Skip to main content

2019 Hakone Ekiden Entry Lists and Rankings

Entry lists are out for the world's biggest running event, the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden university men's championships. Aoyama Gakuin University has built a near monopoly on Hakone, winning the last four years and looking this year to follow Chuo University and Nittai University as the third team in Hakone's 95 years of history to win it five years straight. But with its weakest lineup since 2015, the year AGU first rose to Hakone dominance, that won't be easy.

Using the chart above from JRN's January, 2016 article "The Shape of Things to Come" which predicted the breakthrough we've seen this year in Japanese men's marathoning based on the last 20 years of Hakone results, we've ranked the 23 teams in the 2019 Hakone Ekiden based on the combined scores of the 10 best runners on each team's 16-man entry roster.

The Win

1. Tokai University - 70 pts.
2. Komazawa University - 69 pts.
3. Teikyo University - 62 pts.
4. Aoyama Gakuin University - 61 pts.

Tokai University is the best in the field, one of only 5 teams in Hakone history to score 70 pts., i.e. its 10 best men averaging under 13:40 for 5000 m, 28:30 for 10000 m or 1:03:00 for the half marathon. Tokai has depth, including 6 men on its entry list with sub-1:03 half marathon bests, and range, from indoor mile national record holder Ryoji Tatezawa to 28:17.52/1:02:03 man Shota Onizuka. But Tokai coach Hayashi Morozumi has struggled to translate that talent into Hakone success in the last two seasons and will need to have everything running perfectly this time to overcome AGU.

Komazawa University is right behind Tokai at 69 points off an incredible performance at October's Yosenkai qualifying half marathon where its 10th finisher Shunsuke Kanbe ran 1:03:22, then again at the Ageo City Half Marathon where several other team members went under 1:03. A gossip magazine's claims of a financial scandal surrounding head coach Hiroaki Oyagi has shaken team unity and it may be a challenge for Komazawa to live up to potential as a result.

Teikyo University is this year's dark horse, its best-ever placing in its Hakone appearances to date a pair of 4th-place finishes in 2000 and 2013. Head coach Takayuki Nakano has quietly put together a team centered around a core of 8 men with 10000 m and half marathon credentials to challenge those of the other 3 main contenders. If any of those teams falters Teikyo should be in position to take over.

AGU is ranked only 4th, its 10000 m and half marathon marks down from the last two years. But between head coach Susumu Hara's businesslike approach to building a dynasty and the momentum of 4 years of success behind them AGU has an advantage over the other 3 top-ranked teams that will probably be enough for it to do it again. The 1st and 5th Stages will be crucial to AGU's chances.

The Podium

5. Toyo University - 57 pts.
6. Meiji University - 56 pts.
7. Takushoku University - 56 pts.
8. Waseda University - 55 pts.
9. Juntendo  University - 55 pts.
10. Chuo University - 54 pts.
11. Josai University - 53 pts.
12. Koku Gakuin University - 52 pts.

Hakone's top 10 get guaranteed places at the following year's Izumo and Hakone Ekidens, while 11th place and lower get sent back down to run October's Yosenkai qualifier instead. The race for the last few places on the podium is always the highlight of Hakone's second day, and with a narrow margin separating the 5th through 12th-ranked teams this time we should be in for another good one down around that breaking point. It's notable that the teams at this level this year are all as good as the top-ranked teams were 10 years ago.

Toyo University leads the way, the last team to win Hakone pre-AGU era and beating AGU for the Day One title last year, but like Komazawa a scandal on the team centering around the loss of its star first-year recruit following conflict with senior team members has hurt its chances. Meiji University, led by 27:56.45/1:02:16 man Hiroki Abe, Takushoku University with Ethiopian team captain Workneh Derese, and Juntendo University featuring Jakarta Asian Games steeplechase bronze medalist Kazuya Shiojiri with 27:47.87/1:01:22 credentials, should be right there with Toyo. On paper Waseda University should be in the mix for 5th too, but its chances depend largely on perpetually injured 4th-year Hiroki Nagayama.

The Rest

13. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 49 pts.
14. Nittai University - 48 pts.
15. Chuo Gakuin University - 47 pts.
16. Kanagawa University - 47 pts.
17. Tokyo Kokusai University - 47 pts.
18. Daito Bunka University - 46 pts.
19. Kokushikan University - 46 pts.
20. Kanto Region Student Alliance - 45 pts.
21. Hosei University - 45 pts.

Making up the rest of the field are teams like Yamanashi Gakuin University, Tokyo Kokusai University and Kokushikan University that rely heavily on the strength of one Kenyan runner without the depth to compete against the top tier, and teams like Chuo Gakuin University that should be in the race for the podium but are short a star runner due to injury. In CGU's case that's 3rd-year Takumi Yokokawa, who sustained an injury at November's Ageo City Half Marathon. Also in this group is last year's 4th-placer Nittai University, another team rocked by scandal as head coach Masaaki Watanabe, who previously lost his position at Toyokawa Kogyo H.S. amid accusations of abuse, was unceremoniously fired at the start of the season for abusing students.

