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Kokai Runs Anchor Stage Turnaround to Give Miyagi First National Women's Ekiden Title in 29 Years

Fresh off a sub-31 PB at last month's 10000 m National Championships, Haruka Kokai ran down Kotona Ota of longtime leader Hyogo on the anchor stage to give the Miyagi prefecture team its first National Women's Ekiden title in 29 years.

Women-only half marathon NR holder Rino Goshima went out hard to put earthquake and tsunami-hit Ishikawa in the lead by 35 seconds on the 6.0 km First Stage, but a Second Stage win by 1500 m and 5000 m NR holder Nozomi Tanaka put Hyogo into a lead it held until midway through the final stage. Shizuoka and Chiba both spent time in 2nd and at times closed on Hyogo only to get dropped again. The 4.1075 km Fifth Stage was especially good, with sub-32 collegian Risa Yamazaki of Chiba running down high school 1st-year Kairi Ikeno for the lead only to get retaken by Ikeno, with both breaking the 1995-era CR for the stage.

Behind them, Miyagi was working its way up through the field, improving its position every stage except the Third until Yui Onotora put them into 2nd behind Hyogo with one stage to go. Kokai started the anchor stage 9 seconds behind Ota and quickly closed it up, but once she made contact she backed off and rode Ota's momentum. Hosts Kyoto had also been working up through the field, and when its anchor Kaede Kawamura came up just behind them at 5 km Kokai took off.

Kokai covered the 10.0 km Ninth Stage in 32:07 to break the tape in 2:16:30, its first win since before she was born. Kawamura was faster, the fastest on the stage in 31:41 and faster than her track 10000 m PB, taking 2nd overall in 2:16:50. Nanase Tanimoto of 2023 national collegiate champion Meijo University moved Hiroshima up from 6th to 3rd, finishing in 2:17:23 just 2 seconds up on 2:22 marathoners Mao Uesugi of Chiba.

Kanagawa anchor Maki Izumida just held off defending champs' Madoka Nakano for 5th with both teams clocking 2:17:34. Hyogo fell to 7th in 2:17:55, with Fukuoka taking the last spot on the eight-deep podium in 2:18:45. Paris Olympics marathon trials winner Yuka Suzuki anchored Akita to a 32nd-place finish in her first race of the Olympic year, passing seven people en route to the 10th-fastest time on her stage.

42nd National Women's Ekiden

Kyoto, 14 January 2024
47 teams, 9 stages, 42.195 km

Top Individual Results
First Stage (6.0 km)
1. Rino Goshima (Ishikawa) - 18:49
2. Erika Tanoura (Chiba) - 19:24
3. Miku Sakai (Kumamoto) - 19:25
4. Natsuki Omori (Osaka) - 19:26
5. Yuki Nakamura (Ehime) - 19:27

Second Stage (4.0 km)
1. Nozomi Tanaka (Hyogo) - 12:11
2. Yuma Yamamoto (Aichi) - 12:35
3. Mao Kogure (Saitama) - 12:41
4. Haruko Hosaka (Tokyo) - 12:43
5. Sherry Drury (Okayama) - 12:47

Third Stage (3.0 km, JHS)
1. Aoi Endo (Shizuoka) - 9:16
2. Rion Tateishi (Tokushima) - 9:34
3. Honoka Inoue (Kanagawa) - 9:36
3. Koko Fujiwara (Gunma) - 9:36
3. Mai Fukumoto (Shiga) - 9:36

Fourth Stage (4.0 km)
1. Aoi Suzuki (Fukushima) - 12:51
2. Rina Sasaki (Miyagi) - 13:04
2. Azusa Sumi (Chiba) - 13:04
2. Yuzu Nishide (Osaka) - 13:04
5. Yuka Masubuchi (Tokyo) - 13:07

