What was the Japanese men's performance of the year?

What was the Japanese men's performance of the year?

Monday, December 22, 2014

Tokyo-Area Marathon Cancelled Two Days Before Race After Organizers Fail to File Use Permits

translated and edited by Brett Larner
source articles linked at bottom

click photo for video of the purported race representative speaking to entrants who arrived on race morning

The "Tokyo Arakawa Marathon" scheduled for Dec. 21 along the Arakawa River on Tokyo's northern border was cancelled without warning two days before the race after organizers failed to submit road and park use permits and other necessary preparations with either the local Edogawa Ward or national authorities responsible for the park and riverside course.  Organizers had collected 5 million yen [~$42,500 USD] in entry fees from around 1500 people who paid 2000 to 4000 yen each via the popular Runnet online entry system to run in the event's 5 km, 10 km, half marathon and full marathon divisions.

70 entrants who were unaware of the cancellation began arriving at the event's staging ground in Hirai Park ahead of the scheduled 7:30 opening of race day reception.  A 28-year old man claiming to be a representative of the race organizers appeared at the site by himself to explain the situation, saying, "I haven't been able to contact the other people in the organization myself so I'm as much of a bind as any of you, but we'll try to get your entry fees back to you during January."  Many of the entrants raised angry voices in reply, saying, "We don't believe you."  "I've been training hard and spent a lot of money to come here."  "What the hell is this?"  "Are you at least going to pay for our train fare here today?"  The man answered, "Train fares, well....."

Despite the similarity of its name to other more well-known marathons like the Tokyo Arakawa Shimin Marathon and Tokyo Marathon, the Tokyo Arakawa Marathon is not affiliated with those or other events.  On Dec. 18 an entrant contacted the Edogawa Ward office, telling them, "It's just a few days before the race but I haven't heard a single thing from the organizers."  When Ward officials managed to contact the organizing group Reimei [At Dawn] on Dec. 19 they were told that the race "would be cancelled."  According to Reimei staff member Takafumi Sugimoto, 30, this was the group's first time organizing a marathon.  "I was surprised to hear that no use permit applications had been filed.  Very sorry about that."

Organizers posted a notice of the cancellation on the race website along with a request for entrants' bank account details and other personal information to process refunds.  They appear to have also sent emails informing the 1500 people who had entered that the event had been cancelled and that their entry fees would be returned, but the 70 people who arrived on race morning were still unaware.  One 48-year-old man from Katsushika Ward said, "I never got any email.  I didn't hear anything.  And I trained for this day and everything."  Another said, "I came from Niigata today to run.  I took time off work for it and made hotel reservations.  I don't know what I should do.  It's a shock."  A 59-year-old man who travelled from Sakura, Chiba Prefecture was suspicious of the organizers, saying, "I wonder if they're really going to return our entry fees."  Others at the site said, "It looks like they are going to pay us back, but it makes you wonder what the hell were they thinking."  "I had a bad feeling about this, and look what happened."  "They're asking for our personal information to process refunds?  Is that safe?"

According to the man claiming to be a Reimei representative, the organizers identify themselves as an NPO based in Toshima Ward but are a volunteer group without official legal status.  The man said that he lives in Mino, Osaka, and that the group was formed two years ago by three marathon fan friends who knew each other and communicated online and by phone.  The group's address listed on its website is actually a "virtual office" service used to provide a Tokyo-area address, a fact that has raised suspicions about its intentions.

The man said that 1 million yen [~$8500 USD] of the 5 million yen [~$42,500 USD] collected in entry fees had been used to buy tents and other supplies.  "Sorry for any inconvenience.  We want to do our best to get your money back to you."  With regard to the "Arakawa Spring Marathon" the same group is scheduled to hold in March and for which entries have been suspended, the man said, "About 150 people have already signed up, and we definitely want to fill out the necessary use applications this time so we can go ahead with that race." 

http://www.yomiuri.co.jp/sports/etc/20141222-OYT1T50031.html
http://mainichi.jp/select/news/20141220k0000e040193000c.html
http://news.livedoor.com/article/detail/9600066/
http://cyclestyle.net/article/2014/12/20/17429.html

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Osaka Kunei Girls Win First-Ever National High School Ekiden Championships

by Brett Larner
video highlights courtesy of race broadcaster NHK

A back-and-forth race between four of the top five ranked schools in the country saw Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. emerge to take its first national title Dec. 21 at the 26th National High School Girls Ekiden Championships in Kyoto, covering the five-stage, 21.0975 km course in 1:07:26.

