Qualifying action for the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden corporate men's national championships continued Sunday with the combined Chubu and Hokuriku regional ekidens. Running both an A and a B team with only the A team having a chance of going on to race on New Year's Day, Toyota destroyed the field as it took 1st and 3rd overall.
After a slow start the A-team's Chihiro Miyawaki broke the course record on the 11.5 km Third Stage, covering it in 32:55 to move into the lead. Toyota A-team runners won the last three of the race's seven stages, winning by more than three minutes over closest competition Aisan Kogyo as they broke the overall course record with a new mark of 4:05:35 for the 83.5 km event. Toyota's B-team finished just 16 seconds behind Aisan Kogyo, showing just how much of a stranglehold Toyota has on the Chubu Region. YKK was the top team from the tiny Hokuriku Region, finishing 9th overall in 4:13:34 but moving on to the New Year Ekiden.
In Kyoto, Kwansei Gakuin University beat regional favorite Ritsumeikan University to win the Tango University Ekiden, the 79th edition of the Osaka-area Kansai Region University Men's Ekiden Championships. Kwansei Gakuin's Naoki Nakamura took the lead on the first of the 84.4 km race's eight stages, and from there to the finish the team was never seriously challenged for the lead despite a Fourth Stage course record by Ritsumeikan's Tsuyoshi Masumoto and wins on the last two stages by Ritsumeikan men. Nearly three minutes down at the start of his run with 11.7 km to make it up, Ritsumeikan anchor Shinji Koiwa got as close as 37 seconds back Kwansei Gakuin's Ikkai Kojima but simply didn't have the ground ahead of him in which to make it all up. Kwansei Gakuin won in 4:18:09, Ritsumeikan next across the line in 4:18:46.
All across the country top high schools continued the buildup to next month's National High School Ekiden Championships with dozens of prefectural and regional championship ekidens. There were simply too many high-level races to cover, but bearing special mention was the 33rd Kinki Region High School Girls Ekiden. On the 6.0 km First Stage Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. senior Nozomi Tanaka, who ran 8:54.27 to win last month's National Sports Festival Women's 3000 m, blasted a new course record of 18:51 for the opening leg, leaving Chinatsu Tarumoto of Suma Gakuen H.S. and other competition over 40 seconds behind.
Nishiwaki Kogyo finished only 4th overall in the end over a minute and a half behind 2016 national champions Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S., but her powerful stage win meant Tanaka picked up her sixth-straight win since finishing 2nd in the 3000 m at the summer's National High School Track and Field Championships. Tanaka has at least three more ekiden runs before her graduation in March, and if she can go her last ekiden season undefeated it will be a fitting end before she goes to the non-ekiden-oriented Doshisha University in April.
© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved