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5th-Ranked Koku Gakuin Pulls Off Last Km Upset to Win First-Ever Izumo Ekiden Title

In the modern era of systematic mass-production of quality by dominant teams like Tokai University and Aoyama Gakuin University it has been years since an underdog came through with a surprise win on Japan's university men's ekiden circuit, but that's just what happened at today's Izumo Ekiden to kick off the 2019-20 Big Three University Ekiden season.

The race was expected to be between defending champ Tokai and Buddhist powerhouse Komazawa University, with threats from AGU and fan favorites Toyo University. Like last year Tokai struggled a bit to get on its feet, lagging as a core leading quartet coalesced over the first half of the race's six stages. Running better than expected, #5-ranked Koku Gakuin University was right up in it along with AGU, Komazawa and Toyo, its second and third men Taiga Nakanishi and Yuhei Urano taking 3rd on their stages and Urano one of six men on the Third Stage to break its course record.

The leading quartet broke up into two pairs…
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Chicago Marathon Japanese Results

After moving up to the top ranks of amateur Japanese women's marathoning with a 2:36:37 PB at this year's Tokyo Marathon, club runner Shiho Kaneshige (GRlab Kanto) took another big step with a 2:33:16 PB for 14th at the Chicago Marathon. Running almost perfectly evenly, her first 5 km 18:11 and none after that faster than 17:49 or slower than 18:17, Kaneshige managed a slight negative split with a 1:16:46 first half and 1:16:30 second half. Just short of rival club runner Haruka Yamaguchi's 2:33:09 PB in Sydney last month, with that kind of control Kaneshige looks to have plenty more room for growth.

On the men's side, four Japanese men, Minato Oishi (Toyota), Tsubasa Hayakawa (Toyota), Ryoma Takeuchi (Hitachi Butsuryu) and Yuta Takahashi (Otsuka Seiyaku), went out in the second pack with the main leading group of American men. The fastest Japanese half marathoner so far this year, Oishi was almost as steady as Kaneshige the entire way as he opened with a 15:25 first …

Hakone Champ Tokai University the Heavy Favorite at Izumo Ekiden

University men's ekiden season kicks off Monday with the Izumo Ekiden, the first race in the three-month buildup to January's Hakone Ekiden main event. Last year four-time Hakone champ Aoyama Gakuin University outran up-and-coming Tokai University at both Izumo and November's National University Ekiden but fell short of stopping Tokai at Hakone. This year AGU is significantly down on strength, while Tokai is stronger than ever. But while Tokai is the clear favorite, it's got a serious challenge coming from at least one, maybe two familiar faces.

The average stage length for Izumo's six stages is about 7.5 km, requiring a balance between 5000 m and 10000 m skills. Despite missing captain Ryoji Tatezawa Tokai leads the way in both departments, its top six 5000 m average of 13:47.22 the fastest among the seven schools with sub-14 minute averages and its 10000 m average of 28:39.35 likewise leading the way among the six sub-29 programs. Half marathon credentials don&#…

JAAF Vows to Improve National Team Selection Procedure After Ushiro Debacle

With regard to the issue of decathlon Asian Champion Keisuke Ushiro (33, Kokushikan Club) having been denied entry into the World Championships by the IAAF just before the Championships' start after having been told he would be on the Japanese team nearly three months earlier by the JAAF, at its current executive board meeting the JAAF established that in the future it will include the original text of the IAAF's qualification procedures along with the Japanese translation it makes available to Japanese athletes. JAAF chair Kazunori Asaba commented, "We want to improve our system so that athletes, coaches and managers can better understand the selection process."

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translated by Brett Larner

JAAF Sets Tokyo Olympics Medal Bonuses at Same Level as for Rio

At an executive meeting in Tokyo on Oct. 10, the JAAF set the amounts for medals and top eight finishes at the 2020 Tokyo Olympics. A gold medal will earn 20 million yen [~$185,000 USD], a silver medal 10 million yen and a bronze medal 800,000 yen. 4th-place finishes will be worth 300,000 yen, with 5th or 6th-place finishes worth 200,000 yen and 7th or 8th-place finishes 100,000 yen.

The amounts are the same as awarded for performances at the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics. All members of relay teams will be eligible for bonuses including those who only run in qualifying rounds or the final, with the bonuses to be paid out at half the above amounts. In the unlikely event that an athlete earning a bonus is disqualified due to a doping violation or other reason, they will be liable to repay the entire amount.

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translated and edited by Brett Larner

Hironaka Wins National Sports Festival 5000 m

The thirteen events of the 74th National Sports Festival track and field competition took place Oct. 4th through 8th in Ibaraki prefecture. Representing Tokyo, Ririka Hironaka (Japan Post) won the senior women's 5000 m in 15:34.38. In the race, the pace stayed slow through 3000 m. Hironaka held back around the 3rd-place and 4th-place position before surging at that point, covering the remaining 2000 m in six minutes flat. "I ran exactly the way I'd envisioned," she said with the same kind of enthusiastic smile she had in high school.

Hironaka still wore the Nagasaki uniform when she was the top Japanese woman and 3rd overall in the junior women's 3000 m last year. She joined the Tokyo-based Japan Post team after graduating from Nagasaki Shogyo H.S. this spring, finishing 3rd in the National Championships 5000 m. Her assertive win here capped a successful track season. She had thought about running in the Nagasaki uniform again this time, but, she said, "Tok…

Saku Chosei and Osaka Kunei Win Season-Opening High School Ekidens

The high school season-opening Nihonkai Ekiden and Kurayoshi Women's Ekiden took place Oct. 6 in Kurayoshi, Tottori. A total of 226 high school teams took part in the two events, both of which delivered heated battles.

In the boys' race, the 39th edition of the Nihonkai Ekiden covering 42.195 km in seven stages starting and finishing at Kurayoshi Municipal Field, Nagano's Saku Chosei H.S. emerged victorious for the second time with a time of 2:04:40 after taking control on the opening stage. After getting off to a weak start, Sera H.S. took 2nd, with Toyokawa H.S. 3rd after briefly leading mid-race. The top team from Hyogo prefecture, Suma Gakuen H.S. was 6th in 2:06:43, with rivals Hotoku H.S. 8th in 2:07:02 and Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. 10th in 2:07:41.

Held the same day, the girls competed in the 34th running of the 21.0975 km Kurayoshi Women's Ekiden, likewise starting and finishing at Kurayoshi Municipal Field. Defending champion team Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. won…