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Kansai Region Qualifier for November's National University Ekiden Canceled

Regarding the Cancelation of the 52nd National University Ekiden Championships Kansai Region Qualifier

On Apr. 23 the Inter-Collegiate Athletics Association of Kansai announced its planned policy with regard to the Kansai Region Qualifier for the 52nd National University Men's Ekiden Championships. However, due to the continued spread of the novel coronavirus, on Monday, May 4 the national government announced an extension of its declaration of a national emergency until Sunday, May 31.

Because this situation mets the previously-announced criteria under which the June 13 Kansai Region Qualifier would be canceled, we regret to inform all ICAAK member schools that we are hereby canceling it. Our high performance committee is exploring an alternative method for selecting teams, and once it has been determined it will be announced on the ICAAK website. This selection method will be used to name three teams to October's Izumo Ekiden and four to November's National Championships.

Translator's note: With mass-participation marathons already canceling well into November and even December, this is a pretty clear indication that ekiden season is at risk too. Looking just at the university men's ekiden calendar, the three big races are the Izumo Ekiden in October, the National University Men's Ekiden Championships in November, and the Hakone Ekiden on Jan. 2 and 3. All three have relatively small numbers of teams and athletes competing, but attract large crowds along the course. As such Izumo and Nationals look to be at risk. Hakone is far enough away that it's hard to say for sure, but given the size of the crowds it attracts it's hard to be optimistic.

But the more pressing issue is qualification. All three races have small numbers of schools that have already qualified for 2020-21 by making the podium at last year's races. Other schools have to qualify. With the regional qualifiers for Nationals beginning in June, as this announcement shows it's not going to be possible to do Nationals without changes to the original plan. Hakone is in the most serious predicament. Its qualifying race, the Yosenkai, is a half marathon in October with around 500 participants. That alone puts it at risk of cancelation, but to qualify for the Yosenkai, schools have to put up runners who meet designated track times. No track races, no Yosenkai, no Hakone.

In the century since its founding Hakone has only ever been canceled for World War II, so while it may not be canceled altogether, like Nationals it doesn't look possible for it to go ahead in its usual form. With all the other levels from junior high school to the corporate leagues having qualifying races from September through November and national championship ekidens in December and January, this announcement from the ICAAK is sure to be only the beginning.

source articles:全日本大学駅伝関西地区選考会中止の案内.pdf
translated by Brett Larner

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