MAEBASHI – Team ace Tsuyoshi Ugachi surged ahead in the fourth leg to put Konica Minolta in the driver’s seat en route to its first victory in five years at the national corporate ekiden championship on Tuesday.
Konica Minolta completed the seven-leg, 100-kilometer road relay in Gunma Prefecture in 4 hours, 51 minutes, 32 seconds for its seventh overall title in the annual New Year’s Day competition.
Toyota Motor Kyushu was a distant second in 4:55:24. Kanebo and Honda Motor finished third and fourth, respectively.
“I think I dragged the team back some but the other runners really ran strong for us,” said captain Ugachi, whose fourth leg is the longest at 22 km.
He took the sash in fourth place, 34 seconds off the lead, but held on to finish his leg one second ahead of Masato Imai of Toyota Motor Kyushu, who set a new record in the fourth leg with a time of 1:02:50.
Masaki Ito timed the fastest with a mark of 46:33 in the 15.8-km fifth leg and Konica Minolta extended its lead by winning the final two legs as well on the way to victory.
“I was determined that I wouldn’t lose,” said Ito, whose performance helped propel the team to its sixth title in eight years beginning in 2001.
Toyota Motor, winner of the 2011 event, could only manage eighth, while defending champion Nissin Food Products fizzled into ninth. Asahi Kasei came 10th among the 37 participating teams.