Defending champion Toyokawa H.S. was never a factor, 26th of 47 teams at the end of the 6.0 km First Stage and working its way back up through the field to 6th thanks in large part to a 15:42 stage win for the 5.0 km anchor leg by star Azusa Sumi.  In its absence, #3-ranked Tokiwa H.S. took an early lead with its top runner Harumi Okamoto winning the First Stage in 19:12.  #2-ranked Osaka Kunei moved up on the 4.0975 km Second Stage as its 2014 Youth Olympics 3000 m gold medalist Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu quickly took the lead, but while Takamatsu looked strong a surprise came from Fukiko Ando of #5-ranked 2012 national champion Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.  Focused, strong, and keeping tight to the tangent of a long curve, Ando went by Takamatsu on the opposite side of the street and had a lead before Takamatsu noticed her, ultimately winning the stage in 12:50.  Ritsumeikan Uji's Maako Konishi followed up with a 9:34 win on the hilly 3.0 km Third Stage to get far enough in front to be almost out of sight.  It looked like it might be a blowout for Kyoto locals Ritsumeikan Uji, but Osaka Kunei's fourth runner Rino Maeda had other ideas.

A relative unknown, Maeda ran a stage best 9:11 for 3 km to even up the lead for a simultaneous handoff with Ritsumeikan Uji to the two schools' final runners.  Osaka Kunei anchor Ena Kagayama ran one of the best legs of the day, dropping a 3:00 first km on the 5.0 km stage to immediately open a 7-second gap on Ritsumeikan Uji anchor Aki Manabe.  Manabe appeared under control and unconcerned about Kagayama's reckless pace, but as the final lap of the track drew closer Kagayama never faltered.  Kagayama brought Osaka Kunei home to its first national title in 1:07:26, 8 seconds ahead of Ritsumeikan Uji.

Further back, #3-ranked Tokiwa lost ground on the top two schools after Okamoto's strong opening, sparring with #4-ranked Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S. and ultimately taking 3rd by 10 seconds in 1:08:11.  Both schools held off #10-ranked Aomori Yamada H.S.' Kenyan anchor Monica Margaret, who moved up from 6th to 5th but could not close the gap to either team.  Defending champion Toyokawa's Sumi picked up five places to take 6th, with Saikyo H.S. and Kamimura Gakuen H.S. rounding out the eight-deep podium.  Holding steady in the top eight the entire race, Sera H.S. suffered heartbreak on the anchor stage as it fell from 5th to 10th.

26th National High School Girls Ekiden
Kyoto, 12/21/14
47 teams, 5 stages, 21.0975 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. (Osaka) - 1:07:26
2. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. (Kyoto) - 1:07:34
3. Tokiwa H.S. (Gunma) - 1:08:11
4. Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S. (Yamanashi) - 1:08:21
5. Aomori Yamada H.S. (Aomori) - 1:08:28
6. Toyokawa H.S. (Aichi) - 1:08:56
7. Saikyo H.S. (Yamaguchi) - 1:09:07
8. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. (Kagoshima) - 1:09:12
9. Nagano Higashi H.S. (Nagano) - 1:09:20
10. Sera H.S. (Hiroshima) - 1:09:35

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (6.0 km)
1. Harumi Okamoto (2nd yr., Tokiwa H.S.) - 19:12
2. Kanami Sagayama (1st yr., Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 19:19
3. Kanako Yahagi (3rd yr., Aomori Yamada H.S.) - 19:26

Second Stage (4.0975 km)
1. Fukiko Ando (2nd yr., Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 12:50
2. Mai Takahashi (3rd yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) - 13:06
3. Yuka Mukai (1st yr., Sera H.S.) - 13:08

Third Stage (3.0 km)
1. Maako Konishi (2nd yr., Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 9:34
2. Wakana Kabasawa (1st yr., Tokiwa H.S.) - 9:38
3. Kanna Munehiro (2nd yr., Kojokan H.S.) - 9:47

Fourth Stage (3.0 km)
1. Rino Maeda (2nd yr., Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 9:11
2. Akari Murofushi (3rd yr., Hakuoh Prep Ashikaga H.S.) - 9:28
3. Reina Shinozaki (1st yr., Tokiwa H.S.) - 9:29

