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Watch the National Men's Ekiden Live Onine - Preview

by Brett Larner

The last major national ekiden of the season takes place this Sunday in Hiroshima with the 17th running of the seven-stage, 48.0 km National Men's Interprefectural Ekiden Championships.  Like last weekend's women's race the National Men's Ekiden features 47 teams from each of Japan's prefectures made up of runners all the way from junior high school students to pros, and like the women's ekiden it will be broadcast live nationwide and commercial-free on NHK beginning at 12:15 p.m, with the action getting underway at 12:30.  Overseas viewers should be able to watch online for free via Keyhole TV with the password NHK, and English-language commentary will again be available via Twitter @JRNLive.

The National Men's Ekiden entry lists are notoriously unreliable as predictors of final starting order, but based on what is available at this point 2010 champion Hyogo Prefecture is the clear champion, with all seven of its athletes ranked among the best of their stages.  Its two long-stage runners, Fumnori Shikata and anchor Kensuke Takezawa, are both in somewhat rickety condition, but even so it would take a fairly large breakdown for Hyogo not to dominate the race.

Defending champion Tochigi Prefecture is one of three teams that face a good chance of challenging Hyogo, with a strong lead-off from sub-14 high schooler Ken Yokote and JRN's top Japanese distance runner of 2011, Tsuyoshi Ugachi, returning in the anchor position.  Alongside Tochigi as potential challengers are Nagasaki Prefecture and hosts Hiroshima Prefecture.  Nagasaki features two fast junior high school runners and solid performers on the two long stages, with Hakone Ekiden Second Stage winner Takehiro Deki slated for the 8.5 km Third Stage and 28:18 man Ryo Kiname handling anchor duties.  Hiroshima's team is slightly weaker on paper, with much of its fortune resting on veteran anchor Kazuyoshi Tokumoto.  Nine more teams are close behind in quality and will be competing for the remaining four spots on the eight-deep podium, among them ChibaFukushimaHokkaido, IbarakiKumamoto, Mie, NaganoOita, and Toyama.

In individual action, 7.0 km high school-only First Stage promises a good showdown between sub-14 boys Kenya Sonota (Aomori), Ken Yokote (Tochigi) and Kazuma Kubota (Kumamoto) to establish the lead.  Most of the main action beyond that will come on the mixed university/pro Third Stage and Seventh Stage.  The 8.5 km Third Stage features a larger number of university runners, with 2012 Hakone Ekiden stage winners Takehiro Deki (Nagasaki), Ryuji Kashiwabara (Fukushima), Suguru Osako (Nagano) and Kenji Yamamoto (Ishikawa) slated to square off.  Look also for 2008 World Half Marathon Championships 5th-placer Yusei Nakao (Shizuoka) in his first race since joining the Suzuki Hamamatsu AC mid-fall.  The densely-packed 13 km Seventh Stage features a great rematch between rivals Chihiro Miyawaki (Gifu) and Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Tochigi), who in the last few months have raced each other to Olympic A-standard 10000 m times and a joint New Year Ekiden course record.  Ugachi prevailed on the track and Miyawaki on the road, so look for their anchor run here to be a tie-breaker as the season begins to move toward the pre-Olympic buildup.

2012 National Interprefectural Men's Ekiden Start List Highlights
Jan. 22, 2012, Hiroshima
7 stages, 48.0 km
click here for complete entry lists
bib numbers: team - stage

First Stage - 7 km (H.S.)
stage record: 19:51 - Yuki Matsuoka (Kyoto/Rakunan H.S.), 2003 / Yuki Sato (Nagano/Saku Chosei H.S.), 2005
2-1. Kenya Sonota (Aomori/Aomori Yamada H.S.) - 13:55.91
9-1. Ken Yokote (Tochigi/Sakushin H.S.) - 13:58.86
43-1. Kazuma Kubota (Kumamoto/Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 13:59.16
1-1. Yusuke Ogura (Hokkaido/Sapporo Yamanote H.S.) - 14:03.96
28-1. Keisuke Nakatani (Hyogo/Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 14:04.36

