Monday, June 22, 2009

Meiji Wins Again in National University Ekiden Qualifier (updated)

by Brett Larner

In a repeat of last year's performance, Meiji University prevailed in rainy conditions to win the Kanto Regional Qualifying Meet for the November's National University Ekiden Championships having missed out on breaking into the six national seeded positions after last year's regional win. Excluding the schools which were made the seeded rankings at last year's Nationals, the twenty fastest Kanto-region schools sent teams of eight to Tokyo's National Stadium on June 21 to run the qualifier. Each team's eight runners were split into pairs by PB, each pair running in one of four 10000 m heats. At the end of the fourth heat teams were ranked by the aggregate times of their eight runners, with the top six teams qualifying for the National Ekiden.

Highlights of Kodai Matsumoto's win in the fourth heat. Click here for the full-length video.

Meiji simply outclassed all competitors, with seven of its eight runners making the top five in their heats including 1st in the second heat, 2nd and 3rd in the third heat, and 1st and 2nd in the fourth and fastest heat. Seniors Kodai Matsumoto and Takuya Ishikawa were responsible for the sweep in the final heat after having finished 3-4 in the fourth heat last year. Ishikawa led the first half, while Matsumoto, the 3rd placer in last month's Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships 10000 m, started off at the back of the pack second from last. Matsumoto took his time, working his way up through the field on the straightaways before taking the lead from Ishikawa at halfway, which the pair hit in 14:26 along with Kanagawa University's Takuji Morimoto and Tokai University's Tsubasa Hayakawa.

Matsumoto ratched down the pace and dropped all three, running a negative split to win comfortably in 28:46.31. Hayakawa lost touch soon into the second half, but Ishikawa and Morimoto stayed together until the final lap when Ishikawa kicked away to 2nd in 28:50.46, Hayakawa hanging on for 3rd in 28:52.93. Expected challenges from the other two strongest runners in the field, Tokyo Nogyo University's Kazuki Tomaru and Jobu University's Mao Fukuyama, never materialized. Of the six schools which qualified for the National Ekiden, the biggest surprise was Aoyama Gakuin University. Aoyama continued the momentum of its appearance in January's Hakone Ekiden, its first in thirty years, with a 6th place finish. It will be very interesting to see whether it can continue to build on these successes and make another Hakone bid come fall.

Highlights of Akinobu Murasawa's win in the third heat. Click here for the full-length video.

The third heat saw the most noteworthy performance of the night in the debut of Tokai University's new recruit, 2008 national high school champion Akinobu Murasawa. At last year's meet Toyo University's first year Ryuji Kashiwabara turned heads by frontrunning the third heat and opening a major lead over the rest of the field. Murasawa lapped almost the entire field, clocking 28:57.82 to win by 48 seconds over Meiji University's Tetsuya Yoroizaka. His time beat Kashiwabara's winning time last year by 30 seconds. Tokai may have lost superstar Yuki Sato to graduation this year but it looks as though Murasawa has the potential to at least partly make up for the loss. Combined with fellow first year Tsubasa Hayakawa's excellent showing in the final heat Tokai may well have two stars in its future.

Complete team and individual results are available here.

2009 National University Ekiden Championships Kanto Regional Qualifying Meet - Top Results
Team Results - Top six teams qualify for the National University Ekiden.
1. Meiji Univ. - 4:01:33.12
2. Tokai Univ. - 4:03:02.94
3. Tokyo Nogyo Univ. - 4:03:42.53
4. Senshu Univ. - 4:04:17.18
5. Chuo Univ. - 4:05:09.18
6. Aoyama Gakuin Univ. - 4:05:21.12
7. Teikyo Univ. - 4:05:22.15
8. Josai Univ. - 4:05:57.08
9. Asia Univ. - 4:07:27.96
10. Kanagawa Univ. - 4:07:32.36

Top Ten Individual Times and Heat Winners
1. Kodai Matsumoto (4th yr., Meiji Univ.) - 28:46.31 (1st, Heat Four)
2. Takuya Ishikawa (4th yr., Meiji Univ.) - 28:50.46 (2nd, Heat Four)
3. Takuji Morimoto (4th yr., Kanagawa Univ.) - 28:52.93 (3rd, Heat Four)
4. Akinobu Murasawa (1st yr., Tokai Univ.) - 28:57.82 (1st, Heat Three)
5. Tsubasa Hayakawa (1st yr., Tokai Univ.) - 29:10.24 (4th, Heat Four)
6. Tasuku Arai (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:19.32 (5th, Heat Four)
7. Yoshito Kubo (3rd yr., Teikyo Univ.) - 29:21.89 (6th, Heat Four)
8. Rui Yonezawa (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:21.89 (7th, Heat Four)
9. Masaki Ito (2nd yr., Kokushikan Univ.) - 29:23.50 (8th, Heat Four)
10. Hiroaki Sano (4th yr., Reitaku Univ.) - 29:24.18 (9th, Heat Four)
Junya Kinoshita (2nd yr., Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 30:07.32 (1st, Heat One)
Shunichi Kondo (3rd yr., Meiji Univ.) - 31:22.01 (1st, Heat Two)

(c) 2009 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

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