Fifth Stage (5.0 km)
1. Azusa Sumi (3rd yr., Toyokawa H.S.) - 15:42
2. Ena Kagayama (3rd yr., Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 15:56
3. Monica Margaret (1st yr., Aomori Yamada H.S.) - 16:03

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Sera Runs All-Time #4 2:02:39 for National High School Boys Ekiden Title

by Brett Larner
video highlights courtesy of race broadcaster NHK

Hiroshima's Sera H.S. delivered on the promise of its #1 ranking at the 65th National High School Boys Ekiden Championships, running away on the third of the 42.195 km race's seven stages and never looking back.  Sera got off to a slightly shaky start as its top Japanese runner Shiki Shinsako finished only 6th on the First Stage, 11 seconds behind Fuminori Shimo of #5-ranked Iga Hakuho H.S. who ran 29:39 to win the 10.0 km stage off a slow 15:10 first half.  Sera stayed at 6th on the 3.0 km Second Stage, but Kenyan ringer Paul Kamais did his duty on the 8.1075 km Third Stage, easily taking the lead and running a superb 22:58 just shy of the 22:40 course record set 10 years ago by the late great Samuel Wanjiru of Sendai Ikuei H.S.

When Kamais was done Sera had gone from 18 seconds behind to a 51-second lead.  Its remaining runners could have played it safe, but both fourth runner Taiji Nakashima and sixth runner Hiroyuki Inoue ran stage bests to set up first-year anchor Keita Yoshida to bring the team home in 2:02:39, the fourth-best time in event history.  With five its seven members including Kamais returning next year it's very possible Sera could take a shot at Sendai Ikuei's legendary Wanjiru-era 2:01:32 course record in 2015.

#2-ranked Saku Chosei H.S. likewise ran up to potential, in the top three for the first two stages before dropping to 6th on the Third Stage.  From there it was a fight to regain ground against #5-ranked Iga Hakuho, #8-ranked Gakuho Ishikawa H.S., #9-ranked Akita Kogyo H.S., the Kenyan-powered Sendai Ikuei and the unexpectedly strong combo of Funabashi Civic H.S. and Saitama Sakae H.S.  Funabashi took the lead on the Second Stage as its 800 m specialist Renya Maeda became just the second runner in history to break 8 minutes on the 3.0 km stage.  Over the next five stages the chase group shook down to Saku Chosei, Saitama Sakae and Akita Kogyo, all wearing orange uniforms, but the turnover behind them was constant.

At the start of the Seventh Stage Saku Chosei and Saitama Sakae were together in 2nd with a 15-second lead over Akita Kogyo.  Funabashi, Gakuho Ishikawa and Kobayashi H.S. were set for the podium, but at the handoff four schools were together in the race for 8th and the last seat at the award ceremony.  With #5-ranked Aichi H.S. making its first appearance at Nationals in 20 years, its anchor Kosuke Iijima took matters into his own hands with a big surge early in the stage to drop the other contenders and secure Aichi 8th.  Ahead, it came down to a track finish between Saku Chosei and Saitama Sakae to decide the medals, Saku Chosei's Kohei Sawa outkicking Saitama Sakae's Keisuke Takezawa with 300 m to go for 2nd in 2:04:36.  Akita Kogyo's 2:05:06 for 4th set school records for both time and place.  5th was decided in another sprint finish, Hikaru Makino of Kobayashi beating both Funabashi and Gakuho Ishikawa by 1 second.  Aichi's Iijima took 8th just 11 seconds back.

Nasu Takuyo H.S. was the unlucky 9th-place finisher, 15 seconds off the podium in 2:06:01 with early leader Iga Hakuho 10th.  Altogether the top fourteen teams averaged faster than 3:00/km for the entire seven-stage, 42.195 km course.  Non-factors included #3-ranked Toyokawa H.S., 15th overall, #4-ranked Yachiyo Shoin H.S. in 22nd, and last year's winner Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S. which fell all the way to 42nd following the graduation of most of last year's squad.