Second Stage - 3 km (J.H.S.)
stage record: 8:30 - Yuta Katsumata (Shizuoka/Fujioka J.H.S.), 2009
24-2. Reon Suzuki (Gifu/Takada J.H.S.) - 8:33.40
42-2. Hiroyuki Sakaguchi (Nagasaki/Hiu J.H.S.) - 8:33.84
34-2. Tatsuya Yamaguchi (Hiroshima/Mukokaoka J.H.S.) - 8:34.94
46-2. Hiroki Nagayama (Kagoshima/Kurino J.H.S.) - 8:37.10
38-2. Daichi Moto (Ehime/Yoshiumi J.H.S.) - 8:37.81
28-2. Yohei Saika (Hyogo/Kurakuen J.H.S.) - 8:38.11
18-2. Fumiya Hashiba (Toyama/Nyuzen J.H.S.) - 8:38.15

Third Stage - 8.5 km (univ./pro)
stage record: 23:26 - Terukazu Omori (Kochi/Team Kuroshiro Tsushi Service), 2005
36-3. Terukazu Omori (Kagawa/Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 27:43.94
21-3. Yusei Nakao (Shizuoka/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 27:48.71
44-3. Ikuto Yufu (Oita/Komazawa Univ.) - 28:02.46
4-3. Kenta Murayama (Miyagi/Komazawa Univ.) - 28:17.18
37-3. Hiroki Mitsuoka (Tokushima/Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 28:18.13
8-3. Kazuya Deguchi (Ibaraki/Team Asahi Kasei) - 28:20.66
16-3. Yusuke Hasegawa (Niigata/Team S&B) - 28:21.86
40-3. Kazuharu Takai (Fukuoka/Team Kyudenko) - 28:24.61
47-2. Tatsunori Hamasaki (Okinawa/Team Komori Corp.) - 28:29.16
13-3. Yuta Takahashi (Tokyo/Team S&B) - 28:30.51
7-3. Ryuji Kashiwabara (Fukushima/Toyo Univ.) - 28:25.17
34-3. Akihiko Tsumurai (Hiroshima/Team Mazda) - 28:36.91
39-3. Ryo Matsumoto (Kochi/Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 28:37.41
28-3. Fuminori Shikata (Hyogo/Waseda Univ.) - 28:38.46
20-3. Tsubasa Hayakawa (Fukui/Tokai Univ.) - 28:41.26
17-3. Suguru Osako (Nagano/Waseda Univ.) - 28:42.83
29-3. Yoshihiro Yamamoto (Nara/Team Toyota Boshoku) - 28:43.86
18-3. Kosuke Murasashi (Toyama/Team YKK) - 28:44.29
45-3. Takehiro Arakawa (Miyazaki/Team Asahi Kasei) - 28:44.39
43-3. Takaya Iwasaki (Kumamoto/Team Shikoku Denryoku) - 28:45.24
14-3. Yo Yazawa (Kanagawa/Waseda Univ.) - 28:45.56
19-3. Kenta Murozuka (Ishikawa/SDF Academy) - 28:48.67
23-3. Hiroyoshi Umegae (Mie/Team NTN) - 28:53.13
12-3. Masatoshi Kikuchi (Chiba/Team Fujitsu) - 28:53.80
41-3. Yuya Konishi (Saga/Team Toyota Kyushu) - 28:55.14
27-3. Yasuhito Ikeda (Osaka/Team NTT Nishi Nihon) - 28:55.63
1-3. Yuki Munakata (Hokkaido/Chuo Univ.) - 28:55.65
22-3. Yusuke Mita (Aichi/Waseda Univ.) - 28:58.89
42-3. Takehiro Deki (Nagasaki/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:02.10

Fourth Stage - 5 km (H.S.)
stage record: 14:10 - Hirotaka Tamura (Aomori/Aomori Yamada H.S.), 2010
9-4. Soma Ishikawa (Tochigi/Sano Nichidai Prep H.S.) - 13:57.30
28-4. Yuki Hirota (Hyogo/Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 14:11.24
22-4. Daichi Kamino (Aichi/Chukyodai Prep H.S.) - 14:13.88
45-4. Junpei Nasu (Miyazaki/Nissho Gakuen H.S.) - 14:15.16
44-4. Masahiro Kotani (Oita/Nihon Bunri Prep H.S.) - 14:16.02

