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Yakult Scores First Towada Hachimantai Ekiden Title

translated by Brett Larner

Carrying the tasuki over five stages covering 73.7 km from Lake Towada to Hachimantai, the 68th running of the Towada Hachimantai Ekiden took place August 7 in Akita prefecture, with the Yakult A team from Tokyo scoring its first win in 3:45:46, the sixth-fastest time in the event's history.  The top team from Akita, the Akita Track and Field Association team, finished 13th, three places better than last year.  The local Kazuno Track and Field Association team was 20th of 27 teams overall.

The race began at 8:00 at Lake Towada in Towada, Aomori.  Running on a tough course featuring 818 m total elevation difference made all the tougher by blistering sunshine under cloudless skies, many athletes collapsed after finishing their stages.  Charles Ndungu (Team Komori Corp.) ran a new stage record of 39:49 on the hilly 13.6 First Stage to open a lead of over one minute over his closest competition.  London Olympics marathoner Arata Fujiwara (Arata Project) also ran well, finishing the opening stage 5th in 41:18.

Another stage record came on the mostly downhill 13.4 km Second Stage where Bernard Kimani (Team Yakult A) overtook leader Yoshihiro Nishizawa (Team Komori Corp.) 5 km into the leg on his way to an impressive 35:24 time that put the Yakult A team 1 1/2 minutes into the lead.  The sunshine became an issue on the 16.2 km Third Stage, where despite running against strong foreign competition Yakult rookie Ryu Takaku finished 2nd on the stage but maintained the lead, putting the Yakult A team into a good flow for the rest of the race.

With a stage win over 2014 Asian Games marathon bronze medalist Yuki Kawauchi (K Project) on the 16.4 km Fourth Stage from Soji Ikeda and a controlled run from Masahiro Kawaguchi on the 575 m uphill 14.1 km Fifth Stage Yakult A's ultimate margin of victory over runner-up Komori Corporation was nearly four minutes.  The Tamagawa AC team coached by national champion Komazawa University head coach Hiroaki Oyagi placed 3rd overall, with anchor Shohei Otsuka beating Yakult's Kawaguchi by nearly a minute and a half for the stage title in 49:42.

Five teams from Akita prefecture ran, placing 13th, 20th, 22nd, 23rd and 24th out of 27 teams.  Former 5000 m national record holder Takayuki Matsumiya was a DNS for the Kazuno team, but Hanawa H.S. graduate Tenta Koitabashi put in a good run to finish 7th on the Third Stage.

68th Towada Hachimantai Ekiden
Kazuno, Akita, 8/7/15
27 teams, 5 stages, 73.7 km
click here for complete results

Overall Results
1. Yakult A - 3:45:46
2. Komori Corporation - 3:49:39
3. Tamagawa AC - 3:50:29
4. JR Higashi Nihon - 3:51:44
5. K Project - 3:52:14

First Stage (13.6 km)
1. Charles Ndungu (Kenya/Komori Corp.) - 39:49 - CR
2. Yuki Takamiya (Yakult A) - 40:52
3. Ryo Hashimoto (Tamagawa AC) - 40:56
5. Arata Fujiwara (Arata Project) - 41:18

Second Stage (13.4 km, downhill)
1. Bernard Kimani (Kenya/Yakult A) - 35:24 - CR
2. Kassa Mekashaw (Ethiopia/Yachiyo Kogyo) - 36:32
3. David Njuguna (Kenya/Yakult B) - 36:58

Third Stage (16.2 km)
1. Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) - 46:31
2. Ryu Takaku (Yakult A) - 47:21
3. Cyrus Njui (Kenya/K Project) - 47:38

Fourth Stage (16.4 km)
1. Shoya Kurokawa (JR Higashi Nihon) - 50:30
2. Soji Ikeda (Yakult A) - 50:59
3. Keita Akiba (Komori Corp.) - 51:02
6. Yuki Kawauchi (K Project) - 51:32

Fifth Stage (14.1 km, uphill)
1. Shohei Otsuka (Tamagawa AC) - 49:42
2. Masahiro Kawaguchi (Yakult A) - 51:02
3. Sho Matsumoto (K Project) - 51:14


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