65th National High School Boys Ekiden
Kyoto, 12/21/14
58 teams, 7 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Sera H.S. (Hiroshima) - 2:02:39
2. Saku Chosei H.S. (Nagano) - 2:04:36
3. Saitama Sakae H.S. (Saitama) - 2:04:41
4. Akita Kogyo H.S. (Akita) - 2:05:06
5. Kobayashi H.S. (Miyazaki) - 2:05:34
6. Funabashi Civic H.S. (South Kanto) - 2:05:35
7. Gakuho Ishikawa H.S. (Fukushima) - 2:05:35
8. Aichi H.S. (Aichi) - 2:05:46
9. Nasu Takuyo H.S. (Tochigi) - 2:06:01
10. Iga Hakuho H.S. (Mie) - 2:06:01
11. Sendai Ikuei H.S. (Miyagi) - 2:06:02
12. Suma Gakuen H.S. (Kinki) - 2:06:05
13. Kyushu Gakuin H.S. (Kumamoto) - 2:06:24
14. Isahaya H.S. (Nagasaki) - 2:06:32
15. Toyokawa H.S. (Tokai) - 2:06:47

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (10.0 km)
1. Fuminori Shimo (3rd yr., Iga Hakuho H.S.) - 29:39
2. Taisei Hashizume (3rd yr., Wakayama Kita H.S.) - 29:42
3. Hayato Seki (2nd yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 29:47

Second Stage (3.0 km)
1. Renya Maeda (3rd yr., Funabashi Civic H.S.) - 7:59
2. Kakeru Nakamura (2nd yr., Saikyo H.S.) - 8:14
3. Ryo Nishimura (3rd yr., Isahaya H.S.) - 8:18

Third Stage (8.1075 km)
1. Paul Kamais (2nd yr., Sera H.S.) - 22:58
2. Cyrus Kingori (2nd yr., Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 23:18
3. Charles Ndungu (3rd yr., Sapporo Yamanote H.S.) - 23:45

Fourth Stage (8.0875 km)
1. Taiji Nakashima (2nd yr., Sera H.S.) - 23:23
1. John Kariuki (2nd yr., Aomori Yamada H.S.) - 23:23
3. Suguru Hirosue (3rd yr., Kobayashi H.S.) - 23:41

Fifth Stage (3.0 km)
1. Takuro Aoyama (3rd yr., Saitama Sakae H.S.) - 8:37
1. Takuma Tonooka (3rd yr., Iga Hakuho H.S.) - 8:37
3. Renta Shigeyama (3rd yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 8:38

Sixth Stage (5.0 km)
1. Hiroyuki Inoue (2nd yr., Sera H.S.) - 14:41
2. Kotaro Miyajima (3rd yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 14:46
3. Ryosuke Tawada (3rd yr., Aichi H.S.) - 14:51

Seventh Stage (5.0 km)
1. Kohei Nakajima (3rd yr., Suijo H.S.) - 14:39
2. Keita Yoshida (1st yr., Sera H.S.) - 14:45
3. Yuta Kanbayashi (1st yr., Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 14:48

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kawauchi Wins Hofu in 2:09:46, Yoshimatsu Breaks Own Women's CR by 2 Seconds

by Brett Larner

With strong winds and erratic pacing in the early going a shot at the Hofu Yomiuri Marathon's 2:08:16 course record and his goal of a 2:07 was never in the works, but in his 13th marathon of 2014 Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) scored the win in 2:09:46.

Kawauchi followed Kenyan pacer Charles Wanjohi through 5 km splits that varied from 15:07 to 15:34, well off the target pace of 3:02/km, accompanied by Ugandan Philip Kiplimo, Kenyans Willy Kibor and Cyrus Njui (Arata Project) and Japan's Ryotaro Nitta (Team Konica Minolta).  Nitta lost touch just before 25 km and 5 km later Njui did the same.  Following the struggling Wanjohi's departure at 30 km Kawauchi ran with Kiplimo and Kibor before dropping things to 2:55/km at 33 km to open a lead that took him away to the win.  Running 15:16 from 35 to 40 km, he faded slightly in the final 2.195 km to finish in 2:09:46, his second sub-2:10 of the year and just missing the year-best 2:09:36 he ran in May's Hamburg Marathon.

Despite coming up far short of his time goal, as his eighth career sub-2:10 Kawauchi's Hofu performance further solidified his position in the Japanese record books.  The only Japanese man to break 2:10 twice this year, as the eleventh Japanese sub-2:10 of the year Kawauchi's performance also adds to the net positive current trend in Japanese men's marathoning.  Kawauchi ends his year at the Dec. 31 Cursa dels Nassos 10 km in Barcelona.

Further back, Kawauchi's youngest brother Koki Kawauchi (Takasaki Keizai Univ.) finished 36th in 2:32:57.  Fully blind runner Shinya Wada (Wakachan FRC) ran 2:35:39 for 48th, a new Japanese national record in his category.

In the women's race, course record holder and three-time winner Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) did it again, breaking her own record by 2 seconds for a fourth title in 2:37:55.  Yoshimatsu went out on 2:36-flat pace determined to get the record but gradually faded, drawing closer and closer to 2:38 but pushing hard on the last lap of the track to just clip her old record.

45th Hofu Yomiuri Marathon
Hofu, Yamaguchi, 12/21/14
click here for complete results

Men
1. Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't) - 2:09:46
2. Philip Kiplimo (Uganda) - 2:13:24
3. Willy Kibor (Kenya) - 2:13:28
4. Norimasa Nishina (Team Fujitsu) - 2:13:47
5. Sho Matsumoto (Team Nikkei Business) - 2:17:29
6. Yuko Matsumiya (Team Hitachi Butsuryu) - 2:17:37
7. Jun Matsumoto (Team Aichi Seiko) - 2:20:04
8. Takeshi Tagen (Team Monteroza) - 2:20:40
9. Ryotaro Nitta (Team Konica Minolta) - 2:20:47
10. Yasutaka Monde (Team Ito) - 2:22:06

Women
1. Hisae Yoshimatsu (Shunan City Hall) - 2:37:55 - CR
2. Chika Tawara (Fukuoka T&F Assoc.) - 2:41:29
3. Sakiko Ishibashi (Dasewa) - 2:49:25
4. Miyuki Kaneko (AC Kita) - 2:51:20
5. Nana Higashi (Daiwa AC) - 2:52:16

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Friday, December 19, 2014

National High School Ekiden Championships Preview: Toyokawa Girls Look to Repeat, Sera Boys Set to Dominate

by Brett Larner

While most of the rest of the racing world kicks back for the holidays in the lull between seasons, Japan's distance runners from junior high to pro are hitting the peak of their year with the month-long championship ekiden season.  The biggest race of the weekend is the National High School Ekiden Championships, lovingly broadcast live nationwide and commercial-free for 4 and 1/2 hours this Sunday from Kyoto on NHK starting at 10:05 a.m.  JRN will cover both the girls' and boys' races live on @JRNLive.

The top 12-ranked teams at Sunday's National High School Girls Ekiden Championships.  Click to enlarge.


In its 26th running the girls' race covers 21.0975 km in five stages, with 47 teams representing each of Japan's prefectures.  Defending champion Toyokawa H.S. of Aichi returns ranked #1 with a 5-runner 3000 m average of 9:13 led by senior Azusa Sumi in 9:00.89.  But it's going to be a very closely-matched race, with 4 other teams averaging within 4 seconds of Toyokawa.  Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. is the media favorite with 2014 Youth Olympics 3000 m gold medalist Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu and a 9:14.70 average ranking it #2.  Junior Harumi Okamoto leads #3-ranked Tokiwa H.S. from Gunma with her 9:00.91 best, and, while they lack the star runners of the top 3 Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S. and 2012 winner Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. of Kyoto are close behind with averages of 9:16 and 9:17.  Both Osaka Kunei and Ritsumeikan Uji have 7 girls with bests under 9:30, giving them an advantage on depth that will come into play if any of Toyokawa's 4 main runners is not fit.

Beyond the sub-9:20 top 5, 3 more schools average under 9:30 and another 3 at 9:31.  With 2014 NCAA D1 Cross Country champion Michigan State University having a 5-runner 3000 m average of 9:22.71 it's safe to say that any of the top 5 teams at the National H.S. Girls Ekiden could take a pretty mean swing at an NCAA D1 XC title.

The top 12 individuals in the National High School Girls Ekiden Championships.  Look for most to run the First Stage.


Altogether 11 girls from 8 schools have bests under 9:12 led by Kenyan senior Monica Margaret of Samuel Wanjiru's alma mater Sendai Ikuei H.S. in 8:59.60, just of Toyokawa's Sumi, Okamoto of Tokiwa and Youth Olympics gold medalist Takamatsu of Osaka Kunei.  As at the team level, any of the top 11 girls would be star runners at the university level in the NCAA.  Watch out for the best racing and the inevitable falls on the track on the First Stage and for a close finish back on the track on the anchor Fifth Stage.

The top 12-ranked teams at Sunday's National High School Boys Ekiden Championships.  Click to enlarge.


The boys' race, celebrating its 65th running, features an expanded field of 61 schools competing with 7-member teams over a total of 42.195 km.  Most of last year's champion Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S. has graduated and moved on to form the core of this year's Yamanashi Gakuin University team.  In its absence, 2011 winner Sera H.S. of Hiroshima, alma mater of sub-27 Kenyan Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC) and recent 27:38 runner Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei), is the heavy favorite, its 7-runner 5000 m average of 14:08 putting it way ahead of the competition if not quite in range of the 2:01:32 course record set in 2004 by the Wanjiru-led Sendai Ikuei H.S. or 2014 NCAA D1 XC winner University of Colorado.

Beloved by fans for having run the fastest time ever by an all-Japanese team, 2:02:18, Nagano's Saku Chosei H.S. comes in ranked #2 with an average of 14:19.72, but that's where things get interesting.  The next 9 teams, including 2012 winner Toyokawa H.S. of Aichi ranked at #3, all average within 6 seconds of Saku Chosei, all but guaranteeing a chaotic and complicated race behind Sera.

The top 12 individuals in the National High School Boys Ekiden Championships. Look for the Japanese athletes to run the First Stage with the Kenyans restricted to the shorter Third Stage.


11 boys, 7 Japanese and 4 Kenyan, from 10 schools come into this year's race with sub-14 bests over 5000 m led by senior Charles Ndungu of Hokkaido's Sapporo Yamanote H.S. in 13:35.54.  Junior Takuya Hanyu, 1 of 2 sub-14 high schoolers from Chiba's Yachiyo Shoin H.S., is the fastest Japanese runner at 13:52.98, while 2014 World Junior Championships team member Shota Onizuka leads Fukuoka's Omuta H.S. in 13:58.43 just ahead of a brand-new headline-making sub-14 addition, 16-year-old Hyuga Endo of Gakuho Ishikawa H.S. in 13:58.93.

With the mass popularity of the Hakone Ekiden ahead of them in university there is almost no chance any of the top ranks of this year's field would ever consider the NCAA, but imagine what an impact they could make if some lucky American school could somehow pull off a recruiting coup.  Regardless, the National High School Ekiden offers the chance to see future stars like Wanjiru and Karoki along with many of the contenders for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics team for the first time.

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Wednesday, December 17, 2014

Ritsumeikan Uji Girls Confident of Ride to Top at National High School Ekiden Championships

http://www.kyoto-np.co.jp/top/article/20141217000034

translated by Brett Larner

Broadcast live nationwide and commercial-free on NHK, the 65th National High School Boys Ekiden Championships and 26th National High School Girls Ekiden Championships take place this Sunday, Dec. 21 in Kyoto with the boys running a seven-stage, 42.195 km course and the girls a five-stage, 21.0975 km course, both starting and finishing at Nishi Kyogoku Field.  Having represented Kyoto every time since the first National Championships, the Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. girls are set to run again.

Four members of last year's 4th-place Ritsumeikan Uji girls squad return, forming the core of this year's team.  Looking to return to the top after winning its 3rd National title in 2012, head coach Yoshinobu Ogino showed confidence int he team's chances as he commented, "Our athletes have become strong."

The top five girls on the team have an average 3000 m PB of 9:20, ranking them fifth in the nation.  Four of them ran in the National High School Track and Field Championships.  At the Nov. 16 Kinki Region High School Ekiden they ran 1:38 faster than at the Kyoto area qualifier for Nationals, winning an 18th Kinki Region title after an off year last year and gaining confidence by beating the #1-ranked high school in the country by average 3000 m best, Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.

Senior Kureha Seki is the team's star runner.  In this year's National High School Track and Field Championships 3000 m she was the top Japanese finisher, 2nd overall.  "My speed is coming," she says of the growth she has achieved.  At last year's National High School Girls Ekiden Championships she fell during the First Stage, a memory that leaves her with bitter tears.  "This year," she declares, "my running is going to help us get the win."

The team's captain is junior Fumiko Ando.  In June she suffered a stress fracture in her left leg, but she recovered quickly to set a 3000 m PB in September.  At the Kinki Region High School Ekiden she showed her strength by running down 2014 Youth Olympics 3000 m gold medalist Nozomi Musembi Takamatsu (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) for the win.  "I'm going to start fast and hang on," she said spiritedly of her plans for Sunday's race.

Along with Kinki Region High School Ekiden Third Stage winner Maako Konishi and First Stage runner Aki Manabe, last year's Nationals team member Saki Hashimoto is fit and healthy.  At a time trial meet earlier this month several first-years ran PBs, adding momentum to the team's drive for the win.  Having guided the Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. girls since they ran the first Nationals, head coach Ogino said, "They've got more experience than any other team.  I want them to run on the edge."

Entry Roster
Kureha Seki (3rd year)
Saki Hashimoto (3rd year)
Nagisa Hasegawa (3rd year)
Fukiko Ando (2nd year)
Aki Manabe (2nd year)
Maako Konishi (2nd year)
Chisa Isuji (1st year)
Honoka Yamamoto (1st year)

Isahaya Boys and Girls Vow to Give It All at National High School Ekiden

http://www.nagasaki-np.co.jp/news/kennaitopix/2014/12/17090524015995.shtml

translated by Brett Larner

With a student body of 833 led by Principal Kenji Tamashima, Nagasaki's Isahaya H.S. held a pep rally at the school Dec. 16 for its boys' and girls' ekiden teams who will be competing in Sunday's National High School Ekiden Championships in Kyoto.  The entire student body turned out to show its support for the school's athletes.

The pep rally was held in the school gymnasium.  Special guest Mayor Akio Miyamoto told the teams, "There are a lot of returning members from last year's [National Championships] team, so our hopes for you are high.  Please give it your best."

Boys' captain Hiroyuki Sakaguchi, 17, told the assembled students, "We will run with the feeling that you are all sharing here today within our hearts."  Girls' captain Sakura Kawakami, 18, added, "With our running we want to show our thanks for the support of every person here."  Pep rally committee chairman Hidehiro Funakoshi said, "We want you to run with confidence and give it all that you have!"  After Funakoshi's comments the school cheerleaders took the stage to lead the school's support for its athletes.

Translator's note: The Isahaya H.S. boys finished 14th last year, while its girls were 22nd.  Isahaya H.S. alumni include London Olympian and 2:07:48 marathoner Arata Fujiwara and 1999 World XC junior bronze medalist Yoshiko Fujinaga.  The National High School Ekiden Championships will be broadcast live nationwide commercial for 4 1/2 hours this Sunday on NHK starting at 10:05 a.m. Japan time.  Follow @JRNLive for live coverage.

Hieizan Girls Looking to Use Natural Competitiveness at National High School Ekiden

http://www.kyoto-np.co.jp/top/article/20141217000036

translated by Brett Larner

Representing Shiga Prefecture for the second year in a row and fourth time in school history at Sunday's five-stage, 21.0975 km National High School Girls Ekiden Championships is Hieizan H.S.  Hieizan's young team is made up entirely of first- and second-years, but with each member of the team calmly attending to the business of getting the tasuki across the line it won the Shiga Prefecture qualifier to make this year's Nationals.

Targeting the school's 1:12-level record at the upcoming Nationals, head coach Katsuhiro Yoshii commented, "If they relax and use their natural competitiveness then the results will follow."  First-years Mao Sawamura and Saori Fukubayashi are in good shape.  Highly likely to be put on the First Stage, Sawamura said, "I'm good on the uphills.  I want to hang on and try to get the tasuki to the next runner as quickly as I can."  Veterans of last year's race, Moe Kawaharada and Yui Marutani are likely to be used in the middle stages.  The team captain, the second-year Marutani was firm as she commented, "I want us to run with aggression.  Every runner on the team needs to clear their target time for the stage they're responsible for."

Entry Roster
Hana Oki (2nd year)
Chika Osaki (2nd year)
Moe Kawaharada (2nd year)
Yui Marutani (2nd year)
Natsume Yamaguchi (2nd year)
Rina Kobayashi (1st year)
Mao Sawamura (1st year)
Saori Fukubayashi (1st year)

Translator's note: Last year the Hieizan H.S. girls finished 51st of 58 teams. The National High School Ekiden Championships will be broadcast live nationwide commercial for 4 1/2 hours this Sunday on NHK starting at 10:05 a.m. Japan time.  Follow @JRNLive for live coverage.