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Osaka Gakuin and Gunma On Top As Women's Ekidens Turn 30

by Brett Larner

Two of Japan's elite women-only ekidens founded after the 1984 Los Angeles Olympics celebrated their 30th anniversaries Sunday.  At the Fukui Super Ladies Ekiden, last year's top collegiate team Osaka Gakuin University staged a classic come-from-behind race to take its first Fukui title, covering the six-stage, 30.0 km course in 1:38:23.  Down by more than a minute behind leader Panasonic and in 15th place after the 6.55 km First Stage, each of Osaka Gakuin's next five runners moved up in both stage ranking and overall standing until Sakie Arai took the lead by four seconds over 2014 National University Women's Ekiden champion Ritsumeikan University and by six over Panasonic with a 16:10 stage best on the Fifth Stage.  Anchor Saori Noda then put both Ritsumeikan and Panasonic away with a 24:25 stage best for the 7.45 km Sixth Stage to win by nearly a minute.  Panasonic's anchor, 2014 Gold Coast Airport Marathon winner Asami Kato, overtook Ritsumeikan anchor Mutsumi Ikeda for 2nd overall in 1:39:12.  Megumi Hirai of last year's runner up Canon AC Kyushu also sneaked by Ikeda for 3rd in 1:39:18.

Far to the northeast in Fukushima, the East Japan Women's Ekiden also turned 30.   Defending champion Chiba ran strong for the first seven of the race's nine stages, leading on stages and never falling more than a second out of top three.  Its final two runners struggling, however, Chiba ultimately dropped to 8th.  In its place, Gunma, Saitama and Tokyo battled throughout the race, the lead turning over six times from stage to stage.  Gunma took the lead on the 3.0 km Eighth Stage thanks to a 9:09 stage win by its Arisu Fuwa, and a 32:16 stage win for the 10.0 km anchor stage by star Shiho Takechi put it far out in front for the win in 2:16:43 by a margin of over a minute.  Leading on the Seventh Stage Saitama looked set for 2nd, but Kanagawa anchor Kaori Morita delivered a solid 32:37 to come up from 6th and catch Saitama anchor Fumiko Hashimoto to steal 2nd by just two seconds in 2:17:46.  After leading early and mid-race, Tokyo dropped to 5th overall behind Nagano.

30th Fukui Super Ladies Ekiden
Fukui, 11/9/14
6 stages, 30.0 km, 45 teams
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Osaka Gakuin Univ. A - 1:38:23
2. Panasonic - 1:39:12
3. Canon AC Kyushu - 1:39:18
4. Ritsumeikan Univ. - 1:39:44
5. Meijo Univ. A - 1:40:08
6. Kyoto Sangyo Univ. - 1:40:09
7. Yamada Denki - 1:40:15
8. Hitachi - 1:40:17
9. Fukuoka Univ. A - 1:40:19
10. Edion - 1:40:31

Stage Best Performances
First Stage - 6.55 km: Rina Yamazaki (Panasonic) - 20:58
Second Stage - 3.0 km: Risa Kikuchi (Hitachi) - 9:30
Third Stage - 4.0 km: Yomogi Akasaka (Meijo Univ. A) - 12:52
Fourth Stage - 4.0 km: Doricah Obare (Kenya/Hitachi) - 12:28
Fifth Stage - 5.0 km: Sakie Arai (Osaka Gakuin Univ. A) - 16:10
Sixth Stage - 7.45 km: Saori Noda (Osaka Gakuin Univ. A) - 24:25

30th East Japan Women's Ekiden
Fukushima, 11/9/14
9 stages, 42.195 km, 18 teams
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Gunma - 2:16:43
2. Kanagawa - 2:17:46
3. Saitama - 2:17:48
4. Nagano - 2:18:00
5. Tokyo - 2:18:23
6. Shizuoka - 2:19:37
7. Fukushima - 2:20:32
8. Chiba - 2:20:36
9. Tochigi - 2:20:56
10. Hokkaido - 2:21:06

Stage Best Performances
First Stage - 6.0 km: Hanami Sekine (Tokyo) - 19:02
Second Stage - 4.0 km: Kanako Shimada (Tokyo) - 12:56
Third Stage - 3.0 km: Ai Hosoda (Nagano) - 9:52
Fourth Stage - 3.0 km: Ema Hayashi (Gunma) - 9:19
Fifth Stage - 5.0875 km: Mao Kiyota (Shizuoka) - 16:20
Sixth Stage - 4.1075 km: Reina Shinozaki (Gunma) - 13:00
Seventh Stage - 4.0 km: Tomomi Miyasaka (Saitama) - 13:10
Eighth Stage - 3.0 km: Arisu Fuwa (Gunma) - 9:09
Ninth Stage - 10.0 km: Shiho Takechi (Gunma) - 32:16

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
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The Kawauchi Counter

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Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Upcoming race schedule: Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama
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Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan
Mar. 25: Kuki Half Marathon, Saitama
Apr. 16: Boston Marathon, U.S.A.
June 2: ASICS Stockholm Marathon, Sweden
July 1: Gold Coast Airport Marathon, Australia
Aug. 26: New Caledonia International Marathon, New Caledonia
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