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Yegon Leads Tokyo Kokusai to Win at National University Ekiden Kanto Region Qualifier

2021 Hakone Ekiden MVP Vincent Yegon led Tokyo Kokusai University to the win at the Kanto Region qualifier for November's National University Men's Ekiden Championships. Twenty schools competed Saturday at Kanagawa's Sagamihara Gion Stadium for the seven spots available at Nationals, every school fielding two runners in each of four heats of 10000 m and scored on the total time of its eight runners.

TKU got off to a slow start, outside the top ten after the first race, up to 7th after the second heat with a 9-second margin over Surugadai University, and hanging on to 7th after the third race but seeing its margin drop to just over 2 seconds ahead of Nittai University. Nittai's Tamaki Fujimoto took the fourth heat out, but after just 800 m Yegon took over, leading almost the entire rest of the way on sub-28 pace.

That burned off most of the competition up front, and with 1500 m to go it was down to Yegon, Hakone rival Philip Mulwa (Soka Univ.) and Joseph Razini Lemeteki (Takushoku Univ.). Mulwa made a move to the front just before three laps to go, Yegon taking a short break before reasserting himself at 600 m to go. Razini responded by kicking past both on the back curve, but neither he nor Mulwa could match Yegon's closing speed, his massive stride quickly opening a gap as he built up momentum over a 59-second closing lap.

Between Yegon's 27:50.65 winning time and Ken Tansho's 28:39.60 for 8th it was enough to overtake the entire field and land TKU in 1st with a total team time of 3:56:39.39. Mulwa took 2nd in 27:53.39 and Razini 3rd in 27:54.39, Soka a disappointing 14th but Razini playing a big role in Takushoku placing 4th and making the Nationals cut. 

Nittai moved into 7th in the final scoring thanks to Fujimoto, the top Japanese finisher at 7th in 28:35.73, while Surugadai missed qualifying for Nationals for the first time by less than 30 seconds. Daito Bunka University and Senshu University joined the ranks of schools with Kenyan recruits, but neither DBU 1st-year Peter Wanjiru nor Senshu 1st-year Duncan Kisaisa could carry their teams into the qualifying bracket, DBU finishing 12th and Senshu just 18th in the field of twenty.

National University Men's Ekiden Kanto Region Qualifier

Sagamihara Gion Stadium, Kanagawa, 19 June, 2021
20 teams, 8 runners each, top 7 qualify for Nationals

Top Team Results
1. Tokyo Kokusai University - 3:56:39.39
2. Koku Gakuin University - 3:56:47.04
3. Hosei University - 3:57:14.64
4. Takushoku University - 3:57:17.26
5. Chuo University - 3:57:17.61
6. Chuo Gakuin University - 3:57:23.16
7. Nittai University - 3:57:47.90
8. Surugadai University - 3:58:16.34
9. Kokushikan University - 3:58:51.31
10. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 3:59:07.98

Individual Results

Race 4
1. Vincent Yegon (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 27:50.65
2. Philip Mulwa (Soka Univ.) - 27:53.39
3. Joseph Razimi Lemeteki (Takushoku Univ.) - 27:54.39
4. Vincent Raimoi (Kokushikan Univ.) - 28:04.93
5. James Bunuka (Surugadai Univ.) - 28:11.53
6. Paul Onyiego (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:28.67
7. Tamaki Fujimoto (Nittai Univ.) - 28:35.73
8. Ken Tansho (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 28:39.60
9. Keigo Kurihara (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 28:40.57
10. Reishi Yoshida (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 28:41.60

Race 3
1. Shinya Kojima (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 29:13.91
2. Ruina Bukawa (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 29:14.05
3. Kiyoto Hirabayashi (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 29:14.55

Race 2
1. Kazuya Mishiro (Kokushikan Univ.) - 30:01.98
2. Haruki Abe (Chuo Univ.) - 30:02.73
3. Itsuki Koizumi (Hosei Univ.) - 30:02.75

Race 1
1. Taiga Nakanishi (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 29:21.70
2. Yuki Takei (Asia Univ.) - 29:35.95
3. Masaki Hamano (Soka Univ.) - 29:38.02

© 2021 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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