translated and edited by Brett Larner
Running through the foothills of Mt. Fuji on a seven-stage, 43.8 km course from Fujisan Hongu Sengen Shrine to Fuji Sports Park Field in Shizuoka, on Dec. 30 Kyoto's Ritsumeikan University won a fourth-straight Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden in 2:25:43. It was Ritsumeikan's tenth National University Women's Invitational Ekiden Championships title and left the school undefeated since the National Championships moved to the hilly Mt. Fuji course in 2013. Meijo University was 2nd, with 2016 National University Women's Ekiden champion Matsuyama University taking 3rd.
Conditions at the start were good, with 10-degree temperatures, 44% humidity and a gentle north wind. Running the First Stage on a new course circling Sengen Shrine, Matsuayama's Rio de Janeiro 3000 m steeplechase Olympian Anju Takamizawa got things off to a good start, opening a 6-second lead over Ritsumeikan. Matsuyama first-year Riho Takamizawa likewise won the Second Stage, extending Matsuyama's lead over Ritsumeikan to 12 seconds.
But on the Third Stage Ritsumeikan star fourth-year Natsuki Omori made up the ground, catching Matsuyama's Akane Fujiwara with 100 m to go. The pair kicked in together in a dead heat finish, handing off simultaneously but Ritsumeikan getting the lead in the results. Ritsumeikan's fourth runner Ayano Ikeuchi won her stage on time to put her team 15 seconds ahead.
On the race's longest stage, the 10.9 km Fifth Stage, Ritsumeikan's Yukari Wada ran well to keep the top position. Matsuyama's Misuzu Nakahara, on the other hand, got into trouble mid-stage, her pace slowing dramatically as she was overtaken by Meijo, Kyoto Sangyo University and Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden winner Daito Bunka University. Nakahara looked as though she might collapse at one point, but somehow she fought through to hand off the tasuki in 6th.
Matsuyama's sixth runner Ayumi Uehara was brilliant. 4 km into the 6.0 km penultimate stage she overtook Daito Bunka to move into 5th, and just before the handoff she ran down Kyoto Sangyo and Osaka Gakuin University to hand off in 3rd. Leader Ritsumeikan was 1:04 ahead of Meijo, with Matsuyama another 26 seconds back.
Featuring 166 m net climb over 8.3 km, the anchor stage was a miniature version of the Hakone Ekiden's famed Fifth Stage. Ritsumeikan anchor Ayaka Matsumoto had no problems and ran in alone unthreatened to the finish, returning Ritsumeikan to the Japanese university women's ekiden throne after its loss to Matsuyama in October.
4th Mount Fuji Women's Ekiden
National University Women's Invitational Ekiden Championships
21 teams, 7 stages, 43.8 km, net climb
click here for complete results
Top Team Results
1. Ritsumeikan University - 2:25:43
2. Meijo University - 2:27:21
3. Matsuyama University - 2:27:57
4. Osaka Gakuin University - 2:28:18
5. Nittai University - 2:28:36
6. Kyoto Sangyo University - 2:28:37
7. Daito Bunka University - 2:29:30
8. Tokyo Nogyo University - 2:30:16
9. Fukuoka University - 2:30:25
10. Toyo University - 2:30:32
Top Individual Stage Performances
First Stage (4.1 km) - Anju Takamizawa (Matsuyama Univ.) - 12:42
Second Stage (6.8 km) - Riho Takamizawa (Matsuyama Univ.) - 21:19
Third Stage (3.3 km) - Natsuki Omori (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 10:13
Fourth Stage (4.4 km) - Ayano Ikeuchi (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 14:13
Fifth Stage (10.9 km) - Honoka Tanaike (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 36:29
Sixth Stage (6.0 km) - Ayumi Uehara (Matsuyama Univ.) - 19:38
Seventh Stage (8.3 km, 166 m ascent) - Ai Hosoda (Nittai Univ.) - 29:48
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