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National Men's Ekiden Preview - Updated

by Brett Larner

updated 1/19/13 with start list

The partner event to last weekend's National Women's Ekiden, the final men's championship ekiden of the season takes place this Sunday with the 18th National Men's Ekiden in Hiroshima.  Like the women's event, the National Men's Ekiden features 47 teams from each of Japan's prefectures made up of top junior high school, high school, university and corporate-league runners.  Although there is less cross-division competition than in the National Women's Ekiden, the three high school stages and two junior high school stages in the National Men's Ekiden have often been the site of the first national appearance of future stars while the 8.5 km Third Stage and 13.0 km anchor stage always feature the rare sight of the top New Year Ekiden pros and Hakone Ekiden collegiate runners going head to head.  The National Men's Ekiden is broadcast live nationwide and commercial-free on NHK starting at 12:15 p.m. and should be viewable via Keyhole TV, particularly the premium edition.  JRN will also cover the race live via Twitter @JRNLive. Follow the event's official Japanese-language Twitter feed here.

The interprefectural ekidens' entry and start lists are notoriously fluid, but based on the lineups currently publicly available defending champion Hyogo comes to the 2013 edition of the race as the favorite, six of its seven runners making the top grade on their stages. Despite missing ace Kensuke Takezawa (Team S&B) who anchored both Hyogo's 2010 and 2012 national titles, Hyogo comes in ranked #2, its runners set to outperform Aichi through much of the first two-thirds of the race.  Critical to the team's chances will be the success of anchor Satoru Kitamura (Team Nissin Shokuhin), a talented track athlete who has had trouble coming back from injury.  At the New Year Ekiden earlier this month Kitamura finished far down in the field on the First Stage behind Miyawaki, so barring a major comeback it will be hard for him to deliver the win this time without a major lead. Alternate Kazuto Nishiike (Hosei Univ.), 3rd on Hakone's First Stage, may be a more successful choice.

Its toughest competition is Aichi, with five top-ranked runners on the starting list.  With a fast start by 5th-ranked high schooler Tatsuya Hayashi (Ishin H.S.), solid support on the Third Stage from former Waseda University man Yusuke Mita (Team JR Higashi Nihon), 13:55.64 high schooler Kazuma Taira (Toyokawa Kogyo H.S.) on the Fifth Stage and 2013 New Year Ekiden First Stage winner Chihiro Miyawaki (Team Toyota) on anchor Aichi looks all but unstoppable.  If they are within a minute of Hyogo on the anchor stage look for Miyawaki to run Kitamura down.

Tokyo, hosts Hiroshima and Yamaguchi are a short distance back and could also overtake Hyogo if Kitamura runs into trouble.  Tokyo will start off strong with 13:59.90 high schooler Yusuke Uchikoshi (Kokugakuin Prep Kugayama H.S.) in what may be his final race before setting sail for American shores and should be up front for the first half of the race, with similarly U.S.A.-bound Suguru Osako (Waseda Univ.) on Third and an anchor from past 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (Team S&B). Hiroshima should have a slower start but come to the front on the Third Stage via local Naoki Okamoto (Team Chugoku Denryoku).  Look for them to fade again before a strong anchor run from first-year pro Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Team Asahi Kasei), fully recovered from the injuries that kept him out of the Olympics after a senior year 27:44.30 while at Meiji University.  Yamaguchi's strengths lie mostly with its junior high runners and it should spend much of the race mid-field, but look for London Olympics marathon 6th-placer Kentaro Nakamoto (Team Yasukawa Denki) to make up ground on the anchor stage. Nakamoto's Olympic teammate Ryo Yamamoto (Kyoto/Team Sagawa Express) is also slated to run anchor, setting up a potential showdown ahead of Nakamoto's shot at the Beppu-Oita Mainichi Marathon win two weeks later.

Darkhorses Mie and Oita have reasonably strong lineups and should be in play for finishes on the eight-deep podium.  Mie should start strong, but with a poor performance from anchor Yusuke Takabayashi (Team Toyota) at the New Year Ekiden it may fade over the final kilometers and be run down by teams from the next tier.  Oita's main strength lies on the Third through Fifth Stages, with Komazawa University 10000 m record holder Ikuto Yufu leading off this section.

In terms of individual action, the most exciting racing should come on the First, Third and Seventh Stages. Uchikoshi, Tochigi's Soma Ishikawa (Sano Nihon Prep H.S.) and Hyogo's Keisuke Nakatani (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) should be battling through at least the first 5 km, but there is often a surprise on this stage from a little-known runner looking to make a statement before heading off the college in April. The Third Stage features a heavy balance of university runners.  Alongside Osako, Okamoto and Yufu on the Third Stage are past 5000 m national champion Yuki Matsuoka (Kyoto/Team Otsuka Seiyaku), 2012 national university half marathon champion Toshikatsu Ebina (Aomori/Teikyo Univ.), 2011 national university 5000 m champion Kenta Murayama (Miyagi/Komazawa Univ.) and 2013 Hakone Ekiden First Stage winner Masaya Taguchi (Miyazaki/Toyo Univ.). The anchor stage features eight men with sub-28 10000 m bests including two of its all-time top ten, Yu Mitsuya (Fukuoka/Team Toyota Kyushu) and Yoroizaka, plus Olympians Nakamoto, Yamamoto and Ryuji Ono (Miyazaki/Team Asahi Kasei), 2013 New Year Ekiden Sixth Stage winner Ryotaro Nitta (Miyagi/Team Konica Minolta), Ueno, and current Hakone Ekiden stars Keita Shitara (Saitama/Toyo Univ.) and Kazuma Kubota (Kumamoto/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.). Look for dramatic racing all the way to the end of the race in front of Hiroshima's Peace Memorial Park.

