, but Kyudenko was too far ahead and took the win in 2:17:08, a new record for the six-stage, 42.195 km course.  The entire field of twelve teams cleared the 2:23:00 qualifying time for Nationals, last-place Team Juhachi Ginko cutting it close in 2:22:29.

Marathons were also on the menu, with the Osaka Marathon approaching the Tokyo Marathon in scale with over 28,000 finishers.  Last year's men's winner Jackson Limo (Kenya) became the first man in Osaka's short history to repeat as he set a new course record of 2:11:43.  2008 World Half Marathon 5th-placer Yusei Nakao (Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) outran independent Sho Matsumoto (Nikkei Business) for 2nd in a PB 2:14:02, Matsumoto also just clearing 2:15. Maryna Damantsevich (Belarus) won the women's race in 2:33:04 over Japanese amateur Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall), a distant 2nd in 2:39:33.

The fastest Japanese men's marathon of the weekend came at the Frankfurt Marathon where 2013 Hokkaido Marathon winner Koji Gokaya (Team JR Higashi Nihon) got under 2:12 for the first time, running 2:11:43 for 12th to beat favorite Vincent Kipruto by 26 seconds.  Gokaya previously showed aptitude for racing overseas with a 2:12:15 for 7th at the 2011 Chicago Marathon, and a promising performance in one of the deepest marathons so far this year is reason for optimism in a season that has seen mostly amateuristic international performances from Japan's best corporate men.

text (c) 2014 Brett Larner, all rights reserved
photo (c) 2014 Dr. Helmut Winter, all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Chebii Returns - Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Elite Field

Defending champ Ezekiel Chebii (Kenya) returns to lead the field for the Mar. 4 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon. Chebii is one of three men in the field with recent 2:06 times, his 2:06:07 in Amsterdam two years ago leading Tadesse Abraham (Switzerland) and Abera Kuma (Ethiopia) to form a clear trio of favorites.

Making up the second pack are four current sub-2:10 Japanese men, 2017 Gold Coast winner Takuya Noguchi (Konica Minolta), Rio Olympian Satoru Sasaki (Asahi Kasei), and Sasaki's teammates Takuya Fukatsu and Fumihiro Maruyama. The addition of sub-61 half marathoner Kenta Murayama in his second shot at the marathon after a failed debut in Tokyo two years ago makes for a formidable quartet of men from 2017 and 2018 New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei all aligned in training and talent.

With Japan's depth it's never surprising to see a relatively anonymous runner make a breakthrough and factor into the action. Yoshiki Takenouchi (NTT Nishi Nihon) was one of the …

Yamazaki, Ndirangu, Kamulu and Shitara Top Weekend Road Racing Action

Snow and cold impacted road races across Japan over the weekend, but at the top level almost every event went off as planned. In his marathon debut, Shota Yamazaki (Yakult) downed two-time defending champ Ryoichi Matsuo and debuting training partner Takumi Honda of the locally-based New Year Ekiden national champion Asahi Kasei corporate team to take the top spot at the Nobeoka Nishi Nippon Marathon in a three-way sprint finish.

Shaking off first-timer Keisuke Tanaka (Fujitsu) late in the race, Yamazaki did all the work in the lead trio with the Asahi Kasei duo hanging off both of his shoulders. Hitting a bridge with 750 m to go Honda surged into the lead with Matsuo following. Yamazaki fell back, looking behind him with 500 m to go and seeming to have settled for 3rd. At 400 m to go Matsuo went to the front and looked to be on track to become only the second man to win Nobeoka three times, but as the pair rounded the final corner Yamazaki came back with a kick that left both his riv…

In Memory of Ken Young

I'm very saddened to hear of the passing of Ken Young, founder of the Association of Road Racing Statisticians. If you're not familiar with Ken or the ARRS, Amby Burfoot's 2016 piece on him in Runners World, The Endless Toil of the Big Data Guy, says everything you need to know. Back in the early days of JRN, Ken was one of several industry people to contact me after I published JRN's first hit article, 397 Under 70 Minutes: The 20th Ageo City Half Marathon. He wanted verification of the results and, seemingly having missed Ageo before, asked me to research its history and past results.

That soon led to me transliterating results from Japanese road, track and cross-country races for him on a weekly basis, results otherwise unavailable to the outside world except for some already covered by Japanese contributors Ken Nakamura and Shigenobu Ota. For the last 10 years I've spent about 10 hours on average every Sunday night and Monday morning, sometimes Tuesday, someti…