translated and edited by Brett Larner
Eliminated from the Jan. 2-3 90th running of the Hakone Ekiden when second year Enock Omwamba fractured the fibula in his right leg and dropped out 9.7 km into Hakone's Second Stage, Yamanashi Gakuin University's remaining athletes were able to refocus themselves and complete the race with all they had. Head coach Masahito Ueda commented, "Even though their times won't be in the record books, they will live on in people's memories and in the team's history," reflecting on how this year's race will influence the future.
This year's results will remain unofficial, but each of Yamanashi Gakuin's athletes ran his part of the Hakone course full of compassion for the injured Omwamba. After the race captain Yutaro Matsuyama, who ran the Seventh Stage in his final Hakone as a senior, said, "As captain I didn't leave the team in position to get off to a good start [since they have to requalify for Hakone at October's Yosenkai 20 km], but I think the younger guys on the team have already renewed themselves and started over today [on Day Two of Hakone, where YGU's time placed in 9th of 23 despite not counting in the results]."
Anchoring senior Yuma Mori, who did an extra year at Yamanashi Gakuin after sustaining a stress fracture and being forced to give up Hakone last year, ran an excellent time that would have put him at 5th on the Tenth Stage. "Omwamba's going to be OK too," he said, expressing his belief that his teammate will make a full comeback.
After the race at the team's post-race assembly near the Hakone finish line in Otemachi, Tokyo in front of alumni and other university supporters, team members gathered around Omwamba, smiling as they patted him on the head and put their hands on his shoulder, showing that they were of one heart as a team. On crutches, Omwamba said, "It was devastating, but I will run again for the team," his competitive spirit still burning strong.
Coach Ueda praised the athletes who fought hard enough that Yamanashi Gakuin would have placed 9th on Day Two, saying, "Each of them represented himself in his running with a strong spirit of moving forward from this to face next year. Last year we weren't good enough, but this year they competed win strength. From this teeth-clenching disappointment we have to come back hitting twice as hard next year." For coach Ueda and the Yamanashi Gakuin athletes the curtain has already opened on their next challenge.