Skip to main content

Kanagawa University Upsets Favorites to Win First National University Ekiden Title in 20 Years



Riding a wave of rapid improvement since the start of the season, Kanagawa University pulled off a perfect race to beat favorites Tokai University and Aoyama Gakuin University and win its first National University Men's Ekiden Championships title since 1997 in one of the fastest times in event history.

Tokai beat defending national champion AGU at last month's Izumo Ekiden, and today's race was expected to be another head-to-head. But on the opening stage both were far from the front-end action. Likewise for #3-ranked Yamanashi Gakuin University, still on the mend from injuries to many of its best runners. In the absence of the three favorites, #4 through #7-ranked teams Komazawa University, Kanagawa, Waseda University and Toyo University formed a leading group from which 2015 national champion Toyo emerged as the front runner.

Tokai and AGU spent the next three stages working up to the lead group before both lost ground on the Fifth Stage and had to try to regain their footing over the final three stages. Despite a solid lead at halfway Toyo's lack of depth caused by the absence of all of its fourth-years with injury was clear as it dropped back over the second half to ultimately end up 5th. Likewise for Waseda which fell to 7th, knocked off the six-deep podium by #9-ranked Chuo Gakuin University.

2011-2014 national champion Komazawa University looked like it might have a turn back on top, but  a brilliant stage winning run from second year Kenta Koshikawa brought Kanagawa into 2nd just before Tokai's Reo Kuniyuki put his team into 1st. Tokai occupied that position by a slim margin over Kanagawa for the next two stages, its hopes of winning its second of this season's Big Three university ekidens resting on anchor Kazuto Kawabata, winner of last month's Takashimadaira 20 km over London World Championships marathon 9th-placer Yuki Kawauchi.

But with 19.7 km ahead of him Kawabata had to contend with Kanagawa anchor Kengo Suzuki, the 2017 National University Half Marathon champion. And Suzuki showed what he was made of, running one of the fastest times ever by a Japanese athlete on the Nationals anchor stage, 57:24 for 19.7 km, equivalent to a 1:01:28 half marathon. Kawabata was no match as Suzuki blew by to bring Kanagawa home in 1st by a margin of well over a minute, just 4 seconds off the overall course record.

The last time Kanagawa won the national title was 1997, before many of its team members had even been born. Along with Tokai's first-in-a-decade Izumo Ekiden victory and Meijo University's first National University Women's Ekiden title in 12 years this season, Kanagawa's unexpected win was a welcome antidote to the kind of dynasties and Big Three domination that have been the norm over the last ten years. Likewise for the rare royal flush of individual stage wins, with each stage won by a runner from a different school. Combined with the overall steady rise in quality since 2013 it's a sign that things are alive and kicking on a widespread scale and not just the product of one or two good coaches.

Tokai and especially AGU both ran less than perfect races, their chances for the most prestigious of titles, the Hakone Ekiden overall win, now facing a threat from an unexpected quarter. Traditionally powerful Komazawa, Toyo and Waseda will need to patch the holes in their sails to keep up with the three newcomers who have passed them by. The talented YGU squad faces an even harder journey on the road to realizing its potential at Hakone, only managing to claw its way up to 9th today at Nationals. The next stop on that road comes in two weeks at Saitama's Ageo City Half Marathon.

49th National University Men's Ekiden Championships

Nagoya-Ise, 11/5/17
27 teams, 8 stages, 106.8 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results - top six seeded for 2018
1. Kanagawa University - 5:12:49
2. Tokai University - 5:14:07
3. Aoyama Gakuin University - 5:15:22
4. Komazawa University - 5:15:59
5. Toyo University - 5:16:29
6. Chuo Gakuin University - 5:17:59
-----
7. Waseda University - 5:19:08
8. Teikyo University - 5:19:39
9. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 5:20:32
10. Hosei University - 5:20:59

Top Individual Stage Performances
First Stage (14.6 km) - Akira Aizawa (Toyo Univ.) - 43:24
Second Stage (13.2 km) - Kazuki Tamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 38:04
Third Stage (9.5 km) - Ryoji Tatezawa (Tokai Univ.) - 27:02
Fourth Stage (14.0 km) - Masahiro Kan (Josai Univ.) - 40:09
Fifth Stage (11.6 km) - Kenta Koshikawa (Kanagawa Univ.) - 33:52
Sixth Stage (12.3 km) - Daisuke Horiai (Komazawa Univ.) - 35:57
Seventh Stage (11.9 km) - Hiroki Abe (Meiji Univ.) - 34:08 - CR
Eighth Stage (19.7 km) - Dominic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 57:06

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

Kenenisa Bekele Withdraws from Tokyo Marathon with Stress Fracture

The Tokyo Marathon Foundation announced on Feb. 20 that 5000 m and 10000 m world record holder Kenenisa Bekele (Ethiopia) has withdrawn from the Mar. 3 Tokyo Marathon 2019 due to injury. The statement read, "He has a stress fracture that is going to take a little more time to heal. His motivation to recover and set his sights on a new goal is high, but unfortunately it seems that is still going to take a while."

#2-ranked Marius Kipserem (Kenya) has also withdrawn with injuries. On the domestic front, Kengo Suzuki (23, Fujitsu) has pulled out due to his condition. Yohei Suzuki (24, Aisan Kogyo) and Shinobu Kubota (27, Toyota) have also sustained injuries that will prevent them from starting. In the women's race, 2017 London World Championships team member Yuka Ando, 24, who earlier this month transferred from the Suzuki Hamamatsu AC team to the Wacoal corporate team, is also out with injury.

source article:
https://headlines.yahoo.co.jp/hl?a=20190220-00000112-sph-spo
trans…

Cheboitibin Breaks Seko's Course Record at Ome 30 km

One of Japan's longest-standing course records at its elite races fell Sunday as Kenyan Ezekiel Cheboitibin (Sunbelx) beat the great Toshihiko Seko's 38-year-old Ome 30 km Road Race record by almost 30 seconds.

Tough and hilly with a net climb in the first half and descent on the return trip, Ome is a standard spring marathon prep run and a natural partner for April's Boston Marathon, with which it has a longstanding athlete exchange program. The 2017 Ome winner, this time out Cheboitibin was gunning for Seko's record from the start, hitting the mostly uphill 10 km completely solo in 29:47, 20 km midway through the return trip in 59:30, and saving his fastest 10 km split for the end as he crossed the finish line in 1:29:06. Seko's 1:29:32 just two months before his first Boston win had made him the only man in Ome history to break 90 minutes. With the best performance of his career Cheboitibin turned the page on that history.

With the withdrawal of Fukuoka winner

Last Chance for Tokyo 2020? - Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon Elite Field

With just under three weeks to go the organizers of the Mar. 10 Lake Biwa Mainichi Marathon's 74th running have finally released the elite field. For Japanese men it's the last chance - almost - to qualify for September's MGC Race 2020 Olympic marathon trials, the last domestic race with up to six spots up for grabs for anyone under 2:11:00 or 2:10:00 and more for anyone else under 2:08:30 or averaging under 2:11:00 between Lake Biwa and another marathon in the last year and a half. The window on that last two-race option runs through April 30th so there will still be a few chances left, but realistically for most of the men at Lake Biwa this is it, all or nothing for a home soil Olympic team.

There's a good international field of twelve African-born runners of eight nationalities at the 2:06 to 2:09 level to help pull the Japanese men to hit those times. Last year's winner Macharia Ndirangu (Kenya/Aichi Seiko) is back, ranked 6th in a field led by 2:06 men Deribe…