In the modern era of systematic mass-production of quality by dominant teams like Tokai University and Aoyama Gakuin University it has been years since an underdog came through with a surprise win on Japan's university men's ekiden circuit, but that's just what happened at today's Izumo Ekiden to kick off the 2019-20 Big Three University Ekiden season.
The race was expected to be between defending champ Tokai and Buddhist powerhouse Komazawa University, with threats from AGU and fan favorites Toyo University. Like last year Tokai struggled a bit to get on its feet, lagging as a core leading quartet coalesced over the first half of the race's six stages. Running better than expected, #5-ranked Koku Gakuin University was right up in it along with AGU, Komazawa and Toyo, its second and third men Taiga Nakanishi and Yuhei Urano taking 3rd on their stages and Urano one of six men on the Third Stage to break its course record.
On October 14 Shimane prefectural police arrested local unemployed man Yudai Kawai, 32, on suspicion of stealing 329,000 yen [~$3000 USD] from university students' bags at the Izumo Ekiden alternates' race track 5000 m.
The alleged incident took place at approximately 5:10 p.m. on Oct. 14 at Hamayama Park Field in Izumo. Kawai was accused of entering a room off-limits to the general public, opening the bags of two student managers for a private Tokyo-area university's ekiden team, and taking the money from their wallets.
According to police, Kawai entered the room during the track race when the room was unlocked and unwatched. While putting the empty wallets back in the bags Kawai was caught in the act by one team's head coach who happened to return to the room at that time. Students who were entered in the Izumo Ekiden as alternates but did not run had the option of taking part in the track 5000 m.