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Benjamin Gandu 57:47 Overall Win, Nittai University Takes Top Team Spot at Hakone Ekiden Qualifier

by Brett Larner

At the second big race of the university ekiden season Nihon University senior Benjamin Gandu continued to develop into one of the hottest properties on Japanese soil, following his 1:01:06 best at February's Marugame Half Marathon with a 57:47 win at the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km road race, the qualifying race for January's Hakone Ekiden for schools that fell outside the top ten at this year's Hakone.  With a nearly one and a half minute lead over the closest competition Gandu became the second-fastest man ever at the Yosenkai, leading Nihon University back to Hakone after the team's decades-long streak was broken last year.

With 2009 Yosenkai winner Akinobu Murasawa out with an Achilles injury Gandu easily broke his closest Kenyan competition, Duncan Muthee (Takushoku Univ.), with a surge at 10 km after the pair dueled their way through 14:22 and 28:40 opening 5 km splits.  Muthee in turn barely held off Keisuke Fujii (Chuo Gakuin Univ.), the only Japanese runner to go with the early all-African break, who overtook the Kenyan with 1 km to go but could not match his last kick.  Muthee took 2nd in 59:07 with Fujii 3rd in 59:09, the all-time third-best time by a Japanese man at the Yosenkai.  Seven runners altogether cracked the hour mark.  Nittai University put two men under an hour, junior Takumi Honda and senior Keigo Yano, with a solid team performance to take the top team placing in a total time of 10:04:47.

The cumulative times of each school's top ten finishers determine the team standings, with the top six teams earning spots at Hakone in January and 7th through 9th going on through a combination of their times and points earned at May's Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships.  Joining Nihon in returning to Hakone after a three-year absence was Hosei University, 9th on time but taking 8th thanks to a generous point handicap.

Despite Muthee's efforts Takushoku could not put together the team performance it needed, falling outside the qualifying bracket by a margin of nearly two minutes in 10th.  The absence of Tokai captain Murasawa, one of Japan's most talented collegiates with a 27:50.59 best at this year's Cardinal Invitational 10000 m, was fatal to Tokai's hopes of making it back to Hakone.  Tokai's Tsubasa Hayakawa made the top ten, but the team as a whole could do no better than 12th.  Hayakawa and other top-placing individuals from teams that failed to qualify will be consigned to run on Hakone's 20th team, the Kanto Regional University Select Team, come Jan. 2-3.  Murasawa, who beat Gandu by 17 seconds over 23.2 km to win the 2011 Hakone Ekiden's most competitive stage, will be sorely missed in what would have been his final Hakone appearance.

Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km Qualifying Road Race
Showa Kinen Park, Tokyo, 10/20/12

Top Individual Results
click here for complete individual results
1. Benjamin Gandu (4th yr., Nihon Univ.) - 57:47
2. Duncan Muthee (3rd yr., Takushoku Univ.) - 59:07
3. Keisuke Fujii (4th yr., Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 59:09
4. Toshikatsu Ebina (3rd yr., Teikyo Univ.) - 59:40
5. Takumi Honda (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 59:43
6. Keigo Yano (4th yr., Nittai Univ.) - 59:55
7. Yudai Yamakawa (4th yr., Teikyo Univ.) - 59:59
8. Yuji Murota (4th yr., Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:00:00
9. Ryoma Takeuchi (2nd yr., Tokyo Nogyo Univ.) - 1:00:02
10. Tsubasa Hayakawa (4th yr., Tokai Univ.) - 1:00:02

Top Team Results
cumulative time of top ten finishers
top nine teams qualify for 2013 Hakone Ekiden
click here for complete team results
1. Nittai University - 10:04:47
2. Teikyo University - 10:08:05
3. Chuo Gakuin University - 10:09:54
4. Daito Bunka University - 10:10:13
5. Jobu University - 10:10:42
6. Kanagawa University - 10:11:27
-----7th - 9th include points from May's Kanto Regionals
7. Nihon University - 10:12:50 (-3:55)
8. Hosei University - 10:13:37 (-3:00)
9. Tokyo Nogyo University - 10:12:46 (-2:05)
----did not qualify
10. Takushoku University - 10:15:28 (-1:05)
11. Senshu University - 10:16:54 (-0:20)
12. Tokai University - 1020:13 (-3:35)

2013 Hakone Ekiden Field
1. Toyo University
2. Komazawa University
3. Meiji University
4. Waseda University
5. Aoyama Gakuin University
6. Josai University
7. Juntendo University
8. Chuo University
9. Yamanashi Gakuin University
10. Koku Gakuin University
11. Nittai University
12. Teikyo University
13. Chuo Gakuin University
14. Daito Bunka University
15. Jobu University
16. Kanagawa University
17. Nihon University
18. Hosei University
19. Tokyo Nogyo University
20. Kanto Regional University Select Team

Kanto Regional University Select Team
10. Tsubasa Hayakawa (4th yr., Tokai Univ.)- 1:00:02
12. Yasunori Onuma (4th yr., Asia Univ.) - 1:00:04
20. Shusei Ohashi (4th yr., Senshu Univ.) - 1:00:29
29. Shuhei Yamaguchi (1st yr., Soka Univ.) - 1:00:35
31. Takafumi Kikuchi (3rd yr., Kokushikan Univ.) - 1:00:36
40. Shota Saito (2nd yr., Senshu Univ.) - 1:00:41
43. Taiki Yoshimura (2nd yr., Ryutsu Keizai Univ.) - 1:00:48
51. Daiki Nomoto (4th yr., Takushoku Univ.) - 1:00:55
59. Daichi Motomura (3rd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 1:01:00
65. Keisuke Sago (2nd yr., Takushoku Univ.) - 1:01:11
68. Tetsuhiro Yamamoto (3rd yr, Kanto Gakuin Univ.) - 1:01:15
74. Masayuki Kawata (3rd yr., Asia Univ.) - 1:01:23
76. Tomoya Okazaki (3rd yr., Kokushikan Univ.) - 1:01:24
79. Yusuke Umeki (3rd yr., Ryutsu Keizai Univ.) - 1:01:27
80. Sora Tsukada (4th yr., Heisei Kokusai Univ.)- 1:01:28
83. Daichi Ando (1st yr., Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 1:01:32

(c) 2012 Brett Larner
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