Saturday, October 1, 2016

Ledama Leads Arms Race in Setagaya

by Brett Larner
video by 7716chuo

2016 World U20 Championships men's 5000 m bronze medalist Wesley Ledama of Kenya continued his undefeated streak since arriving in Japan this summer to run for the Subaru corporate team, outrunning 2016 Ichinoseki Half Marathon winner Alexander Mutiso (Team ND Software) to win Saturday's Setagaya Time Trials 5000 m A-heat in 13:27.00, the second-best time of his career.  But with university men's ekiden season about to break at next weekend's Izumo Ekiden, the main story was to be found in the arms race brewing in the rest of the field.

In 2015 Aoyama Gakuin University broke the course records at two of the Big Three University Ekidens, Izumo and the legendary Hakone Ekiden.  This year it graduated four key seniors, all Hakone stage winners, but even so it arrived in Setagaya with eleven men with 5000 m bests under 14 minutes.  In Setagaya three AGU runners ran major PBs, two going under 14 for the first time.  Second-year Yuji Onoda took 10 seconds off his best with a 13:46.93 for 7th.  Third-year Yuta Shimoda returned to form after his 2:11:34 debut at February's Tokyo Marathon, the fastest-ever by a Japanese man under 20, with a 13-second PB of 13:53.96 for 11th.  Second-string second-year Homare Morita moved up AGU's ranks with a 14-second PB of 13:58.18 for 20th, together with Shimoda pumping AGU's roster up to 13 men sub-14.  Five of those have 28-minute bests for 10000 m along with sub-29 14-minute man Kinari Ikeda.  At this point in the season that's putting AGU into a solid position.  But it might not be enough.

Hayashi Morozumi was dominant as a coach at Nagano's Saku Chosei H.S., his innovative-by-Japanese-standards use of cross-country training helping make Saku Chosei into the greatest all-Japanese high school team in history and developing many of today's best Japanese pros including Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project), Yuki Sato (Team Nissin Shokuhin) and Yuichiro Ueno (DeNA RC).  In 2011 he left Saku Chosei to take over at Tokai University, one of his first actions as head coach being to build a cross-country training course on campus.  Under his leadership Tokai has been gaining momentum, boosted by a major recruiting coup this year.  Morozumi attracted nine strong first-years to Tokai this spring, several of whom had broken 14 in high school.  In their first season under his guidance six of them achieved that mark, giving Tokai 13 men sub-14 on its roster before Setagaya, like AGU five with 28-minute 10000 m bests and one more low-14 man having broken 29. In Setagaya first-year Hayato Seki ran a 9-second PB of 13:41.28 for 4th, placing him #1 on the team for the distance.  Three other Tokai men ran new PBs, third-year Reo Kuniyuki breaking 14 for the first time to put the team ahead of AGU on depth with 14 men sub-14 a week out from Izumo.  And it doesn't stop there.

Last year Yamanashi Gakuin University was 2nd in Izumo behind AGU, driven by a sensational run from Kenyan first-year Dominic Nyairo.  Like Tokai this year YGU had a recruiting coup a few years back, pulling in a large part of 2013 National High School Ekiden champion Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.' core lineup.  Now third-years, the group has been pushing YGU toward becoming a contender for a Big Three win.  Pre-Setagaya YGU held six men sub-14, five of them sub-29 including Nyairo's 27:56.47 best.  In Setagaya fourth-year Shogo Hata was the star of the show, running a 15-second PB of 13:40.79 for 3rd behind Ledama and Mutiso.  Three other YGU runners also set new PBs including third-year Kenta Ueda, son of head coach Masahito Ueda.  In depth YGU is behind AGU and Tokai, but with Izumo teams made up of only six men averaging 7.5 km apiece it has enough to rival both.  Entry lists have yet to be officially released but based on the most likely lineups the three schools are closely matched and well ahead of the rest of the field.

Tokai University
Six-man 5000 m average:  13:47.55
Six-man 10000 m average:  28:46.44

Yamanashi Gakuin University
Six-man 5000 m average:  13:53.35
Six-man 10000 m average:  28:42.43

Aoyama Gakuin University
Six-man 5000 m average:  13:51.82
Six-man 10000 m average:  28:46.53

A very even match.  If any other school can come close to them, even perennial powerhouses Waseda University, Komazawa University and Toyo University, it'll be a miracle.

Setagaya Time Trials
Kinuta Park Field, Tokyo, 10/1/16
click here for complete results

Men's 5000 m Heat 25
1. Wesley Ledama Githua (Kenya/Subaru) - 13:27.00
2. Alexander Mutiso (Kenya/ND Software) - 13:31.71
3. Shogo Hata (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 13:40.79 - PB
4. Hayato Seki (Tokai Univ.) - 13:41.28 - PB
5. Hiroki Matsueda (Fujitsu) - 13:44.04
6. Shota Onizuka (Tokai Univ.) - 13:45.89
7. Yuji Onoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:46.93 - PB
8. Taku Fujimoto (Toyota) - 13:47.49
9. Keisuke Tanaka (Fujitsu) - 13:52.86
10. Ryutaro Ichitani (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 13:52.95
11. Yuta Shimoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:53.96 - PB
12. Kazuki Tamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:54.17
13. Ryoji Tatezawa (Tokai Univ.) - 13:54.63
15. Shuto Mikami (Tokai Univ.) - 13:55.08 - PB
16. Haruki Minatoya (Tokai Univ.) - 13:55.65
17. Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 13:56.04 - PB
18. Kazuto Kawabata (Tokai Univ.) - 13:56.71
20. Homare Morita (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:58.18 - PB
21. Ryusei Yoshinaga (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 14:00.53
22. Yuki Hirota (Tokai Univ.) - 14:03.89 - PB
23. Yuki Nakamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 14:04.39
24. Yoshiki Ito (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 14:04.78 - PB
25. Sho Nagato (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 14:05.73 - PB
27. Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 14:07.34
28. Takato Suzuki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 14:07.60
29. Ryota Motegi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 14:07.67
30. Yuya Ando (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 14:07.69
31. Yasutaka Ishibashi (Tokai Univ.) - 14:08.82
32. Ryunosuke Hayashi (Tokai Univ.) - 14:10.46
34. Takuya Hanyu (Tokai Univ.) - 14:11.07
36. Yuya Yoshida (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 14:16.81
37. Hiroyuki Tomita (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 14:21.23
38. Takuya Kumashiro (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 14:37.37
39. Kinari Ikeda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 15:08.45

Men's 5000 m Heat 24
1. Workneh Derese (Takushoku Univ.) - 13:58.51
2. Reo Kuniyuki (Tokai Univ.) - 13:59.14 - PB
3. Yusho Miyazaki (Nittai Univ.) - 13:59.72 - PB
4. Kazuhiro Kuga (Fujitsu) - 14:00.25
5. Kei Fumimoto (Kanebo) - 14:00.75

© 2016 Brett Larner
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