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Nagano Becomes First Team to Win Sixth National Men's Ekiden Championship Title

by Brett Larner
click photo for video highlights courtesy of NHK

Five-time national champion Nagano made history at the 19th edition of the National Men's Ekiden Jan. 19 in Hiroshima, anchor Keigo Yano (Nittai Univ.) breaking away to make his team the first in event history to win a sixth national title as he broke the tape in 2:19:20, the third-fastest ever in National Championships history.

Never a clear leader in a pack race throughout the day, Nagano made its first move to the front on the 8.5 km Third Stage when past 1500 m and 5000 m national champion Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC) dropped a pack of Hakone Ekiden stars to take the lead.  With the mixed team of junior high, high school, university and pro athletes that makes the National Ekiden format one of the most interesting in national championship ekiden season, Nagano lost ground after Ueno and remained roughly even with a pack of four rivals. Not until halfway through the 13.0 km anchor stage did it gain a clear lead when last year 's stage winner Keigo Yano of Hakone Ekiden 3rd-placer Nittai University, winner of the Hakone Ekiden Ninth Stage just over two weeks ago, dropped pro rivals Ryo Kiname (Nagasaki) and Keiji Akutsu (Team Gunma) to win in 37:28, a full 26 seconds faster than his 2013 winning time.

Yano's Nittai teammate Shota Hattori (Saitama) ran big to advance through the field to 2nd, like Yano overtaking and dropping Kiname and Akutsu to make it a Nittai 1-2 in Saitama's best-ever placing of 2nd.  Akutsu outkicked Kiname for 3rd, both breaking the 2:20 barrier for the 48.0 km course with Akutsu crossing the line in 2:19:56.

19th National Men's Ekiden
Hiroshima, 1/19/14
47 teams, 7 stages, 48.0 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Nagano - 2:19:20 - all-time #3
2. Saitama - 2:19:55
3. Gunma - 2:19:56
4. Nagasaki - 2:19:58
5. Miyazaki - 2:20:05
6. Fukushima - 2:20:16
7. Mie - 2:20:17
8. Fukuoka - 2:20:19
9. Kanagawa - 2:20:36
10. Hyogo - 2:20:41

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (7.0 km)
1. Tatsuhiko Hori (Fukuoka) - 20:11
2. Suguru Hirosue (Miyazaki) - 20:13
3. Kazuto Kawabata (Kyoto) - 20:14

Second Stage (3.0 km)
1. Kazuya Nishiyama (Gunma) - 8:30
2. Hyuga Endo (Fukushima) - 8:38
2. Munehiro Harada (Nagasaki) - 8:38
2. Yuta Kamibayashi (Kanagawa) - 8:38
2. Kiseki Shiozawa (Mie) - 8:38

Third Stage (8.5 km)
1. Yuichiro Ueno (Nagano) - 23:49
2. Yuma Hattori (Niigata) - 23:54
3. Masaya Taguchi (Miyazaki) - 23:56
4. Aritaka Kajiwara (Kanagawa) - 23:57
5. Keita Shitara (Saitama) - 23:59
6. Hideto Yamanaka (Osaka) - 24:00
6. Masato Kikuchi (Hokkaido) - 24:00
8. Naoko Okamoto (Hiroshima) - 24:07
8. Takumi Honda (Kumamoto) - 24:07
10. Genki Yagisawa (Tochigi) - 24:08

Fourth Stage (5.0 km)
1. Taishi Sakamoto (Kagoshima) - 14:32
2. Shuichiro Kondo (Kumamoto) - 14:34
3. Shota Onizuka (Fukuoka) - 14:36
3. Tomohiro Watanabe (Gifu) - 14:36

Fifth Stage (8.5 km)
1. Kohei Mukai (Nagasaki) - 24:43
2. Masaki Takamoto (Fukushima) - 24:44
3. Kenta Shimizu (Gunma) - 24:45
3. Hiroya Inoue (Hyogo) - 24:45

Sixth Stage (3.0 km)
1. Haruka Onodera (Shizuoka) - 8:38
2. Ryo Kayama (Fukuoka) - 8:43
3. Yuki Torikai (Chiba) - 8:44

Seventh Stage (13.0 km)
1. Keigo Yano (Nagano) - 37:28
2. Kaoru Hirosue (Miyazaki) - 37:40
3. Shota Hattori (Saitama) - 37:41
4. Shogo Nakamura (Mie) - 37:43
5. Taichi Takase (Okayama) - 37:57
6. Sota Hoshi (Fukushima) - 38:03
7. Yusei Nakao (Shizuoka) - 38:04
8. Akihiko Tsumurai (Hiroshima) - 38:05
8. Daiki Kubota (Kumamoto) - 38:05
10. Keiji Akutsu (Gunma) - 38:06

(c) 2014 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Comments

TokyoRacer said…
The high school kids on the first, fourth and fifth stages were really impressive. What depth of talent!
Brett Larner said…
I was pretty impressed with the junior high runners on Second Stage as well. They ran like university guys.
Metts said…
I too was impressed with both groups. How would the US JHS and HS runners hold up in this race environment?

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