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Meijo University Women Win First National Title Since 2005



3rd last year, Meijo University returned to the top with its first national title since 2005 at today's National University Women's Ekiden Championships in Sendai.

Missing its star pair Anju Takamizawa and Riho Takamizawa (no relation), defending champion Matsuyama University was never in the race, 25th of 26 teams on the 6.4 km First Stage and eventually working its way up to 13th. 6 seconds out of 1st, Meijo took over the lead on the 5.6 km Second Stage and held it almost the entire rest of the way.

With a record of ten wins and four 2nd-place finishes in the last 14 years, last year's runner-up Ritsumeikan University went into 1st on the 4.8 km Fourth Stage thanks to a stage best run by Ayano Tanaka, setting up a duel between course record holder Kotona Ota (Ritsumeikan Univ.) and #1-ranked first-year Rika Kaseda (Meijo Univ.) on the day's longest stage, the 9.2 km Fifth Stage. Kaseda caught Ota within the first 3 km, but while it looked like the younger Kaseda might have done too much too soon to catch the more experienced Ota, within a km of being caught it was Ota who faded away. By the end of the stage Kaseda had turned an 18-second deficit into a 16-second lead, one that anchor Kanna Tamaki lengthened to 35 seconds by the end of the race with Meijo's only stage win of the day to bring the team home 1st in 2:05:15.


2nd three times in the last four years, Daito Bunka University moved into 2nd on the Fifth Stage with a near-miss on the Ota's course record by fourth-year Natsuki Sekiya, a position anchor Aki Saito kept to deliver DBU another runner-up finish in 2:05:50. Ritsumeikan was 3rd in 2:06:46, its first time finishing outside the top 2 since 2002. Having lost to Matsuyama last year Ritsumeikan turned it around to win the season-ending Mt. Fuji Women's Ekiden, and this year again that will be its only hope of adding to its dynasty.

The top eight teams at Nationals receive guaranteed places at the next year's championships, and this year the battle around the 8th-place cutoff was one of the day's highlights. At the start of the Fifth Stage 16 seconds separated 7th-place Josai University and 9th-place Tokyo Nogyo University. 2017 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Yuki Munehisa moved Tokyo Nogyo into 6th, while Josai fell to 11th, now 29 seconds behind 8th-place Toyo University with two other teams separating them. It took one of the best runs of the day from Josai anchor Momoka Mitsugi to get Josai back into position, blowing by Toyo anchor Nene Uchida to steal back 8th in 2:08:46.

The Tokyo-area Kanto Region is traditionally more a center of university men's distance running due to the Hakone Ekiden. This year Kanto teams took four of the eight podium places at 2nd, 6th, 7th and 8th. The more powerful Kansai Region put teams into 3rd, 4th and 5th, with winner Meijo the only Tokai Region team to score. The university women's ekiden circuit has a long way to go to match the popularity of Hakone and the other men's races, but its truly national geographic representation is a breath of fresh air from the usual suspects feel of the Kanto-dominated Big Three University Men's Ekidens.

35th Morinomiyako Ekiden

National University Women's Ekiden Championships
Sendai, Miyagi, 10/29/17
6 stages, 38.0 km, 26 teams
click here for complete results

Top Team Results - top 8 seeded for 2018
1. Meijo University - 2:05:15
2. Daito Bunka University - 2:05:50
3. Ritsumeikan University - 2:06:46
4. Osaka Gakuin University - 2:07:00
5. Kansai University - 2:07:04
6. Tokyo Nogyo University - 2:07:56
7. Nittai University - 2:08:12
8. Josai University - 2:08:46
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9. Toyo University - 2:09:10
10. Kyoto Sangyo University - 2:09:22

Top Individual Stage Performances
First Stage (6.4 km) - Rino Goshima (Chuo Univ.) - 20:38
Second Stage (5.6 km) - Naruha Sato (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 17:53
Third Stage (6.8 km) - Ai Hosoda (Nittai Univ) - 22:06
Fourth Stage (4.8 km) - Ayano Tanaka (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 16:01
Fifth Stage (9.2 km) - Natsuki Sekiya (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 29:30
Sixth Stage (5.2 km) - Kanna Tamaki (Meijo Univ.) - 17:11

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Lexicon

Betsudai - the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon
daigaku - university
ekiden - a long-distance relay race
faito - a courseside audience cheer; see ganbatte
ganbatte (ganbare) - a courseside audience cheer; see faito
gasshuku - an intensive training camp
Hakone Ekiden - the annual university men`s championships
jitsugyodan - corporate-sponsored professional running teams
onsen - a hot spring
Q-chan - Naoko Takahashi, the 2000 Sydney Olympics women`s marathon gold medalist, Olympic record holder and first woman to break 2:20 in the marathon
rikujo - track and field, the marathon, and other running events
Rikuren - the JAAF
tasuki - the sash which is handed off during an ekiden
zannen - too bad
otaku - a nerdy, socially awkward person, usually male, who is obsessed with some esoteric topic

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