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Aoyama Gakuin Holds Off Defending Champ Tokai on Hakone Ekiden Day Two to Win Overall Title

Day One results and report

After a record-breaking first day, 2015-2018 Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University held off last year's winner Tokai University to take the overall title in course record time. AGU started the return trip to Tokyo with a 3:22 lead over Tokai, enough for Tokai head coach Hayashi Morozumi to express pessimism about his team's chances of making up such a big deficit over Day Two's five stages totaling 109.6 km.

Not that they didn't try. On the day's first stage, the brutal 20.8 km Sixth Stage featuring a steep climb early on and then over 800 m of descent, mostly in the middle 10 km, two-time 1500 m national champion Ryoji Tatezawa broke the course record by 40 seconds to cut over a minute off AGU's lead. Tokai's next two runners Sakito Matsuzaki and Yohei Komatsu cut further into AGU's margin of error, but at the start of the day's longest stage, the 23.1 km Ninth Stage, Tokai was still exactly 2 minutes behind. Its last two runners needed to deliver against AGU's Yuta Kanbayashi and Kohei Yuhara, but a stage-winning run from Kanbayashi just seconds off the Ninth Stage course record reopened AGU's lead to 3:42, and that was pretty much that.

AGU anchor Yuhara brought the team home for the win in 10:45:23 for the complete two-day, ten-stage, 217.1 km course, annihilating Tokai's course record from last year by almost 7 minutes and springing over the almost untouched 3:00/km barrier in a single carbon-plated bound. Tokai, which like AGU switched to racing in Nike shoes this season, was next in 10:48:25, almost 4 minutes better than its own course record and likewise way under 3:00/km average pace for the entire Hakone course. Tokai anchor Takahiro Gunji outran Yuhara by 40 seconds, giving Tokai the consolation prize of both beating AGU on Day Two time and breaking AGU's Day Two course record.

The Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden and yesterday's Hakone Day One each saw eight guys break individual stage records. The Day Two and overall course records aside, Tatezawa's Sixth Stage record was far from the only one today. Behind Tatezawa on the Sixth Stage, Toyo University's Shunsuke Imanishi went 23 seconds under the old CR to move Toyo up from 11th to 7th, putting it into the top ten seeded bracket where it remained for the rest of the race. On the 21.3 km Eighth Stage, sub-28 10000 m man Hiroki Abe of Meiji University returned from a long layoff with injury to cut 36 seconds off the course record, his 1:01:40 record equivalent to a 1:01:5 half marathon.

But the most memorable new record came on the anchor stage. The top ten teams at Hakone score places at the next season's Izumo and Hakone Ekidens, while 11th place and beyond get sent back down to October's Yosenkai qualifier. Because of this the race for 10th place on Day Two is often a lot more exciting than what's happening up front. 29 seconds separated 9th place Waseda University from 12th place Takushoku University at the start of Day Two. But by the Seventh Stage Soka University, in quest of its first-ever top ten finish in just its third time running Hakone, had dropped from 7th to 11th. From the Seventh through the Ninth Stages it battled back and forth with Chuo Gakuin University for 10th, and when Soka anchor Yudai Shimazu started he was 55 seconds behind.

Almost in a blink he was way up on course record pace. It was almost suicidal, a total unknown from a minor program, not even in the Nikes, going where no one had ever gone on the 23.0 km anchor stage. CGU anchor Hiroto Ishiwata came into sight, then disappeared behind him. Then Toyo's Ruon Oikawa. Then Waseda and Komazawa came into range. Shimazu seemed unstoppable, but while he couldn't close up to Waseda and Komazawa University as they sprinted in for 7th and 8th he crossed the line in 9th in 1:08:40, breaking the oldest standing Hakone course record and giving Soka its first return trip to Hakone. He was loving every minute of it, and you've got to feel the same.

Just ahead of him, Teikyo University's Takahiro Yoshino also broke the old CR, rocketing up from 6th to join a four-way battle for 3rd place with Meiji, Izumo Ekiden winner Koku Gakuin University, and Yosenkai winner Tokyo Kokusai University. KGU held on for its best-ever placing of 3rd, with Yoshino landing 4th to tie Teikyo's best-ever placing. TKU, the newest school to join the list of Hakone qualifiers, was 5th, like Soka making the top ten for the first time.

