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Sendai Ikuei Girls and Saku Chosei Boys Return to the Top at National High School Ekiden Championships

Returning to the top for the first time since 1994 and 2008, the Sendai Ikuei H.S. girls and Saku Chosei H.S. boys pulled off comeback wins to take the national titles at the 2017 National High School Ekiden Championships.


14 seconds back from the lead after the opening leg of the five-stage, 21.0975 km girls' race, Sendai Ikuei's Helen Ekarare blasted a 12:25 course record for the 4.0975 km Second Stage to put her team 34 seconds ahead of early leader Nagano Higashi H.S. Stuck in 3rd, 2016 national champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. Osaka Kunei's third and fourth runners Ayaka Murao and Saya Nakajima tried to turn it around with back-to-back stage wins but could only come within 3 seconds of Nagano Higashi by the start of the anchor leg.

There first-year Sendai Ikuei anchor Rina Kimura dropped the best performance of the after Ekarare's stage record, covering the 5.0 km anchor stage in 15:34. Bringing Sendai Ikuei home in 1st for the first time since long before anyone on the team was born, Kimura crossed the finish line in 1:06:35, the 2nd-fastest winning time in Nationals history and just 9 seconds short of the record. Nagano Higashi held off last year's winner Osaka Kunei by 5 seconds to take 2nd in 1:07:41.


In the boys' race Saku Chosei H.S., whose 2008 team featuring future marathoners Suguru Osako (NOP) and Akinobu Murasawa (Nissin Shokuhin) still holds the record for the fastest winning time by an all-Japanese team, 2:02:18 for the seven-stage, 42.195 km course, got off to a strong start as leading man Yuhi Nakaya won the 10 km First Stage in 29:15. Saku Chosei's lead grew to 30 seconds on the Second Stage, but on the Third Stage Kenyan Charles Nijioka brought defending national champ Kurashiki H.S. back into the action, winning the 8.1075 km stage in 23:11 and putting Kurashiki 38 seconds ahead of Saku Chosei.

Saku Chosei's Keita Honma cut Kurashiki's lead down to 12 seconds as he won the Fourth Stage, but a Fifth Stage win by Kurashiki's Kazuki Ono reopened the lead slightly. First-year Mebuki Suzuki was Saku Chosei's hero of the day, winning the 5.0 km Sixth Stage in 14:20 to put Saku Chosei in front by 18 seconds at the final handoff. Anchor Arashi Yamamoto blew the race apart, extending Saku Chosei's lead to almost a minute and a half and bringing the team home to its second-ever national title in 2:02:44.

Last year's winner Kurashiki held on to 2nd in 2:04:11, with the Sendai Ikuei H.S. boys joining the national champion girls' team on the podium with a 3rd-place finish in 2:04:59. 2014-15 winner Sera H.S. was a non-factor, finishing only 20th in the field of 47 teams.

29th National High School Girls Ekiden

Kyoto, 12/24/17
47 teams, 5 stages, 21.0975 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Sendai Ikuei H.S. (Miyagi) - 1:06:35
2. Nagano Higashi H.S. (Nagano) - 1:07:41
3. Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. (Osaka) - 1:07:46
4. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.(Kyoto) - 1:08:30
5. Chikushi Joshi Gakuen H.S. (Fukuoka) - 1:08:37
6. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. (Hyogo) - 1:08:46
7. Kojokan H.S. (Okayama) - 1:08:55
8. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. (Kagoshima) - 1:09:04
9. Sera H.S. (Hiroshima) - 1:09:26
10. Isahaya H.S. (Nagasaki) - 1:09:36

Stage Best Performances
1st Stage (6.0 km) - Yuna Wada (3rd yr., Nagano Higashi H.S.) - 19:09
2nd Stage (4.0975 km) - Helen Ekarare (3rd yr., Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 12:25 - CR
3rd Stage (3.0 km) - Ayaka Murao (2nd yr., Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 9:40
4th Stage (3.0 km) - Saya Nakajima (3rd yr., Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) - 9:22
5th Stage (5.0 km) - Rina Kimura (1st yr., Sendai Ikuei H.S.) - 15:34

68th National High School Boys Ekiden

Kyoto, 12/24/17
47 teams, 7 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Saku Chosei H.S. (Nagano) - 2:02:44
2. Kurashiki H.S. (Okayama) - 2:04:11
3. Sendai Ikuei H.S. (Miyagi) - 2:04:59
4. Oita Tomei H.S. (Oita) - 2:05:00
5. Ichinoseki Gakuin H.S. (Iwate) - 2:05:20
6. Hamamatsu Nittai H.S. (Shizuoka) - 2:05:22
7. Sapporo Yamanote H.S. (Hokkaido) - 2:05:25
8. Suma Gakuen H.S. (Hyogo) - 2:05:32
9. Kyushu Gakuin H.S. (Kumamoto) - 2:05:36
10. Suijo H.S. (Ibaraki) - 2:06:05

Stage Best Performances
1st Stage (10.0 km) - Yuhi Nakaya (3rd yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 29:15
2nd Stage (3.0 km) - Kaishin Hattori (1st yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 8:06
3rd Stage (8.1075 km) - Charles Nijioka (3rd yr., Kurashiki H.S.) - 23:11
4th Stage (8.0875 km) - Keita Honma (3rd yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 23:28
5th Stage (3.0 km) - Kazuki Ono (3rd yr., Kurashiki H.S.) - 8:41
6th Stage (5.0 km) - Mebuki Suzuki (1st yr., Saku Chosei H.S.) - 14:20
7th Stage (5.0 km) - Masaki Shimodate (3rd yr., Ichinoseki Gakuin H.S.) - 14:20

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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