Skip to main content

Ugachi Anchors Tochigi's First National Men's Ekiden Win - Video Highlights

by Brett Larner

Click photo for video highlights courtesy of NHK.

First-year pro Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Team Konica Minolta), 12th at last fall's World Half Marathon in a sub-62 minute PB, brought his native Tochigi Prefecture home for its first-ever win Jan. 23 at the National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden Championships in Hiroshima. Buoyed by strong performances from high schooler teammates Genki Yagisawa (Nasu Takuyo H.S.) and Keita Shioya (Nasu Takuyo H.S.) Tochigi took an early lead and, even when passed, was never out of the top three. Ugachi started the 13.0 km anchor stage just 2 seconds behind leader Kosaku Hoshina (Miyagi/Team Nissin Shokuhin) and swiftly took the lead, ultimately opening a gap of 31 seconds to take the win.

Defending champion Hyogo Prefecture struggled, dropping from among the leaders to the 20's in the middle stages, returning to the forefront, then dropping again to 10th after a weak anchor leg by Hoshina's teammate Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin). Pre-race favorite Kagoshima Prefecture, which featured three members of 2010 National High School Ekiden champion Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S. in its lineup, likewise floundered, its hopes of a late-stage comeback sunk by a weak showing by veteran anchor Satoshi Irifune (Team Kanebo). In their places, 2009 champion Nagano Prefecture, host Hiroshima Prefecture and unheralded Kyoto Prefecture all had good days to take 2nd through 4th. Mie Prefecture rounded out the top 5 in its best-ever finish thanks in large part to anchor Yusuke Takabayashi of 2011 New Year Ekiden national champion Team Toyota. Takabayashi took the fastest time on the star-studded anchor stage, clocking individual kilometer splits as fast as 2:37 on the 13.0 km leg.

In terms of individual action, the biggest draw of the Interprefectural Ekiden for the second year in a row was Nagano's Akinobu Murasawa (Tokai Univ.). The 19 year-old Murasawa, who passed 17 people in a field of 20 earlier this month on the Hakone Ekiden's most competitive stage just a hair from the fastest time ever by a Japanese runner on that leg, had another stage-winning run, this time passing 24 people and the finishing as the only runner to break 24 minutes. Prior to running Murasawa said he was confident of picking up 20-30 seconds, but despite starting 43 seconds back from leader Yuki Yagi (Hyogo/Waseda Univ.) Murasawa made it all the way to the front, briefly taking the lead before being outkicked by Yagi, who cruised the stage and recorded only the 16th-fastest time.

Twin high school seniors Kenta Murayama and Kota Murayama (Miyagi/Meisei H.S.) both gained attention with excellent runs. Kenta, who made news in the fall with a 28:23.18 clocking for 10000 m, took the lead from Murasawa's Nagano Prefecture team and won the 8.5 km Fifth Stage in 24:33 despite apparent sideache difficulties over the final 3 km of the stage. His lesser-known twin Kota ran a patient First Stage, staying in the pack and ignoring the surges thrown in by leader Kazuto Nishiike (Hyogo/Suma Gakuen H.S.). With 400 m to go Kota launched an incredible all-out kick, obviously not sustainable all the way but good enough to take second after he tied up in the final meters of the 7 km leg. Stage winner Yagisawa of Tochigi told reporters afterward, "Coach told me that that last stretch is longer than it looks, so I was careful to time my kick. I was pretty shocked by Murayama's kick, though." Kenta Murayama will head to 2011 Hakone Ekiden 3rd placers Komazawa Univ. following his graduation in March, while Kota Murayama will join Josai Univ., which finished a heartbreaking 11th in Hakone's now-famous wrong-turn final kick incident.

2011 National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden
Jan. 23, Hiroshima
7 stages, 48.0 km
click here for complete results

Stage Best Performances
click stage headers for video highlights
First Stage - 7.0 km (H.S.)
1. Genki Yagisawa (Tochigi/Nasu Takuyo H.S.) - 20:07
2. Kota Murayama (Miyagi/Meisei H.S.) - 20:08
3. Ryota Matono (Nagasaki/Isahaya H.S.) - 20:08

Second Stage - 3.0 km (J.H.S.)
1. Kengo Takamori (Chiba/Abiko J.H.S.) - 8:31
2. Taishi Sakamoto (Kagoshima/Akune J.H.S.) - 8:35
3. Yoshiki Minami (Shizuoka/Maisaka J.H.S.) - 8:47

Third Stage - 8.5 km (univ/pro)
1. Akinobu Murasawa (Nagano/Tokai Univ.) - 23:48
2. Yo Yazawa (Kanagawa/Waseda Univ.) - 24:02
3. Yusuke Hasegawa (Niigata/Jobu Univ.) - 24:07
4. Keiji Akutsu (Gunma/Team Subaru) - 24:09
5. Sota Hoshi (Fukushima/Team Fujitsu) - 24:11

