Sunday, November 13, 2016

A Four-Ekiden Day

by Brett Larner


The fall ekiden season continued with not one or two or three but four top-level races across the country Sunday.  With places at the New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships on the line corporate teams in Chugoku and Kansai lined up in their regional championship races.  To the apparent surprise of everyone including anchor Koji Matsuoka, pictured above, the Mazda men broke the Chugoku Region course record to hold off perpetual powerhouse Chugoku Denryoku by 30 seconds for the win. Otsuka Seiyaku claimed the Kansai Region title, outrunning SGH Group by over a minute to take the top spot.

In women's action, Yamada Denki successfully defended its Fukui Super Ladies Ekiden title, taking the lead on the second of six stages and never threatened after that as its third through sixth runners, led by Kasumi Nishihara, won their individual stages.  With three Rio Olympians in its field, the East Japan Women's Ekiden was the highest-level of the day.  Featuring 5000 m Olympian Misaki Onishi, defending champion Chiba Prefecture was the probable favorite.  But with a lineup made entirely of junior high school, high school and university runners Nagano Prefecture proved better. Nagano's Yui Takayasu went to the front on the Third Stage and neither Chiba nor Tokyo, featuring Rio teammates Miyuki Uehara and Tomomi Tanaka, could catch up.  Nagano anchor Kanna Tamaki, a second-year at Meijo University, had 40 seconds on pro Rui Aoyama of Chiba at the start of the 10.0 km anchor stage, more than enough for her to work with as she brought Nagano home 33 seconds up on Chiba.

© 2016 Brett Larner
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