translated and edited by Brett Larner
Its course record wins at all three major university men's ekidens in the 2010-2011 season making it the best university team ever assembled, Waseda University's ekiden squad has arrived in Ichinoseki, Iwate to begin training for the first key battle in this year's campaign, October's Izumo Ekiden. On Sept. 19th the team held a public reception at its training facilities in the city's Hanaizumi district to greet and offer support to local residents affected by March's disasters. With the entry list for this year's Izumo Ekiden announced the same day, the reception also served to mark the beginning of serious training for the team's core group of athletes.
Waseda's ekiden team originally began using Hanaizumi as a training base in 1990 and has continued with only one interruption. Team alumnus Yasuyuki Watanabe (38), now Waseda's head coach, experienced the Hanaizumi training camp during his own student days. The training facilities were badly damaged in March's earthquake, but the city government felt it was important to continue to be able to offer the team the same quality training environment as every year and conducted emergency repairs to have the facilities in working order in time.
At the reception 24 members of the Waseda team greeted city residents and members of the local Waseda University Hakone Ekiden Supporters' Committee. Committee president Hikoichi Ishida told the team, "Congratulations on achieving the triple crown. It gives us pride to know that it was at least in part due to your training here in Hanaizumi, and we look forward to your running this season." Ichinoseki mayor Osamu Katsube likewise extended the team his compliments. Coach Watanabe told the assembled crowd, "It's already been a year since our triple crown. We've got less than a month until the Izumo Ekiden and my aim here to get us into a position where we are ready to defend our title."
Team captain Yuki Yagi was unable to attend the training camp due to injuries, leaving his fellow senior Yusuke Mita to lead the team at the Izumo Ekiden for the first time. Coach Watanabe commented, "We're ramping things up and aren't looking bad overall. Our strength is the high level of every athlete on the team."* Mita added, "Every single day is important. This year I want us to pay back all of [Ichinoseki residents'] support and encouragement."
On Sept. 20th the team went to Ichinoseki's Wakutsu Elementary School to hold a running clinic for local children. Waseda's training camp will continue through Sept. 24th.
*Translator's note: Last season Waseda had ten men with 10000 m PBs under 29 minutes.