As the kick-off for the 2020 Olympic year and the 100th anniversary of its creation as a way to develop Olympic marathoners this year's Hakone was almost everything it could have been. Whatever the advantage in terms of time given by the shoes and the unusually lucky weather both days, the quality of the racing couldn't be denied. Dynasties come and go, underdogs make good, and the powerful fall. This year had it all. Here's to more, this coming summer and beyond.

96th Hakone Ekiden Day Two

Hakone~Tokyo, 1/3/20
21 teams, 5 stages, 109.6 km
complete results

Top Individual Stage Resuts
Sixth Stage (20.8 km, ~800 m downhill)
1. Ryoji Tatezawa (Tokai Univ.) - 57:17 - CR
2. Shunsuke Imanishi (Toyo Univ.) - 57:34 (CR)
3. Kohei Yano (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 58:18
4. Yuki Miyazaki (Nihon Univ.) - 58:21
5. Ruina Bukawa (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 58:25

Seventh Stage (21.3 km)
1. Hiroki Abe (Meiji Univ.) - 1:01:40 - CR
2. Soshi Suzuki (Waseda Univ.) - 1:02:56
3. Sakito Matsuzaki (Tokai Univ.) - 1:03:03
4. Tomoya Nakamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:03:23
5. Ayumu Kobayashi (Komazawa Univ.) - 1:03:27

Eighth Stage (21.4 km)
1. Yohei Komatsu (Tokai Univ.) - 1:04:24
2. Shuya Iwami (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:04:25
3. Yuki Shimanuki (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:04:50
4. Naoki Ota (Waseda Univ.) - 1:05:30
5. Kotaro Haga (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 1:05:51

Ninth Stage (23.1 km)
1. Yuta Kanbayashi (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:08:13
2. Keiya Arima (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 1:08:56
3. Yuto Aizawa (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 1:09:04
4. Shiki Shinsako (Waseda Univ.) - 1:09:17
5. Ryota Komori (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:09:26

Tenth Stage (23.0 km)
1. Yudai Shimazu (Soka Univ.) - 1:08:40 - CR
2. Takahiro Yoshino (Teikyo Univ.) - 1:08:43 (CR)
3. Takahiro Gunji (Tokai Univ.) - 1:09:08
4. Takuro Donji (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 1:09:19
5. Keigo Yuhara (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 1:09:48

Overall Team Results - 10 stages, 217.1 km
1. Aoyama Gakuin University - 10:45:23 - CR
2. Tokai University - 10:48:25 (CR)
3. Koku Gakuin University - 10:54:20
4. Teikyo University - 10:54:23
5. Tokyo Kokusai University - 10:54:27
6. Meiji University - 10:54:46
7. Waseda University - 10:57:43
8. Komazawa Unviersity - 10:57:44
9. Soka University - 10:58:17
10. Toyo University - 10:59:11
----- top 10 seeded for 2021 Hakone Ekiden
11. Chuo Gakuin University - 11:01:10
12. Chuo University - 11:03:39
13. Takushoku University - 11:04:28
14. Juntendo University - 11:06:45
15. Hosei University - 11:07:23
16. Kanagawa University - 11:07:26
17. Nittai University - 11:10:32
18. Nihon University - 11:10:37
(non-scoring) Kanto Region Student Alliance Select Team - 11:12:34
19. Kokushikan University - 11:13:33
20. Tsukuba University - 11:16:13

Day Two Team Results
1. Tokai University - 5:23:47 - CR
2. Aoyama Gakuin University - 5:24:07
3. Teikyo University - 5:27:08
4. Meiji University - 5:27:35
5. Waseda University - 5:28:55
6. Tokyo Kokusai University - 5:29:54
7. Toyo University - 5:29:56
8. Komazawa University - 5:30:00
9. Soka University - 5:30:43
10. Koku Gakuin University - 5:31:31
11. Chuo Gakuin University - 5:31:53
12. Chuo University - 5:31:59
13. Kanagawa University - 5:33:15
14. Hosei University - 5:34:23
15. Juntendo University - 5:34:53
16. Kokushikan University - 5:34:56
17. Takushoku University - 5:35:20
18. Nittai University - 5:35:57
19. Kanto Region Student Alliance Select Team - 5:37:40
20. Nihon University - 5:37:44
21. Tsukuba University - 5:38:20

© 2020 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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JBJ said…
Is it possible to estimate the percentage of runners wearing the Vaporfly shoes at Hakone Ekiden this year ?

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