Skip to main content

Ritsumeikan Uji Upsets Defending Champion Toyokawa for National High School Girls Ekiden Title

by Brett Larner

Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. outruns defending champ Toyokawa H.S. for the 2012 National High School Girls Ekiden title. Click for video highlights courtesy of broadcaster NHK.

As expected, the 2012 National High School Girls Ekiden Championships came down to a showdown between #1-seeded defending champion Toyokawa H.S. and #2-ranked Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.

Toyokawa, with a lineup bolstered by transfers from the great Sendai Ikuei H.S., started the race in 5th, losing out in a brilliant late-stage surge by Saki Yoshimizu (Chikushi Joshi H.S.) on the first leg.  Toyokawa did not advance to the lead until the 3.0 km Third Stage, where its Azusa Sumi ran a course-record 9:21 to put the team into first three seconds ahead of Ritsumeikan Uji and #5-ranked Osaka Kunei H.S. with 2010 national champion Kojokan H.S., and 7th-9th ranked teams Kamimura Gakuen H.S., Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S. and Suma Gakuen H.S. close behind.  Fighting off Ritsumeikan's Mai Hirota after she made contact early, Toyokawa's fourth runner Hanami Sekine only managed to add one second to the team's lead by the stage's end, but both teams pulled away from all competition in preparation for an anchor-stage duel.

Ritsumeikan Uji anchor Nanami Aoki quickly made up the ground to Toyokawa anchor Yuka Hori, but Hori was persistent in not letting Aoki come even with her.  Losing patience after several moves were countered, Aoki finally made a definite move and broke Aoki, opening what would end up a 24-second lead to give Ritsumeikan Uji its first national title since 2007.  The school's time of 1:07:22 was the fifth-best in the event's history, the fastest since Ritsumeikan Uji's 2007 win, and along with Kojokan it became one of only two schools to beat Toyokawa in the last five years.  Toyokawa's time of 1:07:46 would have been near the winning time most other years, but this year it was only part of an overall fast day.

2010 winner Kojokan, ranked #3 pre-race took 3rd in a solid 1:08:03, with the next five teams all joining it sub-1:09.  2006 national champion Suma Gakuen took 6th in 1:08:18, just holding off Aomori Yamada H.S. anchor Rosemary Wanjiru, who ran a stage best 15:30 for 5 km to put Aomori Yamada onto the eight-deep podium.  As an indication of how good the top bracket of teams were, all of the top ten schools except Aomori Yamada and 10th-place Nagano Higashi H.S. had better five-woman 3000 m averages than the 2012 NCAA DI XC champion University of Oregon, by nearly 13 seconds in the case of top two Ritsumeikan Uji and Toyokawa.  All told, sixteen teams broke the 70 minute mark, one of the deepest days in the 24-year history of the National High School Girls Ekiden.

2012 National High School Girls Ekiden Championships
Kyoto, 12/23/12
47 teams, 5 stages, 21.0975 km
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (6.0 km) - Saki Yoshimizu (Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S.) - 19:39
Second Stage (4.0975 km) - Mizuki Matsuda (Osaka Kunei H.S.) - 13:00
Third Stage (3.0 km) - Azusa Sumi (Toyokawa H.S.) - 9:21 - CR
Fourth Stage (3.0 km) - Mika Kobayashi (Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 9:12
Fifth Stage (5.0 km) - Rosemary Wanjiru (Kenya/Aomori Yamada H.S.) - 15:30

Top Teams
1. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. (Kyoto) - 1:07:22
2. Toyokawa H.S. (Aichi) - 1:07:46
3. Kojokan H.S. (Okayama) - 1:08:03
4. Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S. (Fukuoka) - 1:08:14
5. Osaka Kunei Joshi H.S. (Osaka) - 1:08:15
6. Suma Gakuen H.S. (Hyogo) - 1:08:18
7. Aomori Yamada H.S. (Aomori) - 1:08:21
8. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. (Kagoshima) - 1:08:23
9. Hakuho Joshi H.S. (Kanagawa) - 1:09:00
10. Nagano Higashi H.S. (Nagano) - 1:09:11

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Brett Larner said…
Thanks to Bruce Carrick for pointing out the quality of Japanese H.S. teams relative to NCAA university teams back in January.
Muzik Arias said…
Hello, I just moved to Japam from Miami, FL. I grew up running track and my dad is a track coach. I would love to watch a track meet some time in Japan. Where could I find places or schedules for track meets in the Toyokawa area? Thank you for your help.

Most-Read This Week

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…

Kawauchi Breaks Nobeyama Ultra Course Record

2018 Boston Marathon winner Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov’t) won the longest race of his career to date Sunday in Nagano, taking over six minutes off the Yatsugatake Nobeyama Kogen 71 km Ultramarathon in 4:41:55.

A training run for next month’s Stockholm Marathon, Kawauchi set off solo at a steady pace around 3:45/km. Climbing from 1355 m to 1908 m as he approached 20 km he naturally slowed, but with over 1000 m of descent over the next 30 km he was soon back on track. Hitting the marathon split around 2:39, he was so far ahead of the 2nd placer that the announcer initially forget Kawauchi had already gone by and announced the next runner as the leader.

At 58 km Kawauchi was on track to clear 4:30:00, but hitting the uphills in the final 10 km and feeling the effects of the unfamiliar distance he slowed to almost 5:00/km. But with so much leeway to work with there was never any danger of the 4:48:13 course record slipping out of reach. Kawauchi stopped the clock in 4:41:55, please…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …