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Tokyo Kokusai University Wins in Izumo Ekiden Debut

With 2021 Hakone Ekiden MVP Vincent Yegon set to run anchor, Tokyo Kokusai University was expected to be a serious contender for the win in its Izumo Ekiden debut. But as it turned out the team as a whole was strong enough to pull off the win on its own strength, not just his.

Some of the hottest temperatures ever recorded at the Izumo Ekiden made for an unpredictable race, but TKU was solid throughout, all six of its runners making the top 5 on their individual stages. Inheriting a 3rd-place position from TKU's first two runners, its third runner Ken Tansho blew the race apart when he went to the front and opened a 29-second lead over Hakone runner-up Soka University. The teams chasing TKU changed over the next two stages, but its lead held steady around 30 seconds by the time Yegon took over. It was simply too hot for him to rewrite the record books, but Yegon had no problem at all bringing TKU home to the win in its debut, breaking the finish tape in 2:12:10 and clocking the fastest time on the 10.2 km anchor stage, 29:21.

The win may have been a blowout, but behind that it was wild and unpredictable. A different team occupied 2nd on every stage, Waseda University leading off, Juntendo University taking over on Second, Soka on Third thanks to a near-miss on the stage record by Philip Mulwa, 1st-year Haruto Ishizuka putting Waseda back on the Fourth, Toyo University moving up thanks to a stellar collegiate debut from former high school 5000 m NR holder Kosuke Ishida, and Aoyama Gakuin University's Shungo Yokota delivering a great anchor leg.

Ishizuka and Ishida weren't the only 1st-years to impress. TKU's 2nd and 4th runners Haruki Sato and Yusuke Shirai were both strong, and defending champion Koku Gakuin University's Kiyoto Hirabayashi was excellent on the 10.2 km anchor stage, unable to hold off the AGU and Toyo anchors but strong and confident throughout. There doesn't look to be any kind of dry spell on the way in talent coming in to the collegiate men's circuit.

TKU performed beyond expectations, AGU was about what you'd figure, 2nd just over 2 minutes behind TKU, Toyo in 3rd was characteristically stronger in the ekiden than its track times would suggest, and KGU pretty much lived up to expectations at 4th. Komazawa and Waseda were both below par, Komazawa only making it into 5th on the strength of star anchor Ren Tazawa who had a great sprint duel with Waseda's Yuhi Nakaya in the last 500 m. 

Missing 3000 mSC national record holder Ryuji Miura, Juntendo was the biggest dud of the day, finishing only 10th out of 10 among Kanto Region schools. Kyoto's Ritsumeikan University lived up to potential and took the top non-Kanto spot at 11th overall more than 8 minutes behind winner TKU.

Next up in the university men's circuit is the Oct. 23 Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai, the half marathon that acts as the qualifying race for January's main event for Kanto Region teams that didn't run at Izumo. Today showed where the best of the best are at at this point in the season, and in two weeks we'll see who the competition might be for a top ten finish come January.

33rd Izumo Ekiden

Izumo, Shimane, 10 Oct., 2021
20 teams, 6 stages, 45.1 km

Top Individual Stage Performanes
First Stage - 8.0 km
1. Kotaro Kondo (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 23:41
2. Atsushi Shobu (Waseda Univ.) - 23:45
3. Masaya Yamatani (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 23:46
4. Takayuki Matsuura (Tohoku Region Select Team) - 23:48
5. Tatsuya Iyoda (Juntendo Univ.) - 23:48

Second Stage - 5.8 km
1. Rin Kitsuki (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 16:16
2. Shunsuke Taira (Juntendo Univ.) - 16:18
3. Taiyo Yasuhara (Komazawa Univ.) - 16:22
4. Haruki Sato (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 16:23
5. Daichi Endo (Teikyo Univ.) - 16:24

Third Stage - 8.5 km
1. Philip Mulwa (Soka Univ.) - 23:49
2. Ken Tansho (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 24:12
3. Issei Sato (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 24:44
4. Kyosuke Hanao (Komazawa Univ.) - 24:54
4. Naoki Ota (Waseda Univ.) - 24:54

Fourth Stage - 6.2 km
1. Haruto Ishizuka (Waseda Univ.) - 18:40
2. Keishun Kushima (Toyo Univ.) - 18:42
2. Taiga Nakanishi (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 18:42
4. Eisuke Morita (Teikyo Univ.) - 18:48
5. Yusuke Shirai (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 18:59

Fifth Stage - 6.4 km
1. Kosuke Ishida (Toyo Univ.) - 18:55
2. Kenzo Ijichi (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 19:15
3. Hijiri Munakata (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 19:29
4. Kazuki Ishii (Juntendo Univ.) - 19:36
5. Ryoma Kamizono (Tokai Univ.) - 19:37

Sixth Stage - 10.2 km
1. Vincent Yegon (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 29:21
2. Ren Tazawa (Komazawa Univ.) - 29:42
3. Shungo Yokota (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 30:13
4. Shunsuke Shikama (Juntendo Univ.) - 30:44
5. Kiyoto Hirabayashi (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 30:46

Team Results
1. Tokyo Kokusai University - 2:12:10
2. Aoyama Gakuin University - 2:14:07
3. Toyo University - 2:14:13
4. Koku Gakuin University - 2:14:17
5. Komazawa University - 2:14:53
6. Waseda University - 2:15:00
7. Soka University - 2:15:37
8. Teikyo University - 2:16:24
9. Tokai University - 2:16:53
10. Juntendo University - 2:17:17
11. Ritsumeikan University - 2:20:14
12. Osaka Keizai University - 2:21:45
13. Kwansei Gakuin University - 2:22:26
14. Kogakkan University - 2:23:07
15. Hokushinetsu Region Select Team - 2:23:58
16. Hiroshima Keizai University - 2:24:36
17. Sapporo Gakuin University - 2:25:36
18. Tohoku Region Select Team - 2:25:50
19. Hokkaido University - 2:27:52
20. Nippon Bunri University - 2:30:42

© 2021 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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