Participation Award

22. Jobu University - 41 pts.
23. Nihon University - 38 pts.

Hakone usually has 20 to 21 teams including the Kanto Region Student Alliance, a select team made up of top-placing individuals at the Yosenkai qualifying race whose teams didn't make the cut. This year that was expanded to 23 teams in honor of Hakone's 95th running. Jobu University scored the last bonus spot at the Yosenkai qualifier to extend its unbroken streak of Hakone appearances to 11.

Nihon University, another team heavily dependent on a Kenyan to carry it, takes up the last position. Yet another school with a major sports scandal this year, in its case involving its football team coaches directing a player to deliberately injure another team's QB, the old-school Nihon's powerful alumni have a history of gerrymandering the rules to get its ekiden team into Hakone. This time they did it by getting the KGRR to award a spot to the school that won the overall title at May's Kanto Region University track and field championships, including the results of sprints, field events and other non-distance events in order to give its weak distance program the boost it needed. The difference in quality between Nihon and the rest of the field is obvious, with Nihon's score of 38 just over half that of #1-ranked Tokai's.

Look for more on the 2019 Hakone Ekiden as race week approaches.

© 2018 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Buy Me A Coffee


TokyoRacer said…
Wow, your chart goes up to 11!!
As a part-time rocker, I'm sure you were waiting for someone to make that comment.

Thanks for the preview, am looking forward to the race and will be rooting for the boys from Takushoku, as my American School runners sometimes train on the same track as them. (Watching them train is both fun and eye-opening.)
Yokohama said…
Wonder how the Komazawa coach situation is affecting their preparation for Hakone this year?

Most-Read This Week

Additional Cost of Moving Olympic Marathons and Race Walks to Sapporo Expected to Total Almost $100 Million

Multiple officials confirmed on Dec. 6 that the total additional cost of the IOC's decision to move the Tokyo 2020 Olympic marathons and race walks to Sapporo will be under 10 billion yen [~$92 million USD], likely totaling in the 7 to 8 billion yen range [~$65 million to $75 million USD]. The exact amount is still undetermined due to the IOC's rejection of the Organizing Committee's proposed two-lap course earlier this week, but the Organizing Committee intends to go ahead with this budget estimate.

Initially the IOC had decreed that the events should start and finish at Sapporo Dome. But with no access gate capable of handling a marathon, the construction costs necessary to make Sapporo Dome a suitable venue were said to be in the area of several billion yen [tens of millions of USD]. When the IOC made its proclamation that the road events would be relocated to Sapporo, the Citizens First Association group within the Tokyo Metropolitan Government estimated that the cost…

Jepchirchir Wins Saitama, Yugeta Breaks Own 60+ WR, Yamaguchi Breaks Own Nara CR - Weekend Marathon Highlights

Two of Japan's main year-ending marathons celebrated anniversary runnings this year, with the Saitama International Marathon holding its 5th edition and the Nara Marathon marking ten years.

Former half marathon world record holder Peres Jepchirchir (Kenya) dropped the competition at 30 km to win in Saitama. Within the first kilometer an all-African lead group had left top Japanese entrants Kaori Yoshida (Team RxL) and Kasumi Yoshida (Nitori), and Nina Savina (Belarus) behind. The lead group quickly rounded down to four, Jepchirchir and Ethiopian trio Fatuma Sado, Belaynesh Oljira and Rahma Tusa. #1-ranked Oljira slipped off early in the second half, and when the pacers stopped at 30 km Jepchirchir had no trouble getting rid of Tusa and Sado.

Jepchirchir took 1st in a PB of 2:23:50, with Sado a distant 2nd in 2:26:45. After 35 km Tusa ran into trouble, stopping and stretching out her legs and losing ground first to Oljira, 3rd in 2:27:11, and then Savina, who ran a PB 2:28:44 for …

61-Year-Old Mariko Yugeta Becomes First 60+ Woman to Go Sub-Three

61-year-old Mariko Yugeta of Saitama has become the first 60+ woman in history to run faster than three hours in the marathon. At the Nov. 3 Shimonoseki Kaikyo Marathon Yugeta ran 2:59:15 for 3rd place, smashing the 60+ world record of 3:02:50 by a wide margin. It was her 99th marathon and just shy of her PB of 2:58:05. When reporters visited her for an interview she was in the middle of a track session with a high school track team, doing a menu of 3000/2000/1000 m intervals in 11:23, 7:22 and 3:33. Yugeta said her daily routine includes 3 minutes standing on an inclined board every morning while brushing her teeth, and that she believes she can run 2:57.

source article:
translated and edited by Brett Larner