2016 national champion Japan Post led start to finish to win the 2019 Queen's Ekiden, the National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships in one of the closest finishes in the event's history. Running on her 19th birthday, Japan Post's star rookie Ririka Hironaka took control early, pushing the pace and kicking from 2 km out on the 7 km First Stage to open 20 seconds on two-time defending champ Panasonic and break the course record by 18 seconds. Miyaka Sugata more than doubled the lead on the 3.9 km Second Stage, with third runner Ayuko Suzuki, one of the two women to have qualified so far for the 2020 Olympic marathon team, losing only 6 seconds to Panasonic's Yuka Hori.
Hori brought Panasonic back into 2nd after a rocky Second Stage, but further back last year's 2nd and 3rd place teams Tenmaya and Daihatsu got off to slow starts, Daihatsu 8th on the opening stage and only up to 7th by the end of the Third Stage, and Tenmaya going from 11th to 18th and back to 11th over the first three stages. As Japan Post and Panasonic held steady in the top two spots both Tenmaya and Daihatsu rapidly moved up through the field, both teams scoring stage best times in the second half.
At the start of the 6.795 km anchor stage Japan Post's lead over Panasonic was 32 seconds, with Daihatsu another 12 seconds back, last year's 5th-placer Wacoal 10 more seconds back and Tenmaya running 5th another 8 seconds behind. Panasonic anchor Yuki Nakamura bore down steadily on Japan Post's Eri Utsunomiya, but running anchor for Daihatsu behind her 10000 m collegiate national record holder Hikari Yoshimoto ran her best performance in years, overtaking Nakamura with less than 400 m to go and closing to within 5 seconds of Utsunomiya on the final lap of the track, determined to give Daihatsu the win in her last race before retiring.
But Utsunomiya held both off, breaking the tape in 2:15:10 to give Japan Post its second national title. Yoshimoto was next in 2:15:15, winning the anchor stage on individual time. Nakamura ended up 3rd in 2:15:21, with Tenmaya's Rei Ohara, 3rd at September's Olympic marathon trials, overtaking Wacoal's Shino Hasegawa for 4th in 2:15:38. Wacoal repeated last year's 5th place finish, with Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo coming back from a DNF last year to score a spot on the podium at 6th. 2013-2015 national champion Denso was 7th, with Toyota Jidoshokki scoring the last podium position in 8th. The top 8 all finished within 1:21 of each other, but over a minute separated Toyota from 9th-placer Sekisui Kagaku.
Queen's EkidenNational Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships
Sendai, Miyagi, 11/24/19
22 teams, 6 stages, 42.195 km
Top Team Results - top 8 seeded for 2020
1. Japan Post - 2:15:10
2. Daihatsu - 2:15:15
3. Panasonic - 2:15:21
4. Tenmaya - 2:15:38
5. Wacoal - 2:16:07
6. Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo - 2:16:14
7. Denso - 2:16:31
8. Toyota Jidoshokki - 2:16:34
9. Sekisui Kagaku - 2:17:37
10. Edion - 2:17:38
Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (7.0 km) - Ririka Hironaka (Japan Post) - 21:32 - CR
Second Stage (3.9 km) - Minami Yamanouchi (Kyocera) - 12:06
Third Stage (10.9 km) - Yuka Hori (Panasonic) - 34:36
Fourth Stage (3.6 km) - Husan Zeyituna (Denso) / Pauline Kamulu (Route Inn Hotels) - 10:58
Fifth Stage (10.0 km) - Sara Miyake (Tenmaya) - 32:33
Sixth Stage (6.795 km) - Hikari Yoshimoto (Daihatsu) - 21:07
© 2019 Brett Larner, all rights reserved