Friday, December 10, 2010

45 Men Under 29 Minutes - 2011 Hakone Ekiden Entry Lists Released

by Brett Larner

As the year is winding down Japan's distance runners, all the way from junior high school to the jitsugyodan corporate world, are gearing up for the national championship ekidens. It's a quirk of the system that the biggest of them all, the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden, is a regional university men's event for the Kanto area around Tokyo. Twenty teams, ten men per school, each man running one of ten stages roughly a half marathon in distance over the course of two days all with a live national broadcast with 30% viewership ratings and millions more lining the course. It's hard to overstate how important and popular it is and how captivating to watch.

The 2011 Hakone Ekiden entry lists were released today and overall the field shows unparalleled quality. 45 men hold 10000 m PBs under 29 minutes, 2 of them under 28, with a raft of others holding noteworthy marks at 5000 m, 20 km and the half marathon. Takushoku University's Kenyan first-years John Maina and Duncan Mozay are the cream of the crop, both having broken 28 minutes last month, but only one will be elligible to start. The next fastest in the field is Jobu University's captain, senior Yusuke Hasegawa, with a PB of 28:07.47. Hakone's biggest star, two-time Fifth Stage record breaker Ryuji Kashiwabara, a junior at Toyo University, rounds out the top bracket with a 28:20.99 PB earlier this fall.

Other top individuals in the field include freshly-minted Asian junior half marathon record holder Suguru Osako (1st yr., Waseda Univ. - 1:01:47 half), Kanto 10000 m champion Benjamin Gando (2nd yr., Nihon Univ. - 28:21.31 10k), all-time university 20 km #3 Takehiro Deki (2nd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ. - 58:51 20k), and the top non-African at this year's World XC Jr. race, Akinobu Murasawa (2nd yr., Tokai Univ. - 59:08 20k). A notable absence is Kanto 5000 m champion Taku Fujimoto (3rd yr., Kokushikan Univ. - 13:38.68 5k / 28:27.66 10k), who was ill for October's Hakone Ekiden Qualifier and whose school failed to make the cut.

Looking at the overall team entries, Waseda University is undoubtedly the public favorite, with course record wins at October's Izumo Ekiden and November's National University Ekiden, six men with 10000 m times under 29 minutes and eight with half marathon times under 64 minutes. However, head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe has a history of peaking the team too early and bringing them to Hakone in a shambles. With the best team he has ever had on his hands what will it be this time?

Aside from his history, the biggest thing working against Watanabe and Waseda is the fact that two-time defending champion Toyo University has quietly pulled itself up and brought in some star recruits and now sits equal with Waseda with six men holding 10000 m times under 29 minutes. Along with a keen sense of strategy, the team's greatest asset is Fifth Stage ace Kashiwabara, who singlehandedly decided the last two Hakones by smashing the record on his nearly 900 m climb stage. Following last year's race marathon great Toshihiko Seko told Kashiwabara in a televised interview, "Next year you should run the Second Stage. That's where all the best people run." It goes without saying that this would be a major strategic error for the team and probably doesn't need to be mentioned that Seko is Waseda's most famous alumnus.

Meiji University is a surprise third in quality, with five men under 29 minutes, just ahead of the ferocious Komazawa University. Komazawa's head coach Hiroaki Oyagi is dead-set on Hakone as the focus of the year, so barring a major breakdown look for them to be ahead of Meiji. Chuo University, Josai University, Nittai University and Nihon University all come in with three sub-29 men apiece and should have solid chances for making the seeded bracket. Nittai was a surprise at Nationals last month, so look for them to perform above expectations again. Josai and particularly Nihon suffer from a lack of depth this year and may not be able to hold off more evenly-wrought schools.

A summary by school of the A-list runners in the 2011 Hakone Ekiden field, those with 5000 m times under 14 minutes, 10000 m times under 29 minutes, 20 km times under 1 hour, or half marathon times under 1:03. Click here for complete entry lists. Hakone will be broadcast live Jan. 2-3, 2011, and overseas viewers should be able to watch online via Keyhole TV. JRN will offer live English-language commentary for the complete broadcast via Twitter. Check back in a few weeks for more details.

Toyo University Two-time defending Hakone Ekiden champion
Ryuji Kashiwabara (3rd yr.) - 28:20.99
Shogo Otsu (4th yr.) - 28:45.11
Takaaki Tanaka (3rd yr.) - 28:46.92
Keita Shitara (1st yr.) - 28:52.22
Takanori Ichikawa (2nd yr.) - 28:54.93
Hiroyuki Uno (3rd yr.) - 28:55.32
Ryohei Kawakami (3rd yr.) - 13:46.55

Waseda University 2010 National University Ekiden champion
Suguru Osako (1st yr.) - 13:47.29 / 28:35.75 / 1:01:47
Fuminori Shikata (1st yr.) - 28:38.46
Shota Hiraga (2nd yr.) - 13:45.83 / 28:41.42 / 1:02:08
Yo Yazawa (3rd yr.) - 13:43.84 / 28:45.56
Yuki Yagi (3rd yr.) - 13:43.49 / 28:55.24
Hiroyuki Sasaki (2nd yr.) - 28:58.47

Komazawa University
Ikuto Yufu (1st yr.) - 13:45.42 / 28:51.71
Wataru Ueno (2nd yr.) - 13:47.10 / 28:55.74
Kazuhiro Kuga (2nd yr.) - 13:51.50 / 28:55.80
Hiromitsu Kakuage (2nd yr.) - 13:50.85 / 28:57.47
Kenta Chiba (2nd yr.) - 13:51.70
Shinobu Kubota (1st yr.) - 13:55.18

Meiji University
Tetsuya Yoroizaka (3rd yr.) - 13:39.31 / 28:34.12
Sho Matsumoto (4th yr.) - 28:34.38
Kaido Kita (1st yr.) - 13:59.64 / 28:42.92
Masato Kikuchi (2nd yr.) - 13:49.36 / 28:43.61
Yuta Kobayashi (4th yr.) - 28:57.83

Josai University
Takamitsu Hashimoto (3rd yr.) - 28:33.21
Kosei Yamaguchi (1st yr.) - 28:55.33
Masaru Yamaki (4th yr.) - 28:57.32
Dai Nakahara (2nd yr.) - 13:47.89
Keisuke Tanaka (4th yr.) - 13:50.15

Nihon University
Benjamin Gando (2nd yr.) - 13:51.19 / 28:21.31
Naohiro Domoto (3rd yr.) - 28:38.57
Hirotaka Tamura (1st yr.) - 28:55.90
Yusuke Sato (2nd yr.) - 13:57.01

Chuo University
Hayato Saito (4th yr.) - 13:56.83 / 28:55.40
Yuki Munakata (3rd yr.) - 13:54.94 / 28:55.65
Minato Oishi (4th yr.) - 28:59.41

Nittai University
Takuya Noguchi (4th yr.) - 28:25.27
Kazuya Deguchi (4th yr.) - 28:34.02 / 1:02:46
Shota Hattori (1st yr.) - 28:37.75

Takushoku University
Duncan Mozay (1st yr.) - 27:53.00
John Maina (1st yr.) - 27:53.50 / 58:23 (20 km)

Tokai University
Akinobu Murasawa (2nd yr.) - 13:38.68 / 28:44.23 / 59:08 (20 km)
Tsubasa Hayakawa (2nd yr.) - 28:47.37

Tokyo Nogyo University
Kenta Matsubara (3rd yr.) - 28:48.86 / 1:02:54
Shunya Kinoshita (3rd yr.) - 28:50.53

Yamanashi Gakuin University
Cosmas Ondiba (3rd yr.) - 28:37.95 / 1:02:27
Muryo Takase (4th yr.) - 28:44.67 / 1:01:57

Aoyama Gakuin University
Takehiro Deki (2nd yr.) - 58:51 (20 km)

Jobu University
Yusuke Hasegawa (4th yr.) - 28:07.47 / 59:30 (20 km)

Kanto Regional Select Team
Masaki Ito (3rd yr., Kokushikan Univ.) - 28:38.69 / 1:02:53

Koku Gakuin University
Kohei Ogino (3rd yr.) - 28:56.00

Teikyo University
Ryota Nakamura (4th yr.) - 28:49.20

(c) 2010 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Simon said...

Very much looking forward to this year's Hakone and potentially a battle between Toyo and Waseda. Do the latter have anyone to realistically challenge Kashiwabara on the Fifth Stage?

Brett Larner said...

Hi Simon. Very hard to say about the Fifth Stage -- lots of talented new people at Waseda, and Komazawa for that matter, but lots of talented people have been sacrificed to the Fifth before. After the last Hakone they showed some footage of coach Oyagi from Komazawa talking to another coach, I think Watanabe from Waseda, saying, "As long as that punk is around we've got to build people who can break 80 on the Fifth Stage." Osako is supposed to run Second Stage, which means Hiraga will probably run Ninth. I have the feeling Sasaki will go on Fifth, possibly Shikata.

I'm working on handicapping the field for an article next week, but in short:

Looking at each team's top 10, if all the best runners from both schools run 100% then Waseda will win by a slim margin over Toyo. Waseda is, however, in a very precarious situation with the weakest depth beyond the 10 scorers in the entire field. In other words, if any of Waseda's big guys gets injured or sick then they have nobody to fill in. Running the numbers based on each team's top 12, Toyo moves up from 2nd-ranked to 1st while Waseda falls from 1st to 13th (!). Given Watanabe's history at Hakone that doesn't look promising.

Komazawa and Nittai are both relatively close behind Toyo, so I expect those four schools to be the main contenders. Meiji, Chuo and Tokai should be clustered together in the next group even though Tokai will be missing one of its 28 min. men.

Josai, Aoyama Gakuin and Teikyo should round out the seeded bracket, with the Select Team and possibly Yosenkai winners Takushoku potentially sneaking into the last seeded spot, 10th place.

More details next week.

Simon said...

Thanks for the detailed reply Brett. Love the Oyagi quote!