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Universal Entertainment Wins New-Format National Corporate Women's Ekiden Qualifier

by Brett Larner

While the university women's ekiden circuit continues to expand, the corporate women's calendar faced another cutback this year.  From roughly a half dozen corporate league regions, each of which holds a separate New Year Ekiden national corporate men's championships qualifying ekiden in November, corporate women's teams had already seen their regional qualifiers compressed to three qualifying races, West Japan, Central Japan and East Japan.  This year those three races were further combined into a single qualifying race in Munakata, Fukuoka with 24 teams competing for 14 "princess" places at next month's National Corporate Women's Ekiden alongside the seeded top 8 "queens" from last year's Nationals.

From the East Japan region, Universal Entertainment took the top position in 2:17:02 for 42.195 km in 6 stages, leading from the Second Stage to the end with stage bests from second runner Tomoka Kimura and fifth runner Mirai WakuSekisui Kagaku, also from East Japan, led on the First Stage thanks to Beijing World Championships 5000 m runner Misaki Onishi but spent most of the rest of the race in 2nd where it finished in 2:18:10.  Qualifying for Nationals for the first time, Japan Post Group made it an East Japan sweep of the top 3 thanks to a brilliant 32:13 win on the 10.3 km Third Stage from Onishi's Beijing teammate Ayuko Suzuki that saw Japan Post move up from 19th to 4th.  By race's end Japan Post had a solid grasp on 3rd in 2:19:49, and after outrunning multi-national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) for the stage win in spectacular style Suzuki had a likewise solid grasp on the title of Japan's next big hope.

Most teams finishing from 4th through 12th were lumped together in two groups, but some of the best racing happened further back around the Nationals cutoff line between 14th and 15th.  At the handoff to the anchor only 5 seconds separated the Sysmex, Shiseido, Juhachi Ginko and Toto teams.  A strong run from Juhachi Ginko's Yuka Koga put them up safely into 11th, while Shiseido dropped out of the fold into 16th as its anchor Mutsumi Ikeda struggled.  Sysmex and Toto were left racing each other for the last two qualifying spots, 13th and 14th, but behind them, starting 40 seconds behind in 18th, Canon AC Kyushu anchor Yuka Takemoto was tearing through the field.  Catching first the Edion team, then Otsuka Seiyaku, then Shiseido, Takemoto closed on Sysmex's Rui Nishida and Toto's Ayame Kazu in the last kilometer.  Nishida managed to stay ahead for 13th in 2:21:45 but in the final straight Takemoto came up almost even with Kazu.  After running the second-fastest time on her stage to get there it looked like Takemoto might succeed in taking Canon to Nationals, but Kazu summoned up just enough of a kick to hang on to 14th in 2:21:49, Takemoto just 1 second behind and out of the qualifying bracket in 2:21:50.  Many of the smaller teams' fortunes rest on making the national championship ekidens, so that single second was full of meaning for the Canon runners.

Princess Ekiden
National Corporate Women's Ekiden Qualification Race
Munakata, Fukuoka, 10/25/15
24 teams, 6 stage, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Overall Results - top 14 qualify for National Corporate Women's Ekiden
1. Universal Entertainment (East Japan) - 2:17:02
2. Sekisui Kagaku (East Japan) - 2:18:10
3. Japan Post Group (East Japan) - 2:19:49
4. Tenmaya (Chugoku) - 2:20:04
5. Noritz (Kansai) - 2:20:08
6. Route Inn Hotels (East Japan) - 2:20:11
7. Hitachi (East Japan) - 2:20:23
8. Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo (East Japan) - 2:20:42
9. Wacoal (Kansai) - 2:20:58
10. Hokuren (East Japan) - 2:21:10
11. Juhachi Ginko (Kyushu) - 2:21:19
12. Panasonic (East Japan) - 2:21:22
13. Sysmex (Kansai) - 2:21:45
14. Toto (Kyushu) - 2:21:49
15. Canon AC Kyushu (Kyushu) - 2:21:50
16. Shiseido (East Japan) - 2:22:04

Individual Stage Results
First Stage - 7.0 km
1. Misaki Onishi (Sekisui Kagaku) - 22:50
2. Saori Noda (Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo) - 22:53
3. Rei Ohara (Tenmaya) - 22:55

Second Stage - 4.0 km
1. Tomoka Kimura (Universal Entertainment) - 12:37
2. Risa Kikuchi (Hitachi) - 12:43
3. Chiaki Morikawa (Starts)

Third Stage - 10.3 km
1. Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post Group) - 32:13
2. Kayoko Fukushi (Wacoal) - 32:22
3. Miho Shimizu (Hokuren) - 32:48

Fourth Stage - 3.8 km
1. Pauline Kamulu (Route Inn Hotels) - 11:39
2. Doricah Obare (Hitachi) - 11:53
3. Felista Wanjugu (Universal Entertainment) - 11:59

Fifth Stage - 10.4 km
1. Mirai Waku (Universal Entertainment) - 34:51
2. Sayaka Kuwahara (Sekisui Kagaku) - 35:25
3. Misato Horie (Noritz) - 35:48

Sixth Stage - 6.695 km
1. Miho Ihara (Sekisui Kagaku) - 21:40
2. Yuka Takemoto (Canon AC Kyushu) - 21:47
3. Mizuho Nasukawa (Universal Entertainment) - 21:48

2015 National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships Field
Yamada Denki
Toyota Jidoshokki
Daiichi Seimei
Universal Entertainment
Sekisui Kagaku
Japan Post Group
Route Inn Hotels
Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo
Juhachi Ginko

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


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