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Tokai University Wins First-Ever Hakone Ekiden Title



For years the Hakone Ekiden has been a Day One blowout, the uphill Fifth Stage that ends it basically deciding the winner on Day Two. Last year 2014 winner Toyo University won Day One only to fall victim to the superior depth of Aoyama Gakuin University, which ran Toyo down to score a fourth-straight win at Japan's biggest race.

This year Toyo again took the Day One title, opening an almost insurmountable 5:30 lead over AGU. Bigger problems faced it, though, in the form of #1-ranked Tokai University just 1:14 behind. Tokai head coach Hayashi Morozumi was one of Japan's most successful high school coaches while at Nagano's Saku Chosei H.S., beneficiaries of his cross-country-based principles including current marathon national record holder Suguru Osako. Since arriving at Tokai it has taken him time to get his system up and running for college-aged athletes, the last few seasons exceeding AGU on paper but coming up short at the main event.

But today was Tokai's day. Toyo's Sixth Stage runner Shunsuke Imanishi ran the third-fastest time ever on the 800 m downhill course, but Tokai's Reiri Nakashima went 6 seconds faster. Toyo's Seventh Stage man Ryo Kozasa ran the third-fastest time on the stage but came up over a minute short of Tokai's Ryohei Sakaguchi. Tokai's next runner Yohei Komatsu started the 21.4 km Eighth Stage 4 seconds behind Toyo's Munetaka Suzuki, immediately pulling up just behind him and clipping his heels.

Through 15 km Komatsu sat behind Suzuki without making a move until attacking hard just before a steep uphill. Blasting away from Suzuki, Komatsu covered the stage in 1:03:49, 1:02:55 half marathon pace, to take 16 seconds off the oldest stage record on Hakone's books, one set 22 years ago the year Komatsu was born. And from there it was a done deal, captain Haruki Minatoya and anchor Akihiro Gunji both making the top three on their stages to bring Tokai in to its first-ever Hakone win. Over the entire 10-stage, 217.1 km course Tokai ran 10:52:09, 3:00.2/km, the fastest time ever run on the current version of the course.

Left behind midway through the Eighth Stage Toyo again fell short on depth. Midway through the Ninth Stage AGU's Keita Yoshida rolled up on Toyo's Kengo Nakamura through a combination of stage record and all-time top 6 runs from its runners up to that point and a disastrous 19th-place run from Nakamura. AGU sailed by for 2nd in 10:55:50, its Day Two total a stellar 5:23:49 for 109.6 km, 2:57.3/km. Toyo hung on to 3rd in 10:58:03, its 11th year in a row in the top 3 but breaking a 3-year string of 2nd-place finishes. The winner of October's Yosenkai qualifier race, Komazawa University was 4th in 11:01:05 with dark horse Teikyo University a quality 5th in 11:03:10.

The top ten at Hakone every year score places at both October's Izumo Ekiden and the following year's Hakone, making the race for 10th one of the Day Two highlights. This year it was a back-and-forth between Takushoku University, Chuo Gakuin University and Meiji University for the last two places throughout the day until Meiji anchor Hiroyuki Sakaguchi, on the mend from injury and undertrained, fell apart. Locked in a head-to-head duel behind him early Day One leader Chuo University and Waseda University ran Sakaguchi down and raced each other to the line, Chuo taking 11th in a photo finish but both knocked back to October's Yosenkai qualifier. For Waseda it was the first time in 13 years to miss the podium.

Daito Bunka University recovered from its lead runner Kohei Arai spraining his ankle in the first 30 seconds of the race to take 19th in the field of 23. Komatsu beat out Toyo's Akira Aizawa and other stage record breakers for the overall Hakone MVP award, but if one runner truly demonstrated the best of what it means to be an ekiden runner, that giving anything less than your best is to sacrifice everyone else's gifts, there's no doubt at all that it was Arai.

