translated and edited by Brett Larner
One of the goals set by Komazawa University head coach Hiroaki Oyagi for the next few seasons was to develop at least ten men with 5000 m PBs under 14 minutes. It has already happened. At the recent Nittai Univ. Time Trials meet, senior Shota Inoue ran a PB of 13:58.53 to become the tenth man on the current Komazawa roster under 14 minutes. At the end of pre-season training Komazawa looks set to do battle with its most competitive team ever. We went to Komazawa's team dormitory on Oct. 4 ahead of Monday's Izumo Ekiden to talk to coach Oyagi about the team's rapid development and its prospects and goals for this season's Big Three university ekidens, Izumo, November's National University Ekiden Championships, and January's Hakone Ekiden.
We're getting close to the Izumo Ekiden. How are you feeling about the team right now?
Oyagi: I think my runners are in good condition. They did a good job in summer training and everything went smoothly, so as far as my feeling about them it looks to me as though they've got it together.
Are all of the members of last year's Izumo team going to be back?
That's right. Everyone will be back, so I think it is a solid team.
You've got both experienced upperclassmen and underclassmen who are developing rapidly, so it looks as though the level of the team as a whole has shot up dramatically.
I'd agree with that. You know, this year is going to be very competitive, so through a combination of hard work and good teamwork our level has improved a great deal.
Tactically, how do you approach a race like with short stages like the Izumo Ekiden?
My teams always lose the lead on the anchor stage, so this year I want to attack right from the First Stage, to take and maintain the lead, and then on the next stage, and the next after that, to widen the lead bit by bit, and in that way to ensure that we don't lose the lead on the anchor stage. Needless to say, some of the other schools have some heavy artillery that they'll be aiming our way to gun us down at the end, so I want to see us with a lead of about one minute over second place when the tasuki is handed off to the Sixth Stage runner.
Have you already decided on the best running order with which to realize that plan?
Yes, that's what I'm doing right now, trying to decide who to use where. I'm going back and forth a little bit. As a whole the team is in excellent shape, so the situation now is that it is a bit of a problem to settle who is going to run. I'd like to see how some of the underclassmen do, but the upperclassman are doing a great job as well so it's a headache. Well, a good headache, I guess.
Which runners would you like people to pay special attention to at the Izumo Ekiden?
That would be the underclassmen. People should watch out for our sophomores Shinobu Kubota and Ikuto Yufu and our frosh Kenta Murayama.
What kind of athlete is first-year Murayama?
He won the 5000 m at the National University Championships this season, so because of that he's getting a lot of attention. He's got a superb last kick, and to that he added an excellent stamina base during summer training. On top of that he's got a winner's spirit and really hates to lose. When it comes to the critical win-lose point in a race, if he makes the right decision he is the kind of athlete who will win every time.
What are your goals for the Big Three university ekidens this year?
Last year I was shooting for top three at each of them, but this year I want to be more competitive and go for the win. I've already told the runners this. I think we can take all three this year.
The last two years Komazawa has been a long way from winning all three.
Yes. It was a desolate time.
This is your 17th year as head coach at Komazawa University. If you win this time it will be your 17th win at the Big Three.
That's right. For that reason our minimum goal is to win at least one of the Big Three this season, and I ask our athletes to give me their best to help achieve this goal.
Coach Oyagi has been through too many Izumo Ekidens where Komazawa has lost on the anchor stage not to have bad taste in his mouth and just the idea of it happening again, but with a formidable team lineup this year the chances look good for Komazawa to lead the entire way to its first Izumo Ekiden win in 13 years. We'll find out the outcome starting at 1 p.m. on the Oct. 10 National Sports Day holiday. The race will be broadcast live on Fuji TV. Overseas viewers should be able to watch online for free via Keyhole TV. Japan Running News will once again offer live race commentary via Twitter @JRNLive.
2011 Komazawa University Ekiden Team - Izumo Ekiden Entry List
Ikuto Yufu (2nd yr.) - 5000 m: 13:42.09 10000 m: 28:02.46
Wataru Ueno (3rd yr.) - 5000 m: 13:46.79 10000 m: 28:42.89
Kenta Murayama (1st yr.) - 5000 m: 13:47.19 10000 m: 28:23.18
Shinobu Kubota (2nd yr.) - 5000 m: 13:49.53 10000 m: 28:23.61
Shogo Nakamura (1st yr.) - 5000 m: 13:50.38
Hiromitsu Kakuage (3rd yr.) - 5000 m: 13:50.85 10000 m: 28:03.27
Kazuhiro Kuga (3rd yr.) - 5000 m: 13:51.50 10000 m: 28:32.32
Kenta Chiba (3rd yr.) - 5000 m: 13:51.70 10000 m: 29:30.45
Shota Inoue (4th yr., captain) - 5000 m: 13:58.53 10000 m: 29:38.66
Taichi Takase (4th yr.) - 5000 m: 14:12.14 10000 m: 29:29.36