Skip to main content

Ritsumeikan Set to Make it Five-Straight - National University Women's Ekiden Championships Preview

by Brett Larner



With the men's Big Three University Ekiden season well underway, Japan's university women kick off their own Big Three this Sunday at Sendai's Morinomiyako Ekiden, the National University Women's Ekiden Championships. With six stages totalling 38.0 km, a longest stage of 9.2 km, 26 teams from across the country and a live nationwide broadcast on NTV Morinomiyako is similar in scale to the men's season-opening Izumo Ekiden.

Defending champion Ritsumeikan University of Kyoto comes in ranked #1 again with four-straight national titles and nine wins in the last twelve years.  With the #1 and #3 ranked runners in the field, third-year Natsuki Omori and second-year Kotona Ota, and the fastest top-six 5000 m average, 15:45.73, there is almost no chance Ritsumeikan will lose.  The last team to beat them, 2009-2010 national champion and crosstown Kyoto rival Bukkyo University, has long since faded from glory with the departure of head coach Kenichi Morikawa for the Yamada Denki corporate team.  The only other team to beat Ritsumeikan in the last decade, Nagoya's Meijo University, is ranked #5 with a top-six average of 15:57.91, meaning it's up to some newer blood to take them on.

2015 National University Women's Ekiden Championships top 12 rankings. Click to enlarge.

Last year runner-up Daito Bunka University of Saitama gave Ritsumeikan a run for it, finishing just 21 seconds back.  This year Daito Bunka looks almost equally strong with a top-six average of 15:51.04, but just eclipsing them is Kanagawa's Nittai University, winner of last month's Kanto Region qualifier.  Nittai has a top-six average of 15:50.61, enough to put them in range of Ritsumeikan alongside Daito Bunka should anything go wrong up front, and Morinomiyako's longest stage being 9.2 km it could come down to 10000 m credentials in a race for 2nd.  Nittai's best woman, second-year Yuri Karasawa, has run 33:03.25, while Daito Bunka third-year Fuyuka Kimura has run 33:02.54.  It's just too close to call, but the joint Nittai and Daito Bunka chase after Ritsumeikan should be the highlight of the race.  And with four of Nittai's top six being first-years they may be at the start of a progression that could see them topple the Ritsumeikan dynasty two or three years down the road.  Rounding out the five schools with sub-16:00 top-six averages, Ehime's #4-ranked Matsuyama University 15:57.11 top-six average sets it up for another good race against #5-ranked Meijo.

The top eight at Morinomiyako are seeded for the following year, meaning they don't have to run September's regional qualifiers.  With a top-six average of 16:07.54 Tokyo Nogyo University looks like a lock for a seeded finish at #6, but the 7th through 12th-ranked teams including last year's third-placer Osaka Gakuin University are all close at the 16:12-16:18 level.  Between Josai University (Saitama), Kansai University (Osaka), Juntendo University (Chiba), Toyo University (Saitama), Kanoya Taiiku University (Kagoshima) led by 2015 National University 10000 m champion Rina Nabeshima, and #12-ranked Osaka Gakuin likewise led by 2015 National University 5000 m champion Sakie Arai, any two of them could take the final seeded places in 7th and 8th.

By comparison, in the NCAA where university women spend the fall season focusing on 6 km cross-country, almost identical in distance to Morinomiyako's 6.33 km average stage length, 2014 NCAA XC national champion Michigan State University had a top-six average of 16:11.16 at the time of its win, putting it right in with the group of six Japanese schools contending for 7th and 8th place.

The Morinomiyako Ekiden will be broadcast live nationwide on NTV starting at noon on Sunday, October 25.  Check back on JRN for results and report post-race.

