by Brett Larner
While Japan's elite Kanto Region collegiates were turning in historic performances on a suburban Tokyo track in preparation for the peak of their season at January's Hakone Ekiden, their rivals in western central Japan were wrapping their season up at the 77th Kansai Region University Ekiden Championships in Tango, Kyoto. Top local schools Kyoto Sangyo University and Ritsumeikan University ran an exciting race within seconds of each other over the entire 81.4 km course, their runners setting new records on 5 of the 8 stages before finishing with one of the closest finishes in Kansai history.
Kazuki Muramoto (Hyogo Kenritsu Univ.) set the tone for the day with a new 23:36 record on the 8.0 km First Stage, 44 seconds ahead of his nearest competiton Satoshi Shimoyabu (Kansai Univ.). Kansai's next two runners Akira Yonezawa and Kohei Yamaguchi were first and third on their stages, putting Kansai into the lead before they began to drop back on the Fourth Stage to their eventual 6th place overall finish.
In a departure from usual ekiden strategy both Kyoto Sangyo and Ritsumeikan had their weakest two runners lead off, not really getting into their stride until the 7.0 km Third Stage where Takumi Kubo set a 20:00 stage record, the first of three-straight stage wins by Kyoto Sangyo runners, to build the momentum that put Kyoto Sangyo into 1st with a 25-second lead over Ritsumeikan by the Fourth Stage. A 36:05 record on the 12.3 km Fifth Stage by Daisuke Uekado stretched Kyoto Sangyo's lead over Ritsumeikan to 58 seconds, its biggest margin of safety in the race.
While Kyoto Sangyo was getting to work Ritsumeikan also got busy, its third and fourth runners the next-fastest on their stages as they worked with rivals from Kwansei Gakuin University to try to close the gap. Kwansei Gakuin briefly occupied 2nd, but when Ritsumeikan's Shinpei Muratake dropped a 35:40 record on the 12.0 km Sixth Stage, over a minute faster than the old record, Kwansei Gakuin was done, settling back into 3rd for the rest of the race.
Far outrunning Kyoto Sangyo's Yusuke Tanaka, Muratake not only closed the 58 second gap but opened a 26 second lead, Ritsumeikan's first time out front. Kyoto Sangyo's Masatoshi Teranishi fought back on the 11.9 km Seventh Stage, cutting 8 seconds off his own stage record to put Kyoto Sangyo 8 seconds out front heading into the anchor stage.
It was an ideal setup for a stellar finish and Ritsumeikan's Kosuke Minamoto delivered, running a new stage record of 35:57 for 11.8 km, cutting down the ground to Kyoto Sangyo anchor Hitaka Onuki. Onuki fought back, and in the home straight he held off Minamoto's kick to cross the line first in 4:10:20 to give Kyoto Sangyo the win with Minamoto just three seconds back in 4:10:23. Kwansei Gakuin held on to 3rd in 4:12:16.
After finishing as the top non-Kanto Region school at both the Izumo Ekiden and National University Ekiden this season Kyoto Sangyo University's win over Ritsumeikan University confirmed its position as the best of the rest. With six new stage records the Tango results showed that the ongoing surge in Japanese university distance running isn't limited just to the Kanto elite.
Tango University Ekiden
77th Kansai Region University Ekiden Championships
8 stages, 81.4 km, 20 teams
click here for complete results
Top Team Results
1. Kyoto Sangyo Univ. - 4:10:20
2. Ritsumeikan Univ. - 4:10:23
3. Kwansei Gakuin Univ. - 4:12:16
4. Osaka Keizai Univ. - 4:14:32
5. Kyoto Univ. - 4:14:42
Stage Best Performances
First Stage (8.0 km) - Kazuki Muramoto (Hyogo Kenristu Univ.) - 23:36 - CR
Second Stage (8.7 km) - Akira Yonezawa (Kansai Univ.) - 29:00
Third Stage (7.0 km) - Takumi Kubo (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 20:00 - CR
Fourth Stage (9.7 km) - Shunsuke Motoki (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 30:19
Fifth Stage (12.3 km) - Daisuke Uekado (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 36:05 - CR
Sixth Stage (12.0 km) - Shinpei Muratake (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 35:40 - CR
Seventh Stage (11.9 km) - Masatoshi Teranishi (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 36:14 - CR
Eighth Stage (11.8 km) - Kosuke Minamoto (Ritsumeikan Univ.) - 35:57 - CR
(c) 2015 Brett Larner
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