Sunday, January 22, 2017

Universal Entertainment and Osaka Kunei Win Kita-Kyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden

by Brett Larner

The women's championship ekiden season came to a close at Sunday's Kita-Kyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden in Fukuoka.  Cancelled last year due to heavy snow, Kita-Kyushu pits the country's top high school, university and pro women's teams against each other over a short five-stage, 32.8 km course, the long 11.7 km anchor stage split in two for the high school division.

With both divisions running together it was a close race throughout.  Running without star marathoner Eri Hayakawa, the Toto corporate team led almost the entire race.  Its opening pair Hana Omori and Shuru Bulo built a 36-lead over 2016 National High School Ekiden champion and 2015 high school division winner Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S., with its nearest corporate league competition Universal Entertainment almost a minute behind.

Universal's third runner Mai Shinozuka cut that down to 19 seconds, Osaka Kunei's Ayako Murao coming even closer at just 8 seconds back. Fourth Toto runner Sumina Kuroda dropped a new course record 18:38 for the 5.9 km Fourth Stage to reopen Toto's lead, but Universal anchor Azusa Sumi refused to be denied, outrunning Toto anchor Wakaba Kawakami by almost a minute and a half to give Universal Entertainment its first-ever Kita-Kyushu win in 1:47:44.  Toto was 2nd in 1:48:20, holding off 2015 winner Kyudenko by 13 seconds.

In the high school division Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. closed to within 32 seconds of Osaka Kunei thanks to a Fourth Stage win from Nozomi Tanaka, but Osaka Kunei's fifth runner Ayane Kinoshita turned that around with a stage win that gave anchor Haruka Takada the margin she needed for the victory. Osaka Kunei took its second-straight Kita-Kyushu win in 1:48:08, Nishiwaki Kogyo far back in 1:49:59 ten seconds ahead of Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.

28th Kita-Kyushu Invitational Women's Ekiden
Kita-Kyushu, Fukuoka, 1/22/17
25 teams, 6 stages, 32.8 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results - Open Division
1. Universal Entertainment - 1:47:44
2. Toto - 1:48:20
3. Kyudenko - 1:48:33
4. Juhachi Ginko - 1:50:04
5. Yutaka Giken - 1:50:25

Top Team Results - High School Division
1. Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. - 1:48:08
2. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. - 1:49:59
3. Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S. - 1:50:09
4. Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S. - 1:50:39
5. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. - 1:51:48

Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (4.2 km) - Hana Omori (Toto) - 13:54
Second Stage (5.9 km) - Shuru Bulo (Toto) - 19:09
Third Stage (5.1 km) - Kaho Adachi (Kyudenko) - 16:41
Fourth Stage (5.9 km) - Sumina Kuroda (Toto) - 18:38 - CR
Fifth Stage (open - 11.7 km) - Azusa Sumi (Univ. Ent.) - 36:36
Fifth Stage (H.S. - 4. 9m) - Ayane Kinoshita (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 16:08
Sixth Stage (H.S. - 6.8 km) - Mai Misaki (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 21:06

© 2017 Brett Larner
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