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Shades of Seko - Kensuke Takezawa Outkicks Atsushi Sato for Win, Murasawa Over Kashiwabara at National Interprefectural Ekiden

by Brett Larner

click here to read detailed race commentary on JRNLive

Kensuke Takezawa (Hyogo) outkicks Atsushi Sato (Fukushima) for the win. Click photo for video highlights.

Waseda University graduate and first-year Team S&B elite Kensuke Takezawa (Hyogo Pref.) ran in the image of his coach and mentor Toshihiko Seko, closely tailing half marathon national record holder and fellow Waseda alum Atsushi Sato (Fukushima Pref.) throughout the 13 km anchor leg of the seven stage, 48 km 2010 National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden in Hiroshima on Jan. 24. With 280 m to go Takezawa dispatched Sato with a blazing kick, bringing Hyogo home in 2:20:02 to deliver Hyogo its first National Interprefectural Ekiden win in 3 years and robbing Fukushima of its first-ever National win. "I had a pretty bad year last year," said Takezawa after the race, "so it's nice to get this one off to a good start."

Two-time defending champion and course record holder Nagano Prefecture was the heavy favorite for another win, with 2008 winner Hyogo Prefecture its most likely rival. 3000 m, 10000 m and marathon national record holder Toshinari Takaoka, a guest announcer on NHK's nationwide commercial-free race broadcast, picked Saitama Prefecture as the darkhorse contender. He was right. Saitama Sakae H.S. student Shota Hattori outkicked a pack of high school aces to put Saitama into the lead on the 7 km First Stage. Junior high school student Yusuke Uchikoshi held on to the lead through the 3 km Second Stage, leaving Team Honda's Yoichi Akiyama to try to hold off the competition on the 8.5 km Third Stage.

Behind Akiyama, two university stars made the Third Stage one of the day's highlights. 18 year-old Tokai University first-year Akinobu Murasawa, who set the Interprefectural Ekiden Fifth Stage record last year and then ran 59:08 for 20 km at October's Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai, started 12 seconds behind Akiyama in 4th. Three seconds back in 7th was Hakone Ekiden Fifth Stage star Ryuji Kashiwabara. Kashiwabara went out at full speed, quickly overtaking Murasawa who sped up to run alongside. At one km Kashiwabara clocked 2:36, Murasawa 2:39. That kind of speed couldn't last, but the pair worked together and swiftly reeled in the lead pack of pros and older university runners. It eventually thinned out to a three-way battle between the two young stars and 30 year-old Akiyama, with Murasawa muscling it out in the lead position. In the last km Kashiwabara suddenly went to the verge of vomiting and dropped behind, leaving Murasawa to outsprint the pro Akiyama. Surprisingly, the stage best went to Kashiwabara's former teammate, first year pro Tomoya Onishi of Gifu Prefecture, by one second over Murasawa.

Saitama Prefecture's next two runners, identical twin high school students Yuta and Keita Shitara, retook the lead and opened it to 31 seconds, with Keita taking the stage best on the 8.5 km Fifth Stage. Two runners on the 5 km Fourth Stage, Hirotaka Tamura (Aomori Pref.) and Jun Nobuto (Hyogo Pref.) broke the existing stage record of 14:15. Tamura's time of 14:10 was faster, giving Aomori Pref. its first-ever stage win. Saitama's Sixth Stage runner, junior high school student Kojiro Tomikoshi, lost 13 seconds to Kagoshima's Taishi Sakamoto but held on to an 18 second margin for anchor Takashi Horiguchi. Behind him, Chiba Pref.'s Taiga Machizawa ran a surprise 7-second stage record of 8:31 for the 3 km stage.

