This weekend saw four major ekidens across the country, with Kansai region university men wrapping their seasons in Kyoto and New Year Ekiden qualification coming to a close for corporate men.
At Saturday's Tango University Ekiden, the Kansai region university championships, two-time defending champ Ritsumeikan University got off to a slow start, only 3rd on the lead stage but getting back on track thanks to a 24:29 CR on the 7.7 km Second Stage by Kohei Okada to take the top spot. Ritsumeikan never looked back from there, taking four of the remaining five stages to make it three in a row in 3:34:32. Kwansei Gakuin University, Biwako University, Kyoto University and Kyoto Sangyo University battled it out for 2nd, Kwansei Gakuin ultimately coming out on top in 3:38:14 and Biwako Gakuin, which made its National University Ekiden debut earlier this month, 3rd in 3:40:25.
Sunday saw the last four corporate regions run their New Year Ekiden national championship qualifiers, three on the roads and one on the track. The Chubu Region Corporate Ekiden played out almost exactly the same way as Tango, with defending champ Toyota starting off in 3rd before taking the top spot thanks to a Second Stage CR of 22:36 for 8.3 km by Bedan Karoki, leading the rest of the way with wins on four out of the five remaining stages, and taking 1st in a CR 3:51:19. Again as at Tango, Toyota Boshoku, Aisan Kogyo and Toenec fought a distant duel for 2nd, Toyota Boshoku taking it in 3:54:42 with Aisan Kogyo 9 seconds back.
Toyota's Karoki, a new recruit to the team season after leaving the disbanding DeNA, took 25 seconds off his stage record and looked like he could be the deciding factor in Toyota knocking Asahi Kasei off the top spot at the New Year Ekiden. Also of note was that Toyota's marathoners Yuma Hattori and Taku Fujimoto both sat Chubu out as they get ready for Fukuoka next month.
The Kansai Region Corporate Ekiden saw winner NTT Nishi Nihon lead start to finish, but unlike Tango and Chubu it was a much closer race, only 54 seconds separating NTT from runner-up Sumitomo Denko at race's end, 3:57:01 to 3:57:55. 3rd place SGH Group was another 28 seconds behind. Likewise at the Chugoku Region Corporate Ekiden, Mazda led the entire way but ended up with only a 25-second margin of victory over Chugoku Denryoku and JFE Steel another 6 seconds back in 3rd. Further back, Nihon Seitetsu Setouchi qualified for the New Year Ekiden for the first time in over 20 years.
With only three teams competing, in place of a road ekiden the Hokuriku region opted to do its New Year Ekiden qualifier as a single track 10000 m race this year, with each team scored by the combined times of its seven men. YKK took the qualifying spot, team members Daisuke Hosomori and Vincent Kipkemoi leading the way in 28:44.68 and 28:47.57.
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