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

Koech and Maeda Run Year's Best 10000 m Times in Fukagawa

Conditions were on the humid side for the second meet in the four-part Hokuren Distance Challenge series Wednesday in Fukagawa, Hokkaido, but that didn't stop the fast times.

In the race of the day, Benard Kibet Koech (Kyudenko) went out front in the men's 10000 m from the gun, opening a lead of more than 5 seconds over a small chase pack led by Bedan Karoki (Toyota) at just over 27:20 pace. Karoki reeled Koech in over the second half, but when he was caught Koech didn't lie down, fighting back and retaking the lead repeatedly. With 200 m to go it looked like Karoki would get away, but in the home straight Koech came back again to win in 27:14.84, a PB and the fastest time in the world so far this year. Karoki was next in a quality 27:15.97, with Cleophas Kandie (MHPS) 3rd in 27:51.19. Tatsuhiko Ito (Honda), one of the stars of the Second Stage at this year's Hakone Ekiden, running a 60-second final lap to clear 28, taking 4th in 27:58.43 in his corporate league debut…

Today's Race - Live Streaming of 2020 Hokuren Distance Challenge Fukagawa Meet

Live streaming of today's Hokuren Distance Challenge Fukagawa meet starting at 15:30 local time. Timetable here. Although the start time for the live streaming is listed as 15:30 the first race begins at 15:00, so the live stream may begin earlier. Start lists here. The main races start at 18:25, with highlights including:

*1:05:34 half marathoner Rosemary Monica Wanjiru (Starts) and Sayaka Sato (Sekisui Kagaku) in the women's 5000 m A-heat at 18:25.
Jonathan Ndiku (Hitachi Butsuryu), Hideyuki Tanaka (Fujitsu), Hiroki Matsueda (Fujitsu) and Masaki Toda (Sunbelx) in the men's 5000 m A-heat at 18:45.
*Olympic marathon trials winner Shogo Nakamura (Fujitsu) and 2:06 man Daisuke Uekado (Otsuka Seiyaku) in the men's 10000 m B-heat at 19:15.
*Top-level marathoners Mao Ichiyama (Wacoal), Honami Maeda (Tenmaya) and Yuka Ando (Wacoal) in the women's 10000 m at 19:50.
*3000 m world leader Dan Kiplangat (JFE Steel) in the men's 10000 m A-heat at 20:30 with pacing from B…

Baire and Kiplangat Drop World-Leading Times, Endo Just Off - Weekend Track Review

As the numbers in Tokyo's second wave go up and up the likelihood that we're going to get many more weekends like this one goes down, but for this little window of opportunity, at least, there was action on the track at at least five elite-level meets across the country.

At the 75th Kagoshima Prefecture Championships, 17-year-old Cynthia Baire (Kamimura Gakuen H.S.) ran U20 world-leading times in both the women's 1500 m and 5000 m, running 4:10.67 to win the 1500 m Saturday and then 15:14.30 Sunday to win the 5000 m. Both times were also meet records. On Friday 36-year-old amateur Takahiro Nakamura, who ran a 1:00:57 half marathon in February, won the men's 10000 m for the fifth year in a row, running a meet record 29:23.09. Sunday he was back to try to score the 5000 m title too but was outrun by Kanta Tokumaru (Kagoshima Jitsugyo H.S.) 14:18.21 to 14:28.36. Tokumaru was doubling off a win in the 1500 m Saturday in 3:57.17.
Across Kyushu at the Saga Prefecture Champi…