Fifth Stage - 8.5 km (H.S.)
stage record: 23:55 - Akinobu Murasawa (Nagano/Saku Chosei H.S.), 2009
28-5. Yuta Katsumata (Hyogo/Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 14:02.69
43-5. Shota Miyagami (Kumamoto/Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 14:10.28
9-5. Keita Shioya (Tochigi/Nasu Takuyo H.S.)
44-5. Yugo Muroi (Oita/Nihon Bunri Prep H.S.) - 14:14.88
23-5. Yusuke Nishiyama (Mie/Iga Hakuho Prep H.S.) - 14:16.70
7-5. Kenta Muto (Fukushima/Tamura H.S.) - 14:17.58
34-5. Shin Watanabe (Hiroshima/Sera H.S.) - 14:18.12

Sixth Stage - 3 km (J.H.S.)
stage record: 8:31 - Taiga Machizawa (Chiba/Minami Nagareyama J.H.S.), 2010
42-6. Ryo Nishimura (Nagasaki/Konagai J.H.S.) - 8:36.41
17-6. Hiroki Takehana (Nagano/Togura Kamiyamada J.H.S.) - 8:39.94
19-6. Kosuke Maeyachi (Ishikawa/Tsumi Minami J.H.S.) - 8:41.34
28-6. Masataka Takayanagi (Hyogo/Kakogawa Yamate J.H.S.) - 8:42.18
8-6. Homare Morita (Ibaraki/Goshogaoka J.H.S.) - 8:42.73
12-6. Renya Maeda (Chiba/Goi J.H.S.) - 8:43.84

Seventh Stage - 13 km (pro/univ.)
stage record: 37:09 - Kenta Oshima (Kochi/Team Kuroshiro Tsushi Service), 2004
9-7. Tsuyoshi Ugachi (Tochigi/Team Konica Minolta) - 27:40.69
24-7. Chihiro Miyawaki (Gifu/Team Toyota) - 27:41.57
28-7. Kensuke Takezawa (Hyogo/Team S&B) - 27:45.59
33-7. Takeshi Makabe (Okayama/Team Kanebo) - 27:53.78
30-7. Takeshi Hamano (Wakayama/Team Toyota) - 28:08.23
40-7. Hisanori Kitajima (Fukuoka/Team Yasukawa Denki) - 28:08.53
34-7. Kazuyoshi Tokumoto (Hiroshima/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:13.23
37-7. Atsushi Ikawa (Tokushima/Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 28:14.75
31-7. Kenichi Jiromaru (Tottori/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:16.49
23-7. Kenta Matsumoto (Mie/Team Toyota) - 28:17.99
42-7. Ryo Kiname (Nagasaki/Team Mitsubishi Juko Nagasaki) - 28:18.52
26-7. Ryo Yamamoto (Kyoto/Team Sagawa Express) - 28:22.84
20-7. Shinobu Kubota (Fukui/Komazawa Univ.) - 28:23.61
17-7. Yuichiro Ueno (Nagano/Team S&B) - 28:27.39
5-7. Masaki Ito (Akita/Kokushikan Univ.) - 28:28.64
45-7. Takahiro Yamanaka (Miyazaki/Team Honda) - 28:33.69
21-7. Minato Oishi (Shizuoka/Team Toyota) - 28:34.66
10-7. Atsushi Yamazaki (Gunma/Team Subaru) - 28:36.82
22-7. Naomasa Uchida (Aichi/Team Toyota) - 28:37.12
1-7. Masato Kikuchi (Hokkaido/Meiji Univ.) - 28:43.61
4-7. Kosaku Hoshina (Miyagi/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:44.00
13-7. Yoshihiro Wakamatsu (Tokyo/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:44.85
46-2. Sho Matsueda (Kagoshima/Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:45.68
27-7. Noriyuki Nabetani (Osaka/Osaka City Hall) - 28:47.67
7-7. Masato Imai (Fukushima/Team Toyota Kyushu) - 28:48.09
2-7. Hirotaka Tamura (Aomori/Nihon Univ.) - 28:48.54
18-7. Naohiro Yamada (Toyama/Team YKK) - 28:49.58
41-7. Junya Kinoshita (Saga/Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 28:50.53
25-7. Toshiaki Nishizawa (Shiga/Komazawa Univ.) - 28:51.05
14-7. Aritaka Kajiwara (Kanagawa/Shoin Univ.) - 28:52.55
8-7. Masamichi Shinozaki (Ibaraki/Team Hitachi Cable) - 28:54.92
39-7. Takanori Ichikawa (Kochi/Toyo Univ.) - 28:54.93
11-7. Hayato Saito (Saitama/Team Honda) - 28:55.40
12-7. Tomohiro Shiiya (Chiba/Team Toyota Boshoku) - 28:58.33

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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