95th Hakone Ekiden Day Two

Hakone-Tokyo, 1/3/19
23 teams, 5 stages, 109.6 km, ~800 m downhill
complete results

Top Individual Stage Performances
Sixth Stage (20.8 km, ~800 m downhill)
1. Yuji Onoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 57:57 - CR
2. Reiri Nakashima (Tokai Univ.) - 58:06 - all-time #3
3. Shunsuke Imanishi (Toyo Univ.) - 58:12 - all-time #5

Seventh Stage (21.3 km)
1. Keisuke Hayashi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:02:18 - all-time #2
2. Ryohei Sakaguchi (Tokai Univ.) - 1:02:41 - all-time #6
3. Ryo Kozasa (Toyo Univ.) - 1:03:45

Eighth Stage (21.4 km)
1. Yohei Komatsu (Tokai Univ.) - 1:03:49 - CR
2. Takayuki Iida (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:34 - all-time #6
3. Munetaka Suzuki (Toyo Univ.) - 1:04:44 - all-time #9

Ninth Stage (23.1 km)
1. Keita Yoshida (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:08:50 - all-time #5
2. Haruki Minatoya (Tokai Univ.) - 1:09:36
3. Ryota Komori (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:09:59

Tenth Stage (23.0 km)
1. Gaku Hoshi (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:09:57 - all-time #9
2. Takato Suzuki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:10:10
3. Akihiro Gunji (Tokai Univ.) - 1:10:12

Overall Team Performances
1. Tokai University - 10:52:09 - CR
2. Aoyama Gakuin University - 10:55:50
3. Toyo University - 10:58:03
4. Komazawa University - 11:01:05
5. Teikyo University - 11:03:10
6. Hosei University - 11:03:57
7. Koku Gakuin University - 11:05:32
8. Juntendo University -11:08:35
9. Takushoku University -11:09:10
10. Chuo Gakuin University - 11:09:23
----- top 10 seeded for 2020 Hakone Ekiden
11. Chuo University - 11:10:39
12. Waseda University - 11:10:39
13. Nittai University - 11:12:17
14. Nihon University - 11:13:25
15. Tokyo Kokusai University - 11:14:42
16. Kanagawa University - 11:15:51
17. Meiji University - 11:16:42
18. Kokushikan University - 11:16:56
19. Daito Bunka University - 11:19:48
20. Josai University - 11:19:57
21. Kanto Region Select Team - 11:21:51
22. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 11:24:49
23. Jobu University - 11:31:14

Day Two Team Performances
5 stages, 109.6 km, ~800 m downhill
1. Aoyama Gakuin University - 5:23:49 - CR
2. Tokai University - 5:24:24
3. Teikyo University - 5:29:40
4. Komazawa University - 5:31:06
5. Toyo University - 5:31:32
6. Hosei University - 5:32:21
7. Waseda University - 5:34:33
8. Chuo University - 5:35:13
9. Nittai University - 5:35:44
10. Chuo Gakuin University - 5:35:51
11. Kanagawa University - 5:36:10
12. Koku Gakuin University - 5:36:17
13. Juntendo University - 5:36:30
14. Daito Bunka University - 5:36:41
15. Takushoku University - 5:37:02
16. Tokyo Kokusai University - 5:37:27
17. Kanto Region Select Team - 5:37:34
18. Nihon University - 5:37:48
19. Josai University - 5:39:47
20. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 5:40:33
21. Kokushikan University - 5:41:03
22. Meiji University - 5:42:28
23. Jobu University - 5:48:48

© 2019 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Comments

Brett Larner said…
Pre-race top 5 prediction:
1.Tokai
2.Komazawa
3.Teikyo
4.Aoyama Gakuin
5.Toyo

Toyo with best chance of punching above weight and finishing higher.

Actual
1.Tokai
2.Aoyama Gakuin
3.Toyo
4.Komazawa
5.Teikyo
Stephen Lacey said…
Stage 8 was interesting. I thought Aoyama blew a great chance to surge back to the lead, but muffed it signalling their decline. But it was actually a very good run; Tokai and Toyo simply had it covered.
Brett Larner said…
Hi Steve, thanks for commenting. It did look like AGU was going to make up more ground there, but Koyama was too strong at the end. I hope you're doing OK.
Matt said…
Amazing race as always. Funnily enough all my local friends that know running still were convinced AGU will come back strong on the 2nd day I guess they were partially right with them taking some 6-7 minutes from Toyo.

Brett I know probably hard to answer but where do you see the next year taking into account graduating runners and spring recruiting? Is it even possible to comment NCAA football style?

Thanks for covering the Hakone Ekiden and all other races as always you do an amazing job.

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