Fifth Stage (4.1075 km)
1. Risa Yamazaki (Chiba) - 12:45 - CR
2. Kairi Ikeno (Hyogo) - 12:52 (CR)
3. Momoka Moriyasu (Hiroshima) - 12:57
4. Yua Tsukamoto (Osaka) - 13:05
5. Nodoka Ashida (Kyoto) - 13:09

Sixth Stage (4.0875 km)
1. Mizuki Tanimoto (Okayama) - 13:06
2. Rino Kitsuyama (Miyagi) - 13:12
3. Hinata Kaneko (Kanagawa) - 13:13
4. Miku Suginaga (Hyogo) - 13:16
5. Asahi Shirakawa (Osaka) - 13:20

Seventh Stage (4.0 km)
1. Sayuki Ota (Kyoto) - 12:31
2. Nanaka Miyahara (Fukuoka) - 12:37
3. Ayari Shiozaki (Hyogo) - 12:45 
4. Ayaka Maeda (Aichi) - 12:47
5. Mitsuki Takahashi (Hiroshima) - 12:48

Eighth Stage (3.0 km, JHS)
1. Yui Onotora (Miyagi) - 9:41
2. Madoka Inai (Gunma) - 9:57
3. Rei Taya (Osaka) - 9:58
4. Mayu Ishihara (Okayama) - 10:01
5. Honomi Muramatsu (Kanagawa) - 10:04
5. Non Tachibana (Kagoshima) - 10:04

Ninth Stage (10.0 km)
1. Kaede Kawamura (Kyoto) - 31:41
2. Haruka Kokai (Miyagi) - 32:07
3. Sakiho Tsutsui (Gunma) - 32:13
4. Miyaka Sugata (Fukuoka) - 32:17
5. Hitomi Niiya (Tokyo) - 32:19
6. Nanase Tanimoto (Hiroshima) - 32:23
7. Misaki Ichida (Kagoshima) - 32:33
8. Mao Uesugi (Chiba) - 32:35
9. Mikuni Yada (Kumamoto) - 32:38
10. Yuka Suzuki (Akita) - 32:41

Top Team Results
1. Miyagi - 2:16:30
2. Kyoto - 2:16:50
3. Hiroshima - 2:17:23
4. Chiba - 2:17:25
5. Kanagawa - 2:17:34
6. Osaka - 2:17:34
7. Hyogo - 2:17:55
8. Fukuoka - 2:18:45
9. Gunma - 2:18:53
10. Kagoshima - 2:19:02
11. Nagano - 2:19:22
12. Tokyo - 2:19:42
13. Kumamoto - 2:19:47
14. Okayama - 2:20:03
15. Saitama - 2:20:09

© 2024 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Stefan said…
Excellent win by Myagi.
My takeaways from the event:
- Course Record by Risa Yamazaki in the 5th stage for Chiba was special;
- Rino Goshima and Nozomi Tanaka performed very well. I'm a bit surprised Goshima ran the 6km stage rather than the final 10km stage;
- Tomoka Kimura's slim Olympic aspirations are all but over after getting injured in the 1st stage;
- Hitomi Niiya, Yuka Suzuki and Mao Uesugi are far away from their peak form;
- Haruaka Kokai has a very real chance of making the 10000m Olympic team. She ran sensibly, conserving energy whilst ensuring victory. I'm optimistic she can better her PB on the track in the next couple months.
Brett Larner said…
I'd agree with that, although I'd pick Kairi Ikeno and Kaede Kawamura for best performances of the race. Both were really strong competing against better competition and left big impressions.
Stefan said…
Very true. Yes, Kairi Ikeno's time was remarkable considering she is only a High School 1st Year and breaking the old CR too! And can't disagree with Kaede Kawamura's run either. It was truly gutsy and she fought as much as she could in the spirit of Ekiden which is why I love watching this sport.

By the way, Tomoka Kimura posted on her Instagram page that she has suffered no major injury and still holds out hope of achieving her goal which would be Olympic qualification.

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