translated and edited by Brett Larner
On April 1 the Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto [KGRR] announced the formation of a new "Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships performance slot" for one team at the Hakone Ekiden. Over a five-year period of time from this year through 2018, the Division I university that scores the largest number of points at May's Kanto Regionals meet will be guaranteed a place at the 95th Hakone Ekiden in 2019. Universities earn points based on members of their men's track and field teams in all events placing in the top eight in their individual events at the Kanto Regionals meet. If the same school finishes in the seeded bracket at the 2018 Hakone Ekiden, the Kanto Regionals performance slot will be discarded and will not pass to the team with the second-highest five-year point score.
At the KGRR-organized Hakone Ekiden, from 2003 through 2013, the lowest three qualifying spots at October's Yosenkai qualifying race were determined by combining universities' times with points earned by their complete track and field teams' performances at the Kanto Regionals meet. For the 2014 Hakone Ekiden the Kanto Regionals point system was discontinued, with the decision made to use it only in Hakone's five-year anniversary editions.
Translator's note: The Hakone Ekiden, the Kanto region university men's road relay championships every Jan. 2-3, is Japan's single largest and most prestigious sporting event, with nationwide TV audiences on the scale of 30% viewership for the two-day, fourteen-hour-plus broadcast.
Because of the pull of Hakone, Kanto is by far the most competitive region in Japanese university men's distance running, and as a consequence of this May's Kanto Regional University Track and Field Championships, where all Hakone-bound schools compete, is far more competitive than September's National University Men's Track and Field Championships, where a smaller number of Kanto-based athletes compete against runners from schools in other, weaker regions.
The Kanto Regionals point system discontinued for the 2014 Hakone Ekiden was intended to encourage universities to develop all track and field disciplines rather than focus exclusively on Hakone at the expense of sprints, middle distances, jumps and throws. In effect, however, it served mainly as a prop for large, wealthy, old-boy schools with the resources to develop an overall track and field team rather than concentrating on producing a quality distance squad capable of making the Hakone Ekiden like many smaller, lesser-known schools without the same resources. Virtually every year from 2003 to 2013 a smaller, newer school that made the qualifying bracket at October's Yosenkai qualifier on time was shut out of Hakone in favor of a larger, older school whose distance squad ran slower but got a boost on points thanks to its sprinters and field athletes' performances five months earlier.
The effects of qualifying for the Hakone Ekiden on the name value of a small university cannot be overstated. Many of the schools that run Hakone are known nationally only because their distance teams made Hakone, and this has a tremendous impact on their enrollment and alumni relations. In this respect, the Kanto Regionals point system was a manifestation of the protection of the establishment and discouragement of newcomers representative of Japanese business and politics.