On Sept. 19 it was learned that former Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. head coach Koji Watanabe, 80, will take over as head coach of the Nittai University ekiden team. Previous head coach Masaaki Watanabe, 55, was fired on Sept. 11 after revelations of his violence toward and mental abuse of students surfaced. New coach Watanabe commented, "I want to create an environment where team members can be in the competition." His posting is planned to last from Oct. 1 to the end of March next year.
A Nittai graduate, new coach Watanabe led the Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. boys to eight National High School Ekiden Championships titles. He previously served at Nittai as chairperson of the Special Development Committee from 2012 to 2014. National powerhouse Nittai has competed in 70-straight Hakone Ekidens, winning Japan's most prestigious title ten times. It is scheduled to compete at both the Oct. 8 Izumo Ekiden and Nov. 4 National University Men's Ekiden, and will be going for a fourth-straight top ten finish at Hakone on Jan. 2 and 3.
New coach Watanabe is tasked with taking over at the very start of the season. The last two summers he advised and observed the team during its summer training camps. "I had the impression that there were many very serious team members," he said. "I want to do everything I can to bring out the best in them."
translated by Brett Larner