Looking to improve on last year's 4th-place finish, Juntendo University held a press conference at its main campus in Inzai, Chiba on Dec. 13 ahead of the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden. Set to run the 23.2 km Second Stage for the third time, star 3rd-year and Rio Olympian Kazuya Shiojiri sent a warning to his rivals at other schools, telling reporters, "I'm being tasked with beating the best from all the other schools, so my personal goal is to win the stage."
At the Nov. 25 Hachioji Long Distance meet Shiojiri ran the 4th-fastest time ever by a university runner, 27:47.87, but that has had no impact on head coach Shunsuke Nagato's plans. "Even if we fall behind on the First Stage, I know that he's there so it won't be anything to get worried about," said Nagato, showing the complete trust which he places in Shiojiri.
Of last year's Second Stage winner, 2017 National University Half Marathon champion Kengo Suzuki of Kanagawa University, Shiojiri said, "I'm aware of him." Shiojiri plans to target a time under 1:08 for the 23.2 km stage.
translated by Brett Larner