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Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. Wins Second National High School Girls Ekiden Title in Three Years

by Brett Larner
highlights video courtesy of race broadcaster NHK
click here for National High School Boys Ekiden results

2014 national champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. ran one of the fastest times in National High School Girls Ekiden history, breaking its school record to win its second national title in three years.

Osaka Kunei got off to a relatively slow start, its leading runner Kanami Sagayama just 10th on the 6.0 km First Stage behind defending champ Sera H.S., last-year's runner-up Tokiwa H.S., powerhouse Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. and others.  Osaka Kunei's star runner Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu, with an 8:58.86 best for 3000 m while still just 16 years old, got the team back in the game, running the second-fastest time on the 4.0975 km Second Stage to put Osaka Kunei into 1st.

Third and fourth runners Ayaka Murao and Saya Nakajima both won their stages, giving Osaka Kunei a 26-second lead over the relatively unheralded Nagano Higashi H.S. heading onto the 5.0 km anchor stage.  With little chance of being caught anchor Hikari Takeuchi pushed on in pursuit of time, bringing the team home in 1:07:24, the 7th-fastest time in Nationals history and 2 seconds faster than Osaka Kunei's 2014 winning time.  Of the 2014 team only Sagayama was present, and with only her graduating Osaka Kunei's chances for a repeat next year look strong.

In the top two the entire way and with a 41-second margin over 3rd at the start of the anchor stage, Nagano Higashi dropped to 6th.  Nishiwaki Kogyo and Kamimura Gakuen H.S. came on strong with two of the three fastest anchor stage times, Nishiwaki Kogyo taking 2nd in 1:08:08 and Kamimura Gakuen 3rd in 1:08:14.  Last year's winner Sera barely made the eight-deep podium, dropping to 13th mid-race after a disastrous debut by Kenyan first-year Naomi Muthoni but climbing back to 8th on the final stage.

Most of the best runners in the field will return to Kyoto early next month for the National Women's Ekiden where they will run for their home prefectures. Many of the top-placing teams will also run again a week later at the Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden where they will race the best university and corporate teams to wrap up their road seasons.

28th National High School Girls Ekiden
Kyoto, 12/25/16
47 teams, 5 stages, 21.0975 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. (Osaka) - 1:07:24 - all-time #7
2. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. (Hyogo) - 1:08:08
3. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. (Kagoshima) - 1:08:14
4. Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S. (Fukuoka) - 1:08:45
5. Narita H.S. (Chiba) - 1:08:47
6. Nagano Higashi H.S. (Nagano) - 1:08:54
7. Toyokawa H.S. (Aichi) - 1:09:07
8. Sera H.S. (Hiroshima) - 1:09:21
9. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. (Kyoto) - 1:09:23
10. Tokiwa H.S. (Gunma) - 1:09:26

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (6.0 km)
1. Yuna Wada (2nd yr., Nagano Higashi H.S.) - 19:14
2. Hibiki Onishi (2nd yr., Sera H.S.) - 19:19
3. Juri Ogasawara (1st yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) - 19:29

Second Stage (4.0975 km)
1. Helen Ekarare (2nd yr., Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 12:27 - CR tie
2. Tomomi Takamatsu (2nd yr., Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 12:43
3. Monica Margaret (3rd yr., Aomori Yamada H.S.) - 12:45

Third Stage (3.0 km)
1. Ayaka Murao (1st yr., Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 9:32
2. Yuna Onishi (3rd yr., Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 9:42
2. Shiori Aratake (3rd yr., Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 9:42

Fourth Stage (3.0 km)
1. Saya Nakajima (2nd yr., Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 9:17
2. Sae Nishiuchi (2nd yr., Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 9:25
3. Saeka Matsubara (3rd yr., Kumamoto Shinai Joshi H.S.) - 9:26

Fifth Stage (5.0 km)
1. Marta Mokaya (1st yr., Oita Tomei H.S.) - 15:25
2. Tabitha Njeri Kamau (1st yr., Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 15:36
3. Yume Goto (2nd yr., Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 15:38

© 2016 Brett Larner
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