Aussies seventh in new-look Ekiden
Australia has finished seventh in the 2007 Chiba Ekiden, a race that had the host city abuzz after a sensational win to Japan in the new format.
Yukiko Akaba conquered the final leg (7.195km) in 22:39, a victorious run after Kenya had held the No.1 ranking after each of the first five legs.
Kenyan Catherine Ndereba, marathon queen at the 2007 World Championships, slipped to fourth place in the sixth and final leg; her full distance runs in Osaka (August) and New York (November) clearly taking toll.
Conditions were mostly good with clear skies and no rain, though a wintry chill was present on a couple of the legs.
The Australian effort was solid, posting a total team time of 2:11:56 - exactly six minutes adrift of Japan.
It was well served by Mark Tucker
in the opening leg, finishing fifth over 5km in 13:49, while the team’s other two male athletes, Ben St Lawrence
(sixth) and Erwin McRae
(seventh), performed gallantly over 10km.
Team manager Tim O’Shaughnessy, acknowledging that St Lawrence “ran very well in a windy leg” was pleased with the top half result, particularly given the unknown of the combined teams.
“With the new format, we weren’t sure where we might finish and how it could turn out,” he said. “With three athletes representing Australia for the first time, they did very well.”
Joining St Lawrence on debut were Tara Palm
and Sarah Lofts
, who finished 10th and ninth respectively over 5km.
“The girls will be much better for the experience,” O’Shaughnessy continued. “There was a lot of cheering going on and by the end of their races, they probably felt it was a bit (overwhelming).”
Strong numbers lined the streets on what was a national holiday in Japan, with the race also televised live. Given the host’s success, word is Monday will more than likely be a national holiday as well.
The roar that filled the stadium at the final straight, fresh from the triumph, added to the excitement as Australia’s final runner Sarah Salmon
(pictured) headed for home.
With just 50 metres remaining, the World Cross Country Championships representative overtook Chiba’s Chika Horie to secure seventh place.
While sixth place, the final prize-money position, went to Great Britain, it concluded a good team performance.
“I believe a lot will be gained from this experience,” O’Shaughnessy said. “The atmosphere and competition will really inspire these athletes to head home and continue training hard to become better runners.
“That’s what these trips are all about.”Mark Tucker (5km):
5th (13:49)Tara Palm (5km):
10th (16:28)Ben St Lawrence (10km):
6th (29:45)Sarah Lofts (5km):
9th (16:53)Erwin McRae (10km):
7th (30:07)Sarah Salmon (7.195km):
12th (24:54)Andrew White (reserve - 5000m track):
7th (14:31) FINAL STANDINGS:
1. Japan (2:05:56) 2. Kenya (2:07:06) 3. Russia (2:08:00) 4. USA (2:09:05) 5. Japan University Team (2:09:22) 6. Great Britain and Northern Ireland (2:10:11) 7. Australia (2:11:56)
8. Chiba (2:11:57) 9. Romania (2:12:17) 10. China (2:13:59) 11. Belarus (2:14:32) 12. Poland (2:15:10) 13. Sweden (2:17:14) 14. Italy (2:17:30) 15. Korea (2:23:26)
Running as separate men’s and women’s teams since 1988, Australia’s last three results were 11th and sixth in 2004, fourth and 11th in 2005 and fifth and 11th in 2006.Plus:
Australia’s Andrew Letherby
has won his second Manchester Road Race, five years after claiming his maiden victory. The 34 year-old was nine seconds quicker this time, finishing the 4.78 mile race in 21:54 and pipping Irishman Martin Fagan by just one second. The Commonwealth Games marathon bronze medallist remains the only Australian to win the event. This year, 9477 other finishers trailed him.