by Brett Larner
Picking up the pieces from its women's team's loss to crosstown rivals Bukkyo University at last month's Morinomiyako Ekiden, Ritsumeikan University's men followed through on their strong showing at the Izumo and National University Ekidens with a win at the 71st Biwako University Ekiden on Nov. 21. Western Japan's answer to the mighty Hakone Ekiden, Biwako is the season-ending championship event for university men outside the Kanto region.
19 times raced the eight-stage, 84.3 km event, one of Japan's oldest ekidens. Ritsumeikan, Kyoto Sangyo University and Daiichi Kogyo University were the heavy favorites going in to this year's Biwako, and the three followed expectations. Kyoto Sangyo's Kazuki Hayashi (3rd yr.) took the race out hard, clocking 32:55 for the 11.1 km First Stage. Ritsumeikan and Daiichi Kogyo sat in 4th and 5th behind Nara Sangyo University's Tadaharu Amano (2nd yr.) and Masashi Nakatsu (3rd yr.). Ritsumeikan's second and third runners, Toshiki Imazaki (1st yr.) and Yohei Fujiwara (4th yr.) both took stage bests but could not run down Kyoto Sangyo, whose Third Stage man Masahito Sumimoto (4th yr.) tied Fujiwara for the stage best at 32:49 for 11.0 km. Daiichi Kogyo likewise advanced but could not clear 3rd place despite Sixth Leg man Ryo Yamamoto (2nd yr.) tying for the stage best honors.
Not until the 9.6 km 4th stage, when rookie Fumihiko Ozaki (1st yr.) took another stage best for Ritsumeikan did the team move into the lead. From there until the finish they had a straight shot to the win, with stage best titles on the Fifth, Sixth and Eighth legs. Daiichi Kogyo's Kenyan star Kiragu Njuguna (2nd yr.) was the only one to break Ritsumeikan's control, clocking a 43.54 new stage record for the 15.1 km Seventh Leg to bump Ritsumeikan's Tomoya Nishino (4th yr.) into 2nd on the stage.
Njuguna also overtook Kyoto Sangyo's Hiroki Mitsuoka (3rd yr.) to put Daiichi Kogyo into 2nd, but the progress was shortlived as Kyoto Sangyo's anchor Shota Uno (1st yr.) outran Daiichi Kogyo's Daichi Shuto by a minute to retake the runner-up spot.
Ritsumeikan's winning time was three minutes off its course record from 2005, but the win was a welcome salve to the school's pride after the women's team's loss to Bukkyo. Njuguna continues to look like as though he is developing into the inheritor of the top Kenyan university runner in Japan.
2009 Biwako University Ekiden - Top Team Results
click here for complete results
1. Ritsumeikan Univ. - 4:12:42
2. Kyoto Sangyo Univ. - 4:15:06
3. Daiichi Kogyo Univ. - 4:15:46
4. Kansai Gakuin Univ. - 4:19.34
5. Nara Sangyo Univ. - 4:21:24
6. Osaka Keizai Univ. - 4:22:12
7. Kansai Univ. - 4:24:20
8. Chukyo Univ. - 4:24:22
9. Osaka Kyoiku Univ. - 4:24:24
10. Kobe Univ. - 4:24:55
Stage Best Performances
First Leg - 11.1 km - Kazuki Hayashi (3rd yr., Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 32:55
Second Leg - 7.3 km - Toshiki Imazaki (1st yr., Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 20:48
Third Leg - 11.0 km - Masahito Sumitomo (4th yr., Kyoto Sango Univ.) - 32:49
and Yohei Fujiwara (4th yr., Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 32:49
Fourth Leg - 9.6 km - Fumihiko Ozaki (1st yr., Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 28:49
Fifth Leg - 8.8 km - Hiroyuki Tanaka (2nd yr., Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 27:34
Sixth Leg - 12.8 km - Ryo Yamamoto (2nd yr., Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 39:31
and Hiroki Terasaki (4th yr., Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 39:31
7th Leg - 15.1 km - Kiragu Njuguna (2nd yr., Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 43:54 - new stage record
8th Leg - 7.7 km - Naoki Masuda (3rd yr., Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 24:05
(c) 2009 Brett Larner
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