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Kamimura Gakuen Girls Break Own CR by 28 Seconds - National High School Ekiden Qualification Weekend Roundup

With the National High School Ekiden Championships looking like a go for Dec. 20 at this point, the main action across Japan this weekend came in prefectural high school ekiden championships. In each of Japan's 47 prefectures boys typically raced 42.195 km in seven stages and girls 21.0975 km in five stages, with the top-placing boys' team and top girls' team in the prefectural race set to go on to represent their prefecture at Nationals. Not every prefecture held its qualifying race this weekend or just before, but among those that did here's a quick rundown on the winners.

In Hiroshima, the video above, due to the coronavirus crisis the race was held on a 400 m track instead of its regular road course. The Sera H.S. boys and girls both won, the boys winning the prefectural title for the 17th year in a row and the girls for the 15th. Both teams last won the national title in 2015, when the boys set the still-standing Nationals course record of 2:01:18, but at last year's Nationals both finished off the eight-deep podium.

2nd at Nationals last year after winning in 2018, Kamimura Gakuen H.S. took 28 seconds off its own course record to win the girls' race in Kagoshima in 1:06:04, with new records for the last three stages including a 15:10 for the 5.0 km anchor stage by Kenyan Cynthia Baire. 2010 national champ Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S. took the boys' race in 2:06:13.

Likewise 2nd at Nationals in 2019 after winning the 2018 race, Kurashiki H.S. took the Okayama boys' race in 2:06:09, over seven minutes ahead of the next-best team. 4th at Nationals in 2019, Kojokan H.S. held off the Kurashiki girls by 37 seconds to win the prefectural title again.

Nearby in Miyazaki, the Kobayashi H.S. boys ran a solid 2:03:13 to knock last year's winner Miyazaki Nichidai H.S., 7th at Nationals in 2019, out of a return trip to the big race. The Kobayashi girls also beat Miyazaki Nichidai to join the boys at Nationals.

In Hyogo, Suma Gakuen H.S. was another school to pull off a double win, its girls winning for the third year in a row and the boys for the first time in three years. The Suma Gakuen girls last won the national title in 2006, finishing 6th last year.

In Kyoto, 2012 national champions Ritsumeikan Uji H.S., 7th at Nationals last year, won the girls' race for the 32nd year in a row in 1:10:27. The Rakunan H.S. boys won for the sixth year in a row in a solid 2:05:45.

8th at Nationals last year, Isahaya H.S. won the girls' race again in Nagasaki. Chinzei Gakuin H.S. took the boys' race, which was marred by an accident when an athlete from Keiho H.S. was struck from behind by a car that had entered the course.

In Mie, the Yokkaichi Kogyo H.S. boys won for the second year in a row. 3rd-year Shogo Sakamoto, son of 2016 Osaka Marathon winner Yoshiko Sakamoto, helped lead the team to the win with a stage best on the sixth leg. 2018 winner Tsu Shogyo H.S. returned to the top in the girls' race, beating Uji Yamada Shogyo H.S. by just five seconds.

The list goes on and on, and there's still more to come. Look for another round of prefectural qualifying races this coming weekend before the final buildup to the Dec. 20 national race. Hopefully.

© 2020 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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