by Brett Larner
photos by Daniel Seite
Takushoku University frosh John Maina, one of two Kenyans joining the team this season, led Takushoku to a surprise team win at the 87th Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km qualifier Oct. 16 in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park. Despite hotter than usual temperatures and a course change which added challenging hills and several sharp corners in the final two km, Maina won overall in 58:23 to become only the third man to ever break 58:30 at the Yosenkai.
John Maina and Benjamin Gando at 6 km.
After a slow first km in 3:03, Maina effortlessly pressed the pace as Nihon University's Benjamin Gando struggled to maintain contact. Gando attacked just past 10 km but faded in the final quarter to a 58:43 runner-up spot. In Maina Takushoku may have found a deep talent. With him, fellow Kenyan recruit Duncan Mozay and new head coach Toru Okada, who previously coached Asia Univ. to the 2006 Hakone Ekiden win, Takushoku could be one of the surprises of January's Hakone.
John Maina in the lead at 16 km.
The biggest surprise at the Yosenkai itself was Koku Gakuin University's 2nd-place finish. With 15th-place Yosenkai finishes the last two years, Koku Gakuin's strong showing to make its first Hakone Ekiden in four years came in under the radar, with no truly notable showings earlier in the year to indicate the team was of such caliber. Actually beating Koku Gakuin on pure time, the ten runners who will make up the Kanto Regional Select Team, an assembly of the top runners from teams which did not qualify for Hakone, could be a threat for one of the seeded spots in January. While they would not actually earn the seeded position, the Select Team would knock another team down to next year's Yosenkai if they finish in the top ten. Teikyo University took 3rd and would have finished higher with a better run from its 10th man as its top nine finished high up in the field. With Hakone irregulars picking up the top three team positions at the Select Team in the mix, January's Hakone Ekiden could be wild and chaotic.
The chase pack at 16 km.
Looking at the underperformers, Jobu University saw a drop for the first time since it first qualified for Hakone two years ago, finishing only 5th after two 3rd-place results in a row. Missing star Akinobu Murasawa, who won last year's Yosenkai in 59:08 as a frosh but suffered a sprained ankle in last month's National University T&F Championships, Tokai University managed a passable 6th thanks in large part to a 3rd-place finish from second-year Tsubasa Hayakawa in 1:00:03. Whether a fit Murasawa will be enough to push Tokai up to the seeded bracket remains to be seen.
Tsubasa Hayakawa at 16 km.
Kokushikan University was perhaps the biggest disappointment of the day, with Kanto Region 5000 m champion Taku Fujimoto out with injury and backup ace Masaki Ito dropping from a 14:49 first 5 km to a 16:50 last 5 km and finishing 95th but still being Kokushikan's top man. Needless to say, the team did not qualify. Also missing the cut were 2007 Hakone Ekiden champions Juntendo University, 2006 Hakone winners Asia University, perennial near-misses Hosei University, and, dropping out of Hakone range for the first time in several years, Daito Bunka University.
Injured Tokai ace Akinobu Murasawa signs autographs.
2010 Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km Qualifying Road Race
Top Individual Results
click here for complete individual results
1. John Maina (1st yr., Takushoku Univ./Kenya) - 58:23
2. Benjamin Gando (2nd yr., Nihon Univ./Kenya) - 58:43
3. Tsubasa Hayakawa (2nd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 1:00:03
4. Yusuke Hasegawa (4th yr., Jobu Univ.) - 1:00:12
5. Kohei Ogino (3rd yr., Koku Gakuin Univ.) -1:00:12
6. Koji Kobayashi (4th yr., Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:00:16
7. Tomohiro Tanigawa (4th yr., Takushoku Univ.) - 1:00:17
8. Norimasa Nishina (4th yr., Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:00:26
9. Ryota Nakamura (4th yr., Teikyo Univ.) - 1:00:26
10. Naohiro Domoto (3rd yr., Nihon Univ.) - 1:00:34
Top Team Results
click here for complete team results
top nine schools qualify for 2011 Hakone Ekiden
1. Takushoku Univ. - 10:11:39
(Kanto Regional University Select Team - 10:15:02)
2. Koku Gakuin Univ. - 10:15:46
3. Teikyo Univ. - 10:16:22
4. Chuo Gakuin Univ. - 10:16:40
5. Jobu Univ. - 10:17:49
6. Tokai Univ. - 10:20:10
----- 7th-9th include points from May's Kanto Regionals
7. Nihon Univ. - 10:23:01 (-3:35)
8. Kanagawa Univ. - 10:21:57 (-0:30)
9. Senshu Univ. - 10:23:31 (-0:45)
-----did not qualify
10. Hosei Univ. - 10:27:35 (-3:00)
11. Daito Bunka Univ. - 10:27:59 (-2:15)
12. Asia Univ. - 10:27:32 (-0:40)
2011 Hakone Ekiden Field
1. Toyo Univ.
2. Komazawa Univ.
3. Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.
4. Chuo Univ.
5. Tokyo Nogyo Univ.
6. Josai Univ.
7. Waseda Univ.
8. Aoyama Gakuin Univ.
9. Nittai Univ.
10. Meiji Univ.
11. Takushoku Univ.
12. Kanto Regional University Select Team
13. Koku Gakuin Univ.
14. Teikyo Univ.
15. Chuo Gakuin Univ.
16. Jobu Univ.
17. Tokai Univ.
18. Nihon Univ.
19. Kanagawa Univ.
20. Senshu Univ.
2011 Hakone Ekiden Kanto Regional Univ. Select Team
Noriaki Fukushima (4th yr., Soka Univ.)
Aritaka Kajiwara (3rd yr., Shoin Univ.)
Masaaki Higuchi (3rd yr., Soka Univ.)
Takumi Kiyotani (4th yr., Hosei Univ.)
Yohei Kondo (3rd yr., Hosei Univ.)
Tatsunori Hamasaki (4th yr., Asia Univ.)
Shintaro Funai (2nd yr., Reitaku Univ.)
Tomonori Ikebuchi (4th yr., Asia Univ.)
Koki Inada (2nd yr., Daito Bunka Univ.)
Hiroyuki Okabe (4th yr., Juntendo Univ.)
Takahiro Yoda (3rd yr., Tokyo Univ. Grad School)
Yoshihiro Shinohara (2nd yr., Hosei Univ.)
(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved
all photos (c) Daniel Seite
all rights reserved