The top Japanese woman in the marathon at last summer's Oregon World Championships, Mizuki Matsuda went from 3rd to 1st on the anchor stage to give the Osaka team its fourth national title Sunday at the National Women's Ekiden in Kyoto.
Osaka was 4th after the 6.0 km 1st leg and was never worse that than. 2nd runner Saya Nakajima put them in the lead, where they stayed for the next five of the 42.195 km race's nine stages except for a brief drop back to 4th when its fourth runner Chihiro Sato struggled. Fifth runner Yua Tsukamoto turned it back around, but with only a 1-second lead at the start of her stage junior high schooler Rio Kawamura couldn't hold off Fukuoka's Shiina Sugahara and Tokyo's Yuna Oki and dropped to 3rd.
Matsuda started only 5 seconds out of 1st and had no trouble overtaking Tokyo anchor Yuri Karasawa and Fukuoka's Wakana Itsuki to go back out front. Matsuda turned in the fastest run on the 10.0 km anchor stage, 31:22, to bring Osaka home in 2:15:48, the fastest of its four wins in the National Women's Ekiden's 41-year history.
Two-time defending champ Kyoto was never really in contention for the win, moving up from 5th to 2nd in 2:16:37 on the final leg thanks to anchor Hina Yanagitani running the fastest time after Matsuda, 31:54. Fukuoka narrowly held on to 3rd in 2:16:47, beating a fast-closing Kanagawa by only 2 seconds. Tokyo came up short of bettering its best-ever finishing position of 3rd, falling from 2nd to 5th in 2:17:13 on the anchor stage.
In individual racing the star of the day was 9th-grader Sherry Drury. Starting for Okayama in 38th out of 47 teams on the 3.0 km JHS-only 3rd leg, Drury cut 8 seconds off the course record for the leg, running 9:02 and passing 17 people en route. Her splits were reported to have been 2:55 - 3:04 - 3:03. People like Yuriko Kobayashi, Seira Fuwa and Nanaka Yonezawa made their national-level ekiden debuts on the same stage, and Drury beat them all by 12 seconds. A lot junior talent that shines at the National Women's Ekiden and next weekend's National Men's Ekiden flames out and never really progresses, but Drury definitely put herself on the map of talent to watch over the next few years.
41st National Women's Ekiden
Kyoto, 15 Jan. 2023
47 teams, 9 stages, 42.195 km
Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (6.0 km) - Haruka Kokai (Niigata) - 19:06
Second Stage (4.0 km) - Nanami Watanabe (Kanagawa) - 12:31
Third Stage (3.0 km) - Sherry Drury (Okayama) - 9:02 - CR
Fourth Stage (4.0 km) - Yumi Yamamoto (Kyoto) - 12:56
Fifth Stage (4.1075 km) - Mao Uesugi (Chiba) - 13:07
Sixth Stage (4.0875 km) - Nozomi Kondo (Kanagawa) - 12:47
Seventh Stage (4.0 km) - Aiko Hosoya (Kyoto) / Machiko Iwasaki (Fukushima) - 12:34
Eighth Stage (3.0 km) - Nonomi Kido (Fukushima) - 9:43
Ninth Stage (10.0 km) - Mizuki Matsuda (Osaka) - 31:22
Top Team Results
1. Osaka - 2:15:48
2. Kyoto - 2:16:37
3. Fukuoka - 2:16:47
4. Kanagawa - 2:16:49
5. Tokyo - 2:17:13
6. Chiba - 2:17:39
7. Kagoshima - 2:18:39
8. Aichi - 2:18:47
9. Hyogo - 2:19:12
10. Miyagi - 2:19:32
11. Nagano - 2:19:32
12. Nagasaki - 2:19:57
© 2023 Brett Larner, all rights reserved