National Men's Ekiden Entry List Highlights
Hiroshima, 1/20/13
47 teams, 7 stages, 48.0 km
click here for complete entry list

First Stage - 7.0 km
Soma Ishikawa (Tochigi/Sano Nihon Prep H.S.) - 13:53.95
Yusuke Uchikoshi (Tokyo/Kokugakuin Prep Kugayama H.S.) - 13:59.90
Keisuke Nakatani (Hyogo/Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 14:02.55
Yusuke Nishiyama (Mie/Iga Hakuo H.S.) - 14:03.12
Tatsuya Hayashi (Aichi/Ishin H.S.) - 14:05.90

Second Stage - 3.0 km
Chikashi Ikeda (Hyogo/Kakogawa Yamate J.H.S.) - 8:21.22
Tomoki Ota (Shizuoka/Hamana J.H.S.) - 8:22.92
Takuya Hanyu (Chiba/Inzai J.H.S.) - 8:25.18
Shiki Shinsako (Hiroshima/Shiwa J.H.S.) - 8:25.65
Masahiro Fukumoto (Yamaguchi/Asae Higashi J.H.S.) - 8:33.89

Third Stage - 8.5 km
Suguru Osako (Tokyo/Waseda Univ.) - 27:56.94
Yuki Matsuoka (Kyoto/Team Otsuka Seiyaku) - 27:59.78
Ikuto Yufu (Oita/Komazawa Univ.) - 28:02.46
Hiromitsu Kakuage (Fukushima/Komazawa Univ.) - 28:03.27
Naoki Okamoto (Hiroshima/Team Chugoku Denryoku) - 28:05.84
Hiroyuki Ono (Gunma/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:06.35
Kenta Murayama (Miyagi/Komazawa Univ.) - 28:14.27
Yusuke Mita (Aichi/Team JR Higashi Nihon) - 28:15.02
Toshikatsu Ebina (Aomori/Teikyo Univ.) - 28:42.90
Masaya Taguchi (Miyazaki/Toyo Univ.) - 1:03:39 (half)

Fourth Stage - 5.0 km
Shuhei Kondo (Oita/Oita Tomei H.S.) - 14:04.05
Yuhi Akiyama (Hyogo/Suma Gakuen H.S.) - 14:07.15
Jinnosuke Matsumura (Yamaguchi/Saikyo H.S.) - 14:07.28
Shunya Kuroyanagi (Mie/Iga Hakuo H.S.) - 14:14.86
Yuya Ando (Aichi/Toyokawa Kogyo H.S.) - 14:14.98

Fifth Stage - 8.5 km
Kazuma Taira (Aichi/Toyokawa Kogyo H.S.) - 13:55.64
Shuhei Otsuka (Oita/Oita Tomei H.S.) - 14:06.91
Yuki Hirota (Hyogo/Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S.) - 14:07.85
Junya Uemura (Tochigi/Hakuho Prep Ashikaga H.S.) - 14:07.69
Rintaro Takeda (Tokyo/Waseda Jitsugyo H.S.) - 14:11.23

Sixth Stage - 3.0 km
Haruki Nishimura (Hyogo/Miki J.H.S.) - 8:31.30
Kentaro Harada (Yamaguchi/Takagawa Gakuen J.H.S.) - 8:41.52
Yuya Yoshida (Hiroshima/Takaya J.H.S.) - 8:43.82
Kazuya Nishiyama (Gunma/Isesaki District 1 J.H.S.) - 8:44.0
Masahide Saito (Saitama/Otone J.H.S.) - 8:44.13

Seventh Stage - 13.0 km
Yu Mitsuya (Fukuoka/Team Toyota Kyushu) - 27:41.10
Chihiro Miyawaki (Aichi/Team Toyota) - 27:41.57
Tetsuya Yoroizaka (Hiroshima/Team Asahi Kasei) - 27:44.30
Yusei Nakao (Shizuoka/Suzuki Hamamatsu AC) - 27:48.71
Tomoya Onishi (Gifu/Team Asahi Kasei) - 27:50.72
Ryuji Ono (Miyazaki/Team Asahi Kasei) - 27:53.19
Takeshi Makabe (Okayama/Team Kurosaki Harima) - 27:53.58
Yusuke Takabayashi (Mie/Team Toyota) - 27:56.46
Satoru Kitamura (Hyogo/Team Nissin Shokuhin) - 28:00.22
Yuichiro Ueno (Tokyo/Team S&B) - 28:12.37
Keita Shitara (Saitama/Toyo Univ.) - 28:15.90
Ryo Yamamoto (Kyoto/Team Sagawa Express) - 28:22.84
Ryotaro Nitta (Miyagi/Team Konica Minolta) - 28:44.33
Kentaro Nakamoto (Yamaguchi/Team Yasukawa Denki) - 28:54.59
Kazuma Kubota (Kumamoto/Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 59:28 (20 km)

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Anonymous said…
Brett, is Ishikawa going to Nihon Univ? And what university is Uchikoshi planning on attending in the States?
Brett Larner said…
Ishikawa: I haven't heard. Uchikoshi: I'm not sure that it's public yet so I can't specify, but from what I've been told it would be on the West Coast.

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