Skip to main content

Yamanashi Gakuin Prep Wins Four-Way Last Sprint for First-Ever National High School Boys Ekiden Title

by Brett Larner
click photo for video highlights courtesy of NHK

Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S. (Yamanashi) won a four-way sprint finish to claim its first-ever national title Dec. 22 in Kyoto at the 64th running of the National High School Boys Ekiden Championships.  Always in contention without ever taking the lead, Yamanashi Gakuin Prep, powered by sub-14 seniors Ryutaro Ichitani and Kenta Ueda, took the title in an all-around strong team performance without a single individual stage win.

Ueda, son of Yamanashi Gakuin university head coach Masahito Ueda, got things going strong with a 29:46 for the 10.0 km First Stage off a slow 15:10 first half but, outkicked by Suguru Hirosue (Kobayashi H.S.), took 2nd.  Kobayashi's Takashi Kawano added to his team's slight lead on the short 3.0 km Second Stage, but the dynamic changed on the longer 8.1075 km Third Stage when Kenyan Paul Kamathi (Sera H.S.) took over the lead.

From there the other contenders were playing catchup.  Yamanashi Gakuin Prep cut down on the gap to Sera over the 8.0875 km Fourth Stage as Omuta H.S. and Iga Hakuho H.S. worked together further back.  3.0 km later after the Fifth Stage all three were together in pursuit of Sera but still 30 seconds back.  Yamanashi Gakuin Prep and Iga Hakuho closed that up over the 5.0 km Sixth Stage, handing off to their anchors within 3 seconds of Sera, but Omuta was still 15 seconds back.

With 5.0 km to go Omuta anchor Shota Inuzuka went all-out over the first half of the stage to catch up, making contact with the lead trio partway through the stage to make it a quartet.  All four hit the track for the final 500 m together, and when the sprint finish started on the back straight it was Yamanashi Gakuin Prep's Ryo Nishiyama who got ahead, opening just one second over Inuzuka for the win in 2:03:53.  Iga Hakuho's Ryoto Nakahata was one more second back in 2:03:55.  For all three of the top three schools it was their fastest finish ever at the National Championships.  After starting the anchor stage in the lead, Sera's Taiji Nakashima was unable to match kicks and finished 4 seconds behind Nakahata in 4th, just cracking 2:04 in 2:03:59.  Course record holder Saku Chosei H.S. took 5th in 2:04:25, its best showing under current head coach Masaru Takamizawa.

With five of its seven runners graduating this year including both Ichitani and Ueda Yamanashi Gakuin Prep's title was likely a one-off win, but the title resonated with implications for the Hakone Ekiden university circuit over the next few years: all five graduating members will go to Yamanashi Gakuin University.  YGU aces Enock Omwamba and Hiroto Inoue are second and third-years respectively, and several of the school's other best runners are also in their first two years there.  Next year YGU should be rough, and two years from now when Omwamba is a senior they could be in contention for Japan's most prestigious win, the Hakone title.

64th National High School Boys Ekiden Championships
Kyoto, 12/22/13
47 teams, 7 stages, 42.195 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S. (Yamanashi) - 2:03:53
2. Omuta H.S. (Fukuoka) - 2:03:54
3. Iga Hakuho H.S. (Mie) - 2:03:55
4. Sera H.S. (Hiroshima) - 2:03:59
5. Saku Chosei H.S. (Nagano) - 2:04:25
6. Kobayashi H.S. (Miyazaki) - 2:04:28
7. Yachiyo Shoin H.S. (Chiba) - 2:05:06
8. Ishikawa Gijuku H.S. (Fukushima) - 2:05:15
9. Tosu Kogyo H.S. (Saga) - 2:05:24
10. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. (Hyogo) - 2:05:55

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (10.0 km) - Suguru Hirosue (Kobayashi H.S.) - 29:45
Second Stage (3.0 km) - Takashi Kawano (Kobayashi H.S.) - 8:08
Third Stage (8.1075 km) - Paul Kamathi (Kenya/Sera H.S.) - 23:20
Fourth Stage (8.0875 km) - Takumi Kawato (Iga Hakuho H.S.) - 23:07
Fifth Stage (3.0 km) - Masanori Takazono (Omuta H.S.) / Tatsuya Sumide (Iga Hakuho H.S.) - 8:47
Sixth Stage (5.0 km) - Fuminori Shimo (Iga Hakuho H.S.) - 14:27
Seventh Stage (5.0 km) - Masaki Sakai (Saku Chosei H.S.) - 14:31

(c) 2013 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

60-Year-Old Hiromi Nakata Wins Tottori Marathon Overall Women's Race

The Tottori Marathon held its 12th running on March 10. In light rain and 11˚C temperatures 3717 people ran Tottori's one-way course that passes local historic sites such as the Tottori Sand Dunes and the Tottori Castle ruins. Running 3:12:44 for the overall women's win was 60-year-old Hiromi Nakata.
"I was as surprised as anyone that I won," said Tanaka. "I had to stop at the toilets early on and lost some time, but I tried using the double inhale, double exhale breathing method that the actor Kankuro Nakamura uses on the Idaten TV show and got into a good rhythm. Thanks to that I could just keep going and going. I had no idea I was in 1st, and when they put up the finish tape as I was coming in I thought, 'No way!'""
Nakata is a resident of Hamamatsu, Shizuoka. In 2017 she ran the fastest time of the year in Japan by a 58-year-old, 3:05:02. In the mornings she does housework and works in her garden for an hour, fitting in 30 to 60-minute run…

Japan's Oldest-Ever Olympic Marathoner Suehiro Ishikawa Retires at 39

At a press conference in Sayama, Saitama on Mar. 20, 2016 Rio Olympics marathoner Suehiro Ishikawa, 39, announced that he will retire from competition at the end of the month. At the time of the Rio Olympics Ishikawa was 36 years and 11 months old, surpassing 1996 Atlanta Olympics marathoner Hiromi Taniguchi's record of 36 years and 3 months to become Japan's oldest-ever Olympic marathoner. He finished 36th.

"Since I started running high school it's been 24 years," said Ishikawa at the press conference. "I've been with Honda for 17 years, and I made it all the way to the top, the Olympics. I'm glad that I've kept going this long. I thank you all."

Ishikawa ran the Mar. 10 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon but dropped out after only 10 km. It was to be the last race of his career. "It was the first time in my career that I'd ever DNFd, and I thought, 'OK, this is where it ends,'" said Ishikawa. Shortly after the race he made …

Yoshitomi Survives Four Marathons in Four Weeks to Win Saga Sakura Marathon

Arguably the highest-volume elite-level marathoner in the world, Hiroko Yoshitomi (Memolead) survived four straight weekends of marathons to win her hometown Saga Sakura Marathon yesterday.

Starting the month off at the Mar. 3 Tokyo Marathon Yoshitomi ran 2:32:30 for 13th. A week later at the Mar. 10 Nagoya Women's Marathon it was 2:34:49 for 31st. Last weekend she headed overseas in a bid to win the Mar. 17 New Taipei City Wan Jin Shi Marathon in Taiwan, but in a rare off day she finished 6th in only 2:48:45. Heading back home she rallied to win the Mar. 24 Saga Sakura Marathon in 2:42:02.

At an expo talk show appearance the Wan Jin Shi organizers billed Yoshitomi as "the female Kawauchi," but not even he has come close to the kind of volume of racing Yoshitomi has been turning out over the years while working at her parents' botanical farm. Expect to see more, and more, and more from her in the months to come.



photos courtesy of Wan Jin Shi Marathon organizers
text …