translated and edited by Brett Larner
On Apr. 22 the organizers of the Biwako University Ekiden, held each November between Nagahama and Otsu along the west coast of Lake Biwa, announced that the event has been suspended. With Biwako to have served as the 75th anniversary edition of the Kansai Region University Ekiden Championships this year, a move to an alternate course in the Tango peninsula north of Kyoto is being examined.
With various locations having staged the Kansai championships over the years, the Biwako University Ekiden became the host event in 2005, expanding the championships' scale by bringing together invited schools from the Tokai, Chugoku, Shikoku and Kyushu regions along with the best of Kansai to battle for the title of #1 in Western Japan. With an eight-year history, last year 21 schools competed over Biwako's eight-stage, 83.6 km course. Following difficulties in achieving the event's original target of a course extending all the way around Lake Biwa and tremendous responsibility for the safety and well-being of the student athletes, debate began after last year's race about the feasibility of continuing to hold the ekiden.
The members of the executive committee taking part in the announcement included personnel from the Kansai Region University Athletics Federation, the Prefectural Government and local city government officials. With no objections voiced to a proposal to shut the race office, the measure passed. According to a Federation official, the possibility of staging this November's 75th anniversary Kansai Region University Ekiden Championships on an existing course in the Tango peninsula. Still requiring the approval of participating universities in the Kansai region, the proposal has not yet been approved.
Almost simultaneously with the announcement of the Biwako University Ekiden's suspension, many of the best athletes from Kansai region schools ran the half marathon division of the 90th Kansai Region University Track and Field Championships Apr. 24 in Osaka. Kyoto University's Kan Hirai was a surprise win, beating out athletes from more accomplished programs including Ritsumeikan University and Kansai Gakuin University to take the title in 1:06:01 by a margin of seven seconds over Kohei Koyama (Kansai Gakuin Univ.). Kenyan Titus Kihara (Nara Sangyo Univ.) struggled, finishing only 11th in 1:07:28.
90th Kansai Region University Championships
Men's Half Marathon
Nagai Park, Osaka, 4/24/13
click here for complete results
1. Kan Hirai (Kyoto Univ.) - 1:06:01
2. Kohei Koyama (Kansai Gakuin Univ.) - 1:06:08
3. Naoma Araki (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 1:06:13
4. Naoto Nakanouchi (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 1:06:16
5. Masaki Okada (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) - 1:06:22
6. Shu Hamano (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 1:06:22
7. Takahiro Kawaguchi (Kansai Gakuin Univ.) - 1:06:28
8. Akihiro Tanimoto (Osaka Keizai Univ.) - 1:06:29
9. Daisuke Mizobuchi (Osaka Keizai Univ.) - 1:06:28
10. Yuki Niko (Kansai Gakuin Univ.) - 1:07:22
11. Titus Kihara (Kenya/Nara Sangyo Univ.) - 1:07:28