Skip to main content

Sera Girls Win First-Ever National High School Ekiden Championships Title

by Brett Larner
video highlights courtesy of broadcaster NHK

The Sera H.S. girls won their first-ever National High School Ekiden Championships Sunday in Kyoto thanks to a solid team performance and a stunning run from 2nd-year anchor Yuka Mukai.

Ranked #1, defending champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. was handicapped from the start by the loss of its #2 member Kanami Sagayama to injury and was far behind on the 6.0 km First Stage.  In Sagayama's absence Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. first-year Nozomi Tanaka, daughter of sub-2:30 amateur marathoner Chihiro Tanaka, led almost the entire way from her opening 3:10 km to the final stretch where she was outkicked by Sera's Shinobu Koyoshigawa.  The two handed off almost simultaneously and over the 4.0975 km Second Stage little changed in their teams' relative positions, Nishiwaki Kogyo handing off to its third runner one second ahead of Sera.  Behind them Tokiwa H.S. and Osaka Kunei drew closer, Osaka Kunei thanks to its debuting Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu, the younger sister of captain Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu.  Further back, Kenyan Helen Ekarare of Sendai Ikuei H.S. took 8 seconds off the stage record with a new mark of 12:27.

The elder Takamatsu overtook Tokiwa on the 3.0 km Third Stage, cutting the gap to Nishiwaki Kogyo and Sera down to 10 seconds.  On the 3.0 km Fourth Stage Sera's Kotone Asada ran into trouble, losing touch with Nishiwaki Kogyo's Yume Goto and overtaken by both Tokiwa and Osaka Kunei.  With a 15:31.92 best for 5000 m that put her at #10 among all Japanese women this year Sera anchor Mukai had said pre-race that she was confident of being able to make up a 30-second deficit.  When Asada handed off to her Mukai was 32 seconds behind Nishiwaki Kogyo anchor Yuina Onishi with two teams in between them.

Fluid and strong, Mukai was on the job.  In less than 2 km she went by Osaka Kunei's Rino Maeda.  Ahead Tokiwa's Yuki Kometani overtook Onishi for the lead, and just moments later Mukai did the same to move into 2nd, Kometani just ahead.  With just over a km to go Mukai went by Kometani and there was nothing left between her and the finish line.  Mukai broke the tape in 1:07:37 to give Sera its first national title, just 4 seconds outside the all-time top ten.  Her time of 15:26 beat her track PB by 5 seconds and, while not a stage record, was the fastest time ever by a Japanese-born runner on the anchor stage.  With the Sera boys all but guaranteed to win their race the girls' win meant a double was in the air for Hiroshima's strongest high school.

Tokiwa's Kometani held on after getting dropped, taking 2nd in 1:07:46.  Defending champions Osaka Kunei were a respectable 3rd in 1:08:10, 33 seconds out of the win.  Would Sagayama have made that much of a difference?  We'll never know.  Suma Gakuen H.S. anchor Mai Ota turned in one of the best performances of the day, running down longtime leader Nishiwaki Kogyo to take 4th by 9 seconds in 1:08:42.

National High School Girls Ekiden Championships
Kyoto, 12/20/15
59 teams, 5 stages, 21.0975 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Sera H.S. - 1:07:37
2. Tokiwa H.S. - 1:07:46
3. Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. - 1:08:10
4. Suma Gakuen H.S. - 1:08:42
5. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. - 1:08:51
6. Kojokan H.S. - 1:09:14
7. Yamada H.S. - 1:09:16
8. Kitakyushu Municipal H.S. - 1:09:24
9. Funabashi Municipal H.S. 1:09:31
10. Toyokawa H.S. 1:09:31

Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage - 6.0 km
1. Shinobu Koyoshigawa (Sera H.S) - 19:20
2. Nozomi Tanaka (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 19:20
3. Yuka Sarumida (Toyokawa H.S.) - 19:30

Second Stage - 4.0975 km
1. Helen Ekarare (Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 12:27 - CR
2. Wakana Kabasawa (Tokiwa H.S.) - 12:55
3. Fukiko Ando (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 12:57

Third Stage - 3.0 km
1. Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 9:33
2. Natsuki Yamamoto (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 9:51
2. Asuka Nagao (Sera H.S.) - 9:51

Fourth Stage - 3.0 km
1. Yume Goto (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 9:21
2. Mana Arai (Tokiwa H.S.) - 9:22
3. Kanako Hayakawa (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) - 9:23

Fifth Stage - 5.0 km
1. Yuka Mukai (Sera H.S.) - 15:26 - fastest-ever by Japanese runner
2. Yuki Kometani (Tokiwa H.S.) - 15:57
3. Monica Margaret (Aomori Yamada H.S.) - 15:58

© 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kawauchi Breaks Nobeyama Ultra Course Record

2018 Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) won the longest race of his career to date Sunday in Nagano, taking over six minutes off the Yatsugatake Nobeyama Kogen 71 km Ultramarathon in 4:41:55.

A training run for next month’s Stockholm Marathon, Kawauchi set off solo at a steady pace around 3:45/km. Climbing from 1355 m to 1908 m as he approached 20 km he naturally slowed, but with over 1000 m of descent over the next 30 km he was soon back on track. Hitting the marathon split around 2:39, he was so far ahead of the 2nd placer that the announcer initially forget Kawauchi had already gone by and announced the next runner as the leader.

At 58 km Kawauchi was on track to clear 4:30:00, but hitting the uphills in the final 10 km and feeling the effects of the unfamiliar distance he slowed to almost 5:00/km. But with so much leeway to work with there was never any danger of the 4:48:13 course record slipping out of reach. Kawauchi stopped the clock in 4:41:55, please…

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
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
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …