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Osaka Kunei Unseats Ritsumeikan Uji at Kita-Kyushu Women's Ekiden

by Brett Larner

A week after the National Women's Ekiden marked the end of the main women's championship ekiden season, 9 pro and university teams and 15 high school teams lined up for the 26th edition of the Kita-Kyushu Women's Ekiden, a 5-stage, 32.8 km race that features an 11.7 km anchor stage split into two for the high school runners.  Last year's winning anchor Misaki Kato got defending open division champion Kyudenko off to a good start with an 18-second lead on the 4.2 km First Stage, and after Kenyan Sally Chepyego was through with the 5.9 km Second Stage Kyudenko's lead was up to well over a minute, a margin they held for the rest of the race to take a second-straight win in 1:45:23.

With a long streak of Kita-Kyushu wins behind it, defending H.S. division champion Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. got off to a slow start, 2nd among H.S. teams on the First Stage and more than 30 seconds behind Kato.  2014 National H.S. Ekiden champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. was even further back, but on the Second Stage its runner Kanami Sagayama ran the fastest time on the stage behind Chepyego to move put Osaka Kunei ahead of Ritsumeikan Uji and 3rd overall, just 2 seconds behind 2nd-place pro team Denso.

Ritsumeikan Uji fought back on the 5.1 km Third Stage, Fukiko Ando winning the stage outright in 16:31 to overtake both Osaka Kunei and Denso and opening a 15-second lead.  Another good run from Fourth Stage runner Aki Manabe extended Ritsumeikan Uji's lead over Osaka Kunei to 28 seconds with two stages to go, and although Osaka Kunei's fifth runner Kyoka Mori cut the lead by 4 seconds it needed a big anchor run to catch the dominant Ritsumeikan Uji.  Ena Kagayama, Osaka Kunei's anchor at its first-ever National H.S. Ekiden win last month, delivered again, outrunning Ritsumeikan Uji anchor Sakura Sunda by more than a minute and a half over 6.8 km to take the win in 1:46:39.

26th Kita-Kyushu Women's Invitational Ekiden
Kita-Kyushu, 1/18/15
open division: 9 teams, 5 stages, 32.8 km
H.S. division: 15 teams, 6 stages, 32.8 km
click here for complete results

Open Division Top Team Results
1. Kyudenko - 1:45:23
2. Denso - 1:46:47
3. Toto - 1:48:34
4. Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo - 1:49:12
5. Osaka Gakuin Univ. - 1:49:38

H.S. Division Top Team Results
1. Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuen H.S. - 1:46:39
2. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. - 1:48:14
3. Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S. - 1:49:20
4. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. - 1:49:23
5. Suma Gakuen H.S. - 1:49:47

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (4.2 km)
1. Misaki Kato (Kyudenko) - 13:15
2. Satomi Ueda (Toto) - 13:33
3. Nami Hashimoto (Denso) - 13:36

Second Stage (5.9 km)
1. Sally Chepyego (Kenya/Kyudenko) - 18:19
2. Kanami Sagayama (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 19:05
3. Kureha Seki (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 19:09
3. Saori Noda (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 19:09

Third Stage (5.1 km)
1. Fukiko Ando (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 16:31
2. Rino Maeda (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 16:47
3. Miyuki Oka (Denso) - 16:57

Fourth Stage (5.9 km)
1. Sayaka Kurogi (Kyudenko) - 19:19
2. Aki Manabe (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 19:22
3. Misato Kagayama (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 19:35

Open Division Fifth Stage (11.7 km)
1. Yuka Miyazaki (Kyudenko) - 37:07
2. Yuki Mitsunobu (Denso) - 37:13
3. Yukari Ishibashi (Edion) - 37:41

H.S. Division Fifth Stage (4.9 km)
1. Kyoka Mori (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 16:09
2. Ryoka Meno (Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S.) - 16:17
3. Sakura Wada (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 16:22

H.S. Division Sixth Stage (6.8 km)
1. Haruka Tobimatsu (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) - 20:58
2. Ena Kagayama (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 21:13
3. Yuki Shibata (Kita-Kyushu Municipal H.S.) - 22:00

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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