Monday, October 5, 2015

Kurashiki H.S. and Okazaki Gakuen H.S. Win First Kurayoshi Ekiden Titles

by Brett Larner

Okayama prefecture's Kurashiki H.S. and Aichi's Okazaki Gakuen H.S. took their first-ever wins at the season's first big nationwide high school ekiden in Kurayoshi, Tottori on October 4.  In the 35th edition of the boys' race, Kurashiki, splitting its team into A and B squads, started slow, its B-squad 21st and A-squad 25th after the 10.0 km First Stage.  The A-squad moved up to 14th on the 3.0 km Second Stage, and with a stage best by its third runner Maeda it moved up to 3rd at halfway.  Kurashiki A's next three runners juggled between 1st and 2nd places, and with a 38-second lead over Kyushu Gakuin H.S. for the 5.0 km anchor stage it looked safe for the win.

Safe, that is, until Kurashiki A anchor Koga ran only the 12th-best time on the final stage, while behind him Kyushu Gakuin anchor Ueda bore down with a stage best 15:15.  It looked like it would be close, but in the end Koga had the margin he needed and broke the tape in 2:06:55, Kurashiki's first time winning in Kurayoshi.  Ueda was just 5 seconds behind him in 2:07:00.  Saikyo H.S. A was 3rd in 2:07:13, while 2014 National High School Ekiden Sera H.S.' A-squad finished 6th in 2:07:50.  Kurashiki's B-squad was strong enough to land in 10th in 2:09:08, making its chances look good for challenging Sera at Nationals in December.

The girls' race, celebrating its 30th running, was a three-way battle the entire way between 2013 National High School Ekiden champion Toyokawa H.S., 2012 national champion Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. and the relatively unheralded Okazaki Gakuen girls.  Toyokawa's Sarumida led on the 6.0 km First Stage, but a stage best by second runner Kawaguchi put Okazaki Gakuen into the lead where they stayed through the Third Stage.  Ritsumeikan Uji's fourth runner Nishiuchi in turn ran a stage best to move two seconds into the lead over Okazaki Gakuen going into the 5.0 km anchor stage.  There Okazaki Gakuen's Mitsube brought her best, outrunning Ritsumeikan Uji's Yamamoto by 20 seconds to give Okazaki Gakuen its first win in 1:09:59.  Ritsumeikan Uji took 2nd in 1:10:17, Toyokawa 3rd a short distance back in 1:10:27.  Running without most of its big names including the Takamatsu sisters, 2014 national champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. was only 9th in 1:11:51.

35th Nihonkai High School Boys Ekiden
Kurayoshi, Tottori, 10/4/15
7 stages, 42.195 km, 126 teams
click here for complete results

Team Results
1. Kurashiki H.S. A (Okayama) - 2:06:55
2. Kyushu Gakuin H.S. (Kumamoto) - 2:07:00
3. Saikyo H.S. A (Yamaguchi) - 2:07:13
4. Saku Chosei H.S. (Nagano) - 2:07:39
5. Hotoku Gakuen H.S. A (Hyogo) - 2:07:43
6. Sera H.S. A (Hiroshima) - 2:07:50
7. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. A (Hyogo) - 2:07:54
8. Omuta H.S. A (Fukuoka) - 2:08:50
9. Rakunan H.S. (Kyoto) - 2:09:02
10. Kurashiki H.S. B (Okayama) - 2:09:08

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (10.0 km) - Sakaguchi (Rakunan H.S.) - 29:44
Second Stage (3.0 km) - Ikeda (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. A) - 8:32
Third Stage (8.1075 km) - Maeda (Kurashiki H.S. A) - 24:07
Fourth Stage (8.0875 km) - Nishida (Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 24:18
Fifth Stage (3.0 km) - Akazawa (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. A) - 8:39
Sixth Stage (5.0 km) - Mwaura (Kurashiki H.S. B) - 14:05
Seventh Stage (5.0 km) - Ueda (Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 15:15

30th Kurayoshi High School Girls Ekiden
Kurayoshi, Tottori, 10/4/15
5 stages, 21.0975 km, 102 teams
click here for complete results

Team Results
1. Okazaki Gakuen H.S. (Aichi) - 1:09:59
2. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. - (Kyoto) - 1:10:17
3. Toyokawa H.S. A (Aichi) - 1:10:27
4. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. A (Hyogo) - 1:10:41
5. Kashiwa Nittai Prep H.S. (Chiba) - 1:11:07
6. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. (Kagoshima) - 1:11:15
7. Katsura H.S. A (Kyoto) - 1:11:32
8. Isahaya H.S. (Nagasaki) - 1:11:45
9. Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. A (Osaka) - 1:11:51
10. Sera H.S. (Hiroshima) - 1:12:13

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (6.0 km) - Sarumida (Toyokawa H.S. A) - 19:08
Second Stage (4.0975 km) - Kawaguchi (Okazaki Gakuen H.S.) - 13:14
Third Stage (3.0 km) - Matamura (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 10:09
Fourth Stage (3.0 km) - Nishiuchi (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 10:00
Fifth Stage (5.0 km) - Kitagawa (Kashiwa Nittai Prep H.S.) - 16:36

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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