Fourth Stage - 5.0 km (H.S.)
1. Keita Shioya (Tochigi/Nasu Takuyo H.S.) - 14:25
2. Hikaru Kato (Miyagi/Tohoku H.S.) - 14:30
2. Kazuma Watanabe (Kumamoto/Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 14:30

Fifth Stage - 8.5 km (H.S.)
1. Kenta Murayama (Miyagi/Meisei H.S.) - 24:33
2. Yuki Arimura (Kagoshima/Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.) - 24:37
3. Shota Shinjo (Hyogo/Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 24:40

Sixth Stage - 3.0 km (J.H.S.)
1. Yuichi Yasui (Chiba/Tokiwadaira J.H.S.) - 8:40
2. Makoto Mitsunobu (Fukuoka/Kasuga Nishi J.H.S.) - 8:41
3. Junpei Kanisawa (Nagano/Komagane Higashi J.H.S.) - 8:48

Seventh Stage - 13.0 km (pro/univ)
1. Yusuke Takabayashi (Mie/Team Toyota) - 37:25
2. Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Hiroshima/Meiji Univ.) - 37:29
3. Yuichiro Ueno (Nagano/Team S&B) - 37:36
4. Takuya Ishikawa (Yamaguchi/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 37:37
5. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Tochigi/Team Konica Minolta) - 37:39
6. Chihiro Miyawaki (Gifu/Team Toyota) - 37:49
7. Rui Yonezawa (Fukui/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 37:53
8. Satoru Sasaki (Akita/Team Asahi Kasei) - 37:54
9. Hiroyuki Ono (Gunma/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 37:55
9. Fumihiro Maruyama (Oita/Team Asahi Kasei) - 37:55

Top Team Performances - 48.0 km
1. Tochigi - 2:19:31
2. Nagano - 2:20:02
3. Hiroshima - 2:20:37
4. Kyoto - 2:20:39
5. Mie - 2:20:40
6. Nagasaki - 2:20:42
7. Hyogo - 2:20:43
8. Miyagi - 2:20:43
9. Kumamoto - 2:20:45
10. Chiba - 2:20:58

(c) 2011 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Japanese National Track and Field Championships Preview

The 101st edition of Japan's National Track and Field Championships takes place Friday through Sunday at Osaka's Yanmar Stadium Nagai. It's a strange time in some ways. Despite the overall upward trend spurred on by the 2020 Tokyo Olympics, the count of athletes who might make the London World Championships off their performances at Nationals is low. The marathon, walks, combined events and relays aside, based on current qualifying times only the men's 100 m, women's 5000 m and women's 10000 m could field full three-member squads, and not many events look set to join that list. The progress over the last few years in men's distance on the track seems to have stalled, with nobody qualified for London in the 5000 m and the only man qualified in the 10000 m already a scratch. Is it a just a hiccup or a sign of problems in the buildup to 2020?

Visit the JAAF's National Track and Field Championships website for entry and start lists, live results, photos an…

JAAF Announces Preliminary Team for London World Championships

A day after the end of the 2017 Japanese National Track and Field Championships, the JAAF announced its preliminary team for August's London World Championships. No men made the team in long distance, while no women were named in any event except long distance. Top-placing athletes at the National Championships have until July 23 to chase standards in hope of being added to the team, but excluding the marathon and race walk, the team as announced on June 26:

Women's Long Distance
Rina Nabeshima (Japan Post) - 5000 m
Ayuko Suzuki (Japan Post) - 5000 m / 10000 m
Mizuki Matsuda (Daihatsu) - 10000 m
Miyuki Uehara (Daiichi Seimei) - 10000 m

Men's Sprints
Abdul Hakim Sani Brown (Tokyo T&F Assoc.) - 100 m / 200 m
Shuhei Tada (Kwansei Gakuin Univ.) - 100 m
Aska Cambridge (Nike) - 100 m
Shota Iizuka (Mizuno) - 200 m
Takamasa Kitagawa (Juntendo Univ.) - 400 m

Additional Relay Members
Yoshihide Kiryu (Toyo Univ.) - 4x100 m
Kenji Fujimitsu (Zenrin) - 4x100 m
Kentaro Sato (Fujitsu) -…

Ageo City Half Marathon Leads Weekend Action - Preview

by Brett Larner

Rainy weather lies ahead for a busy weekend of racing across the country.  Track is a part of the calender from April through December, and this weekend features several large time trial meets including the Shizuoka Long Distance Time Trials Meet and, closer to Tokyo, the Nittai University Time Trials Meet.  Men's 5000 m is the focus at Nittai with 37 separate heats in one day, the fastest heat led by 12 Japan-based Africans including Bedan Karoki (DeNA RC), Ronald Kwemoi (Team Komori Corp.) and Paul Kuira (Team Konica Minolta).

The main action this weekend, however, happens on the roads, and there's no question that the Ageo City Half Marathon is the main event.  Ageo, the race that university coaches use to thin their rosters ahead of deciding their lineups for January's Hakone Ekiden, is one of two Japanese half marathons vying for the title of world's greatest half, locked in a duel with March's National University Half Marathon to produce the d…