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Omwamba Leads Yamanashi Gakuin Back to National University Ekiden

by Brett Larner



A year after ending its 24-year streak of National University Men's Ekiden Championships appearances, Yamanashi Gakuin University returned to the fold with a win at the Championships' Kanto Region Qualifer June 30 at Tokyo's National Stadium.  A meet consisting of four 10000 m heats each with two men from each of the twenty entered universities, team scores are calculated by the combined times of all eight of a school's entered runners.  The five teams with the fastest cumulative time go on to November's National Championships.

Nittai University held a 17-second lead over Yamanashi Gakuin coming into the fourth and fastest heat, where Yamanashi Gakuin's new Kenyan recruit Enock Omwamba led start to finish to take the individual win in 28:39.13 and, together with his teammate Hiroto Inoue's 29:01.28 PB, give Yamanashi Gakuin a 15-second win over Nittai in the final scoring.  Omwamba was accompanied for a large part of the race by Josai University's Kota Murayama, who despited fading and being caught by a chasing pack rallied to hold on to 2nd in a PB of 28:53.33. Daito Bunka University's Hiroshi Ichida took 3rd a step behind in a PB 28:53.98 with his identical twin brother Takashi Ichida 10th in 29:12.01. Curiously, Murayama also has an identical twin brother, Komazawa University ace Kenta Murayama.



Last year's winner Aoyama Gakuin University came up short when its two leaders, last year's Heat 3 and Heat 4 winners Ryotaro Otani and Takehiro Deki, both ran poorly.  Aoyama Gakuin was 14th of twenty in 4:02:42.38.  Had both Otani and Deki, who has had a rough recovery from his 2:10:02 marathon debut at Lake Biwa in March, run up to last year's level it would have meant around three minutes off Aoyama Gakuin's time, enough for a shot at top five and a Nationals place. Top seed Juntendo University was the other big breakdown of the day, only 7th after lackluster performances from its Heat 4 men Yuki Matsumura and Hideyuki Tanaka.

Top five-seeded Teikyo University and Tokai University came through as expected, Tokai without stars Tsubasa Hayakawa and Akinobu Murasawa, but the big surprise of the day came from 17th-seeded Kanagawa University which somehow mustered up a 4th-place finish ahead of Tokai in 3:59:10.21.  It was a solid team performance in the absence of many standout individual runs, with only Heat 1's Hiroki Akamatsu and Heat 2's Ryo Yoshikawa cracking the top five in their heats for Kanagawa.

The five qualifying schools join big names Toyo University, Komazawa University, Waseda University and others from within Kanto and across Japan in the lineup for this fall's National Championships.  With their last big race of the summer out of the way all the teams will now shift focus to their intensive summer training in Hokkaido and elsewhere.

2012 National University Ekiden Championships Kanto Region Qualifier
National Stadium, Tokyo, 6/30/12

Team Scores (eight men total, two per four heats)
click here for complete team results

1. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 3:57:28.32
2. Nittai University - 3:57:43.48
3. Teikyo University - 3:58:38.53
4. Kanagawa University - 3:59:10.21
5. Tokai University - 3:59:35.81
----- (top five teams qualify for championships)
6. Daito Bunka University - 3:59:48.10
7. Juntendo University - 3:59:55.93
8. Chuo Gakuin Univeristy - 4:00:01.93
9. Josai University - 4:00:16.05
10. Koku Gakuin University - 4:01:04.39

Individual Results
click here for complete individual results

Heat 4
1. Enock Omwamba (1st yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ./Kenya) - 28:39.13
2. Kota Murayama (2nd yr., Josai Univ.) - 28:53.33 - PB
3. Hiroshi Ichida (2nd yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 28:53.98 - PB
4. Ryo Nakagawa (2nd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 28:57.66 - PB
5. Hiroto Inoue (2nd yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 29:01.28 - PB
6. Toshikatsu Ebina (3rd yr., Teikyo Univ.) - 29:03.28 - PB
7. Shota Hattori (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 29:05.77
8. Keisuke Fujii (4th yr., Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 29:06.97
9. Takumi Honda (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 29:08.38
10. Takashi Ichida (2nd yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 29:12.01
-----
36. Takehiro Deki (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 31:13.01

Heat 3
1. Tatsuya Oike (3rd yr., Juntendo Univ.) - 29:20.19
2. Yuji Murota (4th yr., Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 29:20.29 - PB
3. Keigo Yano (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 29:22.44
4. Kiyoshi Ota (4th yr., Soka Univ.) - 29:24.33 - PB
5. Yuta Obitsu (2nd yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 29:24.89 - PB

Heat 2
1. Toshinori Tsuchida (4th yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 29:53.25
2. Kiichi Yoshimura (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 29:55.15
3. Ryo Yoshikawa (4th yr., Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:55.49
4. Norihiko Matsuda (3rd yr., Hosei Univ.) - 29:56.45
5. Manabu Yamada (2nd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:56.50 - PB

Heat 1
1. Ryo Shirayoshi (1st yr., Tokai Univ.) - 29:52.42 - PB
2. Hiroki Akamatsu (2nd yr., Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:53.54 - PB
3. Shohei Hayakawa (2nd yr., Teikyo Univ.) - 29:58.59
4. Takashi Mino (2nd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:58.87 - PB
5. Shota Kai (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 30:02.46

Heat 5 (reserves)
1. Yutaro Fukushi (4th yr., Nittai Univ.) - 29:48.32
2. Ryota Sakurai (2nd yr., Kokushikan Univ.) - 29:54.73 - PB
3. Fumiaki Goto (4th yr., Teikyo Univ.) - 29:55.99 - PB

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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