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Hakone Ekiden Day One: Waseda Wins, Defending Champs Juntendo DNF, Mogusu Gets 2nd Stage Record

by Brett Larner



As usual, the most exciting distance running of the year in Japan took place today with Day One of the 84th annual Hakone Ekiden delivering a wide range of inspiring performances and surprise upsets. Twenty teams made up of the best university runners in Japan raced over the five stage, 108 km championship course. Waseda University won Day One for the first time in twelve years thanks to a stage best time on the 3rd leg by the seriously injured Kensuke Takezawa and a titanic run on the uphill 5th stage by Ryuta Komano, who shocked commentators and spectators alike by coming within seconds of the great Masato Imai`s ‘untouchable’ stage record.

Mekubo Mogusu of Yamanashi Gakuin University finally scored the stage record on the ace 2nd leg in his 3rd attempt, while Masato Kihara of Chuo Gakuin University finished as top Japanese on the 2nd stage to confirm that he is the brightest star in the next generation of Japanese distance runners. The biggest shock in many years of Hakone came on the 5th stage when star runner Hiroyuki Ono of defending champions Juntendo University collapsed less than 500 m from the end of the 5th stage, eliminating Juntendo from competition. A detailed account can be found in the next article below, or click here.

Day Two Preview
Waseda won Day One largely on the strength of the strong performances by Kumano and Takezawa. With no 1st-rate runners in reserve it will need a great deal of luck to hang on to its slim lead. Likewise, Yamanashi Gakuin and Chuo Gakuin are in the top five mostly due to excellent performances by their stars Mogusu and Kihara and solid 5th stage performances. Komazawa has no major aces but at least six very strong runners. Half of these have not yet appeared, so it looks as though pre-race reports of Komazawa stacking its Day Two team are true. Tokai has not yet played its best runner, Yuki Sato, but it is hard to see him making up Tokai`s 3 minute, 42 second deficit from Komazawa by himself. It will take a solid team performance by Tokai and some failures by Komazawa runners for Tokai to stand a chance. The East Japan Select Team did unexpectedly well on Day One, putting it in position for a potential upset on Day Two.

Further back, the race for 10th place, the final seeded position, is shaping up to be very interesting. The elimination of the superior Juntendo gives one of the weaker schools the opportunity to be seeded for next year`s race and avoid the Hakone qualifier Yosenkai 20 km road race next October. Among such weaker teams, Yamanashi Gakuin and Chuo Gakuin are in excellent position for a seeded slot. Daito Bunka was consistent on Day One and has a good chance for the 10th spot, as does Teikyo, which made this year`s Hakone after a three-year absence. Kokushikan exceeded expectations on Day One and will be looking for its 1st-ever seeded position on Day Two.

Juntendo`s elimination means it will have to run next year`s Yosenkai, possibly interfering with its participation in the season`s other major races, October`s Izumo Ekiden and November`s All-Japan University Ekiden. Nittai and Senshu, both of which were seeded this year but performed extremely poorly on Day One, will be trying to get back into a seeded position on Day Two to avoid a similar fate.

Complete Results, Day One:
1. Waseda: 5:33:08
2. Komazawa: 5:34:22
3. Yamanashi Gakuin: 5:35:07 (new stage record: Mekubo Mogusu, 2nd stage (23.2 km): 1:06:23
4. East Japan Select Team: 5:36:25
5. Chuo Gakuin: 5:37:16
6. Nihon: 5:37:47
7. Asia: 5:37:54
8. Tokai: 5:38:04
9. Toyo: 5:38:23
10. Chuo: 5:39:03
11. Daito Bunka: 5:40:26
12. Teikyo: 5:40:34
13. Kokushikan: 5:41:35
14. Nittai: 5:41:50
15. Hosei: 5:42:24
16. Josai: 5:43:20
17. Senshu: 5:45:57
18. Tokyo Nogyo: 5:47:35
19. Kanagawa: 5:48:23
Juntendo: DNF, 5th stage

© 2008 Brett Larner
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