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Toyota Jidoshokki Wins National Corporate Women's Ekiden Qualifier

Dodging a bullet as an approaching typhoon that spelled potential cancellation shifted to the east, the Princess Ekiden, the qualifying race for second-tier teams for next month's National Corporate Women's Ekiden Championships, went off Sunday afternoon in Fukuoka. The top 14 of the 29 teams in the field would qualify to join the seeded first-tier teams at Nationals in the third year of the event's current format shift from a series of regional qualifiers.

12th in 2015 and 4th last year, Panasonic took over the lead on the 3.6 km Second Stage and tried to run away with it, but behind them Toyota Jidoshokki grew closer and closer after a weak opening stage. With just one second separating them at the final exchange it was going to be close, but although Panasonic anchor Sakiko Naito was strong, covering the 6.695 km Sixth Stage in 21:43, Toyota Jidoshokki's Misaki Hayashida went one better, dropping a course record 21:35 to run Naito down and put Toyota Jidoshokki across the line 7 seconds ahead in 2:20:28.

Behind the leading pair most of the expected teams duly took their places on the Nationals entry list, one surprise coming from the relatively young Juhachi Ginko team, placing 8th in its best-ever performance thanks in part to marathoner Keiko Nogami running the second-fastest time in the field on the race's longest stage, the 10.7 km Third Stage.

The biggest drama on the anchor stage came back at the cutoff line for the final qualifying position. The once-powerful Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo team spent most of the day hovering around 14th. Starting the anchor stage 1:08 behind them in 19th, the Atsushi Sato-coached Kyocera team's Anna Matsuda was dead set on making it. Tying Hayashida's new course record, Matsuda ran 21:38 to overtake five teams and outkick Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo's Aika Mizoe in the home straight to take 14th by 2 seconds. It was a classic ekiden performance, but there was more.

Unknown to both Hayashida and Mizoe, 10th place Edion anchor Yuka Wakabayashi was in serious trouble. In the last 100 m she began to stagger, and without warning she collapsed face down on the side of the road less than 30 m from the finish line. Matsuda and Mizoe sped by thinking they were in a race to make it to finals, but Wakabayashi's DNF knocked the Edion team out of the race and bumped Kyocera and Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo up to 13th and 14th, a tough break for Edion but a major stroke of luck for Mitsui. Wakabayashi was rushed to a hospital where she later regained consciousness, a team spokesperson telling reporters that dehydration was the likely cause.

3rd Princess Ekiden

National Corporate Women's Ekiden Qualifier
Fukuoka, 10/22/17
29 teams, 6 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Top Individual Stage Performances
First Stage (7.0 km) - Chikako Mori (Sekisui Kagaku) - 23:24
Second Stage (3.6 km) - Nanami Watanabe (Panasonic) - 11:20 - CR
Third Stage (10.7 km) - Yuka Hori (Panasonic) - 33:58 - CR
Fourth Stage (3.8 km) - Rosemary Wanjiru (Starts) - 11:51
Fifth Stage (10.4 km) - Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu) - 37:27
Sixth Stage (6.695 km) - Anna Matsuda (Kyocera) / Misaki Hayashida (Toyota Jidoshokki) - 21:35 - CR

Top Team Performances - top 14 qualify for National Championships
1. Toyota Jidoshokki - 2:20:38
2. Panasonic - 2:20:35
3. Daihatsu - 2:22:10
4. Sekisui Kagaku - 2:22:37
5. Denso - 2:23:44
6. Sysmex - 2:23:57
7. Hokuren - 2:23:59
8. Higo Ginko - 2:24:15
9. Shimamura - 2:24:16
10. Toto - 2:24:22
11. Starts - 2:24:24
12. Noritz - 2:24:35
13. Kyocera - 2:24:53
14. Mitsui Sumitomo Kaijo - 2:24:35
15. Otsuka Seiyaku - 2:25:30
16. Canon AC Kyushu - 2:25:40
17. Hitachi - 2:25:52
DNF - Edion

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved


yuza said…
Sairi Maeda seems to be back after two long years injured. I hope she can stay fit and run a fast marathon early next year.
Brett Larner said…
Yes indeed, nice to see her have a good one.

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