After an unexpected breakthrough last year to win its first national title in 12 years, Meijo University took full advantage of its new recruits to win the Morinomiyako Ekiden, the Japanese University Women's Ekiden Championships, for the second year in a row Sunday in Sendai.
First-year Yuna Wada, who set up Nozomi Tanaka for the gold medal in this year's U20 World Championships 3000 m, took it out hard for Meijo, winning the 6.4 km First Stage by two seconds over Naruha Sato of last year's 3rd-placer Ritsumeikan University. After a rocky start 2017 runner-up Daito Bunka University's Yuka Suzuki made up a 42-second deficit on the 5.6 km Second Stage, turning it into a 15-second lead over Ritsumeikan with Meijo dropping to 3rd.
Star Meijo first-year Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu got it back under control, just missing the CR on the 6.8 km Third Stage as she put Meijo back into the lad for good. DBU, Ritsumeikan and darkhorse Tokyo Nogyo University battled to close the gap, but despite a brilliant run from fourth-year Natsuki Sekiya on the 9.2 km Fifth Stage DBU only managed to come within 34 seconds of Meijo by the end, runner-up again just 1 second closer than it came last year. Ritsumeikan was 3rd again, majorly cutting its loss from 1:31 last year to just 38 seconds this year.
Tokyo Nogyo improved on its 6th-place finish last year to 4th this year thanks in large part to 2017 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Yuki Munehisa and her duel with Sekiya. 2016 national champion Matsuyama University was 5th, a return to form after placing 13th last year. Kyoto Sangyo University, Osaka Gakuin University and Osaka Geijutsu University rounded out the eight-deep seeded bracket, Osaka Geijutsu earning that honor for the first time. Toyo University was the one to miss out, taking 9th with a gap of 29 seconds to Osaka Geijutsu. Tamagawa University was another 10 seconds behind in 10th.
With the demise of the Nikko Irohazaka Women's Ekiden, the next main event on the calendar for university women is December's season-ending Mounti Fuji Women's Ekiden.
36th Morinomiyako EkidenNational University Women's Ekiden Championships
Sendai, Miyagi, 10/28/18
26 teams, 6 stages, 38.0 km
Top Team Results - top 8 seeded for 2019
1. Meijo University - 2:05:26
2. Daito Bunka University - 2:06:00
3. Ristumeikan University - 2:06:04
4. Tokyo Nogyo University - 2:06:10
5. Matsuyama University - 2:07:50
6. Kyoto Sangyo University - 2:08:28
7. Osaka Gakuin University - 2:08:30
8. Osaka Geijutsu University - 2:09:35
9. Toyo University - 2:10:04
10. Tamagawa University - 2:10:14
Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage - 6.4 km -Yuna Wada (Meijo Univ.) - 20:48
Second Stage - 5.6 km -Yuka Suzuki (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 17:38
Third Stage - 6.8 km -Tomomi Musembi Takamatsu (Meijo Univ.) - 22:04
Fourth Stage - 4.8 km -Miyu Nakata (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 16:03
Fifth Stage - 9.2 km -Natsuki Sekiya (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 29:32
Sixth Stage - 5.2 km -Aki Manabe (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 17:24
text and photo © 2018 Brett Larner