Morinomiyako Ekiden
33rd National University Women's Ekiden Championships Entry List
Sendai, Miyagi, 10/25/15 
click here for complete field listing

1. Ritsumeikan University (Kyoto)
2. Daito Bunka University (Saitama)
3. Osaka Gakuin University (Osaka)
4. Matsuyama University (Ehime)
5. Kanoya Taiiku University (Kagoshima)
6. Kyoto Sangyo University (Kyoto)
7. Meijo University (Aichi)
8. Fukuoka University (Fukuoka)
9. Hokusho University (Hokkaido)
10. Tohoku Fukushi University (Miyagi)
11. Ishinomaki Senshu University (Miyagi)
12. Nittai University (Kanagawa)
13. Tokyo Nogyo University (Tokyo)
14. Juntendo University (Chiba)
15. Hakuoh University (Tochigi)
16. Josai University (Saitama)
17. Toyo University (Saitama)
18. Niigata Iryo Fukushi University (Niigata)
19. Chukyo University (Aichi)
20. Kansai University (Osaka)
21. Bukkyo University (Kyoto)
22. Kansai Gaikokugo University (Osaka)
23. Kobe Gakuin University (Hyogo)
24. Toa University (Yamaguchi)
25. Meio University (Okinawa)
26. Tohoku Region University Select Team

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawabata Over Kawauchi at Takashimadaira 20 km

Like a distant echo of the thunder of yesterday's Yosenkai 20 km reverberating across the city, Tokyo's other major 20 km road race took place this morning in the northwestern suburb of Takashimadaira. Narrowly surviving the loss of its main sponsor last year, the Takashimadaira Road Race offers a unique 5 km loop course that delivers fast times. Now in its 42nd year, Takashimadaira is a favorite for upper-tier universities that don't have to run the Yosenkai to requalify for the Hakone Ekiden, for other schools' second-stringers, and for top-level independents and amateurs.

This year's race was fronted by a group of runners from Izumo Ekiden winner Tokai University who didn't make Tokai's final Izumo roster, by London World Championships marathoner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) and others from yesterday's Yosenkai winner Teikyo University and the Hakone-qualified Juntendo University and Komazawa University. In the same cool and lightly rainy…

Osaka Marathon Elite Field

One of the world's ten biggest marathons, in its six runnings to date the Osaka Marathon has continued to avoid the addition of a world-class elite field of the same caliber as at equivalently-sized races like Tokyo, Berlin and Boston. In place of doling out cash to pros, Osaka's women's field has developed into a sort of national championship race for amateur women.

In the field this year are six, probably all six, of the amateur Japan women to have broken 2:40 in the last three years. Last year's top three, Yoshiko Sakamoto (F.O.R.), Yumiko Kinoshita (SWAC) and Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) lead the way at the 2:36 +/- level, with a second trio of Marie Imada (Iwatani Sangyo), Mitsuko Ino (R2 Nishin Nihon) and Chika Tawara (RxL) all around the 2:39 level.

Last year's winner Sakamoto and 3rd placer Yoshimatsu squared off in September at Germany's Volksbank Muenster Marathon, Yoshimatsu tying Sakamoto's Osaka winning time of 2:36:02 to take 3rd over …

Kawauchi and Kanematsu Win Rainy Shimantogawa 100 km

The 23rd edition of the Shimantogawa Ultramarathon took place Oct. 15 in Shimanto, Kochi. 1822 runners started the 100 km division, where Yoshiki Kawauchi (26, Saitama T&F Assoc.) and Aiko Kanematsu (37, Team RxL) took the men's and women's titles for the first time.

The 100 km division started under a heavy downpour at 5:30 a.m. in front of Warabioka J.H.S. The 576 participants in the 60 km division got off 4 1/2 hours later from Koinobori Park, with both races finishing at Nakamura H.S.

Kawauchi, the younger brother of "civil servant runner" Yuki Kawauchi, ran Shimantogawa for the second time, improving dramatically on last year's run to win in 6:42:06. "Last time I was 21st, a total disaster," Kawauchi said afterward. "My brother told me, 'Don't overdo it on the uphills,' and his advie helped me get through it. The scenery around Iwama Chinkabashi was really beautiful."

Kanematsu began running with her husband around age 30…