Horiguchi, a solid sub-29 minute man, did what he could to keep up front, but behind him it was already all but over. Half marathon national record holder Atsushi Sato (Fukushima Pref.) and 10000 m national university record holder Kensuke Takezawa (Hyogo Pref.) started 40 seconds back and one second apart in 3rd and 4th. With Sato relentlessly pushing forward, Takezawa sat behind him, applying pressure but biding his time in classic Seko style and never drawing even. Together the pair ran down Kagoshima anchor Ryohei Nakano and steadily cut down the distance to Horiguchi.

With 1.6 km to go it was over for Horiguchi as Sato surged past with Takezawa right on his heels. Just as Seko waited until the last curve of the track to drop Juma Ikangaa at the 1983 Fukuoka Marathon, Takezawa waited until the last 300 m to outkick Sato, gapping him by 3 seconds for the win. Neither Takezawa nor Sato scored the stage best, though, as farther back in the pack 27:38 10000 m runner Yuki Sato (Nagano Pref.), Takezawa's rival throughout high school and university, went from 15th to 4th in 37:12, beating Takezawa's time by a solid 21 seconds but missing the stage record by just 3 seconds. Hometown Hiroshima runner Tetsuya Yoroizaka, who had an excellent run for Meiji University earlier this month at the Hakone Ekiden, deserves special mention for hanging on to Yuki Sato after being passed at 8 km and outkicking him for 4th.

2010 National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden Results
click here for complete results
Stage Best Performances
First Stage - 7 km: Shota Hattori (Saitama Pref.) - 20:12
Second Stage - 3 km: Koki Maeda (Fukuoka Pref.) - 8:39
Third Stage - 8.5 km: Tomoya Onishi (Gifu Pref.) - 24:16
Fourth Stage - 5 km: Hirotaka Tamura (Aomori Pref.) - 14:10 - new stage record
Jun Nobuto (Hyogo Pref.) - 14:14 - new stage record
Fifth Stage - 8.5 km: Keita Shitara (Saitama Pref.) - 24:38
Sixth Stage - 3 km: Taiga Machizawa (Chiba Pref.) - 8:31 - new stage record
Seventh Stage - 13 km: Yuki Sato (Nagano Pref.) - 37:12

Top Team Results
1. Hyogo Pref. - 2:20:02
2. Fukushima Pref. - 2:20:05
3. Saitama Pref. - 2:20:20
4. Hiroshima Pref. - 2:21:00
5. Nagano Pref. - 2:21:00
6. Chiba Pref. - 2:21:06
7. Oita Pref. - 2:21:09
8. Mie Pref. - 2:21:11
9. Kumamoto Pref. - 2:21:16
10. Aichi Pref. - 2:21:45

Third Stage Top Performances
1. Tomoya Onishi (Gifu Pref.) - 24:16
2. Akinobu Murasawa (Nagano Pref.) - 24:17
3. Ryuji Kashiwabara (Fukushima Pref.) - 24:18
4. Naoki Okamoto (Hiroshima Pref.) - 24:19
5. Fumihiro Maruyama (Oita Pref.) - 24:23

Seventh Stage Top Performances
1. Yuki Sato (Nagano Pref.) - 37:12
2. Kensuke Takezawa (Hyogo Pref.) - 37:33
3. Atsushi Sato (Fukushima Pref.) - 37:37
4. Yusuke Takabayashi (Mie Pref.) - 38:09
5. Hiroshi Yamada (Tokyo Pref.) - 38:11
6. Ryo Yamamoto (Kyoto Pref.) - 38:15
6. Toshikazu Kawazoe (Kumamoto Pref.) - 38:15
8. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Hiroshima Pref.) - 38:17
8. Takuji Morimoto (Tottori Pref.) - 38:17
8. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Tochigi Pref.) - 38:17
11. Hiroyuki Ono (Gunma Pref.) - 38:18
12. Kenichi Jiromaru (Oita Pref.) - 38:22
13. Kazuyoshi Shimosato (Ibaraki Pref.) - 38:23
13. Makoto Tobimatsu (Saga Pref.) - 38:23
15. Takashi Horiguchi (Saitama Pref.) - 38:32

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
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