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MHPS Just Misses Stopping an Asahi Kasei New Year Ekiden Threepeat



In a 100 km race that came down to a sprint finish over the last 100 m the ascendant Mitsubishi Hitachi Power Systems team came up just short of stopping old-school powerhouse Asahi Kasei from scoring a third-straight New Year Ekiden corporate men's national title.

Unremarkable over the first two stages, it took a Third Stage win by Tetsuya Yoroizaka with pressure from the superb 32-year-old Ryosuke Maki (Subaru) to put Asahi Kasei in range of the front. But on the day's longest stage, the 22.4 km Fourth Stage, MHPS' Jakarta Asian Games marathon gold medalist Hiroto Inoue had other ideas. Running with incredible smoothness and poise Inoue ran down some of 2018's best Japanese marathoners including Berlin 4th-placer Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu) and Chicago 2:07:57 man Taku Fujimoto (Toyota) to go 35 seconds out front, 16 seconds faster than he ran last year before his 2:06:54 in Tokyo but still 18 seconds off Yuta Shitara's course record.

With Fukuoka winner Yuma Hattori (Toyota) and sub-61 half marathoner Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei) in pursuit MHPS' fifth man Toshiki Sadakata was bound to get caught, but to everyone's surprise he opened the lead by more than 10 seconds over the first half of the stage. It took a head-to-head duel between Hattori and Murayama to close that, Murayama outkicking Hattori in the last straight to cut one second off MHPS' lead but Hattori destroying him on stage time after starting far back in 10th.

MHPS' sixth man was its second-best, Ryo Kiname, 2:08:08 in Tokyo last year but a DNF in Chicago. With a good run he could have set his team up for its first-ever national title, but from the start it was clear that he wasn't over whatever had set him back in Chicago. Shinobu Kubota (Toyota) and Ken Yokote (Fujitsu) initially closed on him, but the one who delivered was the same who had delivered Asahi Kasei its 2017 and 2018 national titles, Hiroshi Ichida. Attacking with 5 km to go, Ichida quickly cut down the ground to Kiname, catching him in the last kilometer of the stage and trading surges before getting away to put the two-time winners into 1st for the first time.



Ichida won the Sixth Stage on time for the third year in a row, and as with the last two his win proved key to Asahi Kasei's success. 2018 10000 m national champion Shuho Dairokuno was waiting to take the tasuki from Ichida for the anchor stage, starting with a 2-second lead over MHPS' relatively anonymous 31-year-old Yuji Iwata. Like Maki on the Third Stage Iwata repped the anonymous late-career 30-something corporate runners in stellar style, sticking right behind Dairokuno for the first 9 km before the national champion grew irritated and dropped back to force Iwata to take a turn leading.

Iwata never slowed, staying calm when the far superior Dairokuno launched a hard kick 1.5 km out from the finish line. Regaining contact Iwata went back out front, then matched Dairokuno stride for stride when he pulled back up alongside. 400 m to go. 300 m. 200. Both men had obvious confidence in their last kick, but in the final 100 m it was Dairokuno who had the coup de grace waiting in store. Pulling away to cross the line in 4:51:27 he added another national title to Asahi Kasei's trophy shelf. 4 seconds back a gutted Iwata brought MHPS home in 2nd, its best-ever finish but one that will always haunt him.

A pre-race favorite for the win, Toyota was just over a minute back in 3rd after anchor Ryo Hashimoto ran down Fujitsu's Yusuke Sato. Konica Minolta and Toyota Kyushu both advanced over the last stage to their best positions of the day, 5th and 6th, with Mazda making the 8-deep podium for the first time in 43 years at 7th. Like the win, the last spot on the podium came down to a sprint finish. Kanebo and Chugoku Denryoku overtook longtime front pack contender Subaru in the final kilometer, both teams finishing in the same time but the Toshinari Takaoka-coached Kanebo getting there first. Subaru rounded out the top 10 another 5 seconds back. Missing half marathon NR holder Yuta Shitara do to the flu, last year's runner-up Honda was only 24th.

2019 New Year Ekiden

63rd National Corporate Men's Ekiden Championships
Gunma, 1/1/19
37 teams, 7 stages, 100.0 km
complete results

Top Team Results
1. Asahi Kasei (Kyushu) - 4:51:27
2. MHPS (Kyushu) - 4:51:31
3. Toyota (Chubu) - 4:52:34
4. Fujitsu (East Japan) - 4:53:17
5. Konica Minolta (East Japan) - 4:53:37
6. Toyota Kyushu (Kyushu) - 4:54:16
7. Mazda (Chugoku) - 4:54:20
8. Kanebo (East Japan) - 4:55:02
9. Chugoku Denryoku (Chugoku) - 4:55:02
10. Subaru (East Japan) - 4:55:07

Top Individual Stage Performances
First Stage - 12.3 km
1. Shinichiro Nakamura (Kyudenko) - 35:57
2. Ryu Takaku (Yakult) - 35:58
3. Kosei Yamaguchi (Aisan Kogyo) - 36:00

Second Stage - 8.3 km
1. Rodgers Chumo Kwemoi (Aisan Kogyo) - 22:12
2. Evans Keitany (Toyota Boshoku) - 22:13
3. Bernard Kimeli (Fujitsu) - 22:20
4. Amos Kurgat (Chudenko) - 22:33
5. Wesley Ledama (Subaru) - 22:34
6. Daniel Kitonyi (Kanebo) - 22:37
7. Dominic Langat (Konica Minolta) - 22:42
8. James Rungaru (Chuo Hatsujo) - 22:43
9. Enock Omwamba (MHPS) - 22:44
10. Abraham Kipyatich (Asahi Kasei) - 22:48

Third Stage - 13.6 km
1. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Asahi Kasei) - 38:04
2. Ryosuke Maki (Subaru) - 38:06
2. Jun Nobuto (Mazda) - 38:06

Fourth Stage - 22.4 km
1. Hiroto Inoue (MHPS) - 1:04:37
2. Naoki Okamoto (Chugoku Denryoku) - 1:05:13
3. Kenji Yamamoto (Mazda) - 1:05:30
3. Masato Imai (Toyota Kyushu) - 1:05:30
5. Kohei Futaoka (Chudenko) - 1:05:34
6. Masato Terauchi (Aichi Seiko) - 1:05:35
7. Gen Hachisuka (Konica Minolta) - 1:05:41
8. Daiji Kawai (Toenec) - 1:05:48
9. Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu) - 1:05:49
9. Masao Kizu (Kanebo) - 1:05:49

Fifth Stage - 15.8 km
1. Yuma Hattori (Toyota) - 45:47
2. Kenta Murayama (Asahi Kasei) - 46:13
3. Toshiki Sadakata (MHPS) - 46:22

Sixth Stage - 12.1 km
1. Hiroshi Ichida (Asahi Kasei) - 36:14
2. Ken Yokote (Fujitsu) - 36:21
3. Shota Hattori (Honda) - 36:30

Seventh Stage - 15.5 km
1. Kiyoshi Koga (Yasukawa Denki) - 45:36
2. Shuho Dairokuno (Asahi Kasei) - 45:48
3. Yuji Iwata (MHPS) - 45:50

© 2019 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Comments

TokyoRacer said…
So Kwemoi's pace for 10k would have been 26:45 - not too bad! And the other guys were not far behind him.
Inoue's half marathon pace was 60:51. He looked great the whole way - smooth and focused. You watched him and you thought, yes, this is how I should be running.
And it was nice to see the 34-year-old Imai put in a good showing.

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