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Hokkaido's Asahikawa Ryukoku H.S. Builds 330 m Greenhouse Indoor Track



Targeting its sixth-straight win at the Oct. 23 Hokkaido Prefecture High School Girls Ekiden, Asahikawa Ryukoku H.S. has complete construction of the Asahikawa Ryukoku Indoor Track, at 330 m in length the nation's largest running-specific circuit course entirelyely enclosed in vinyl greenhouse material. The ceremony marking the track's official completion is scheduled for Oct. 28th. In a part of the country known for heavy snowfall, the hope is that Asahikawa Ryukoku's new year-round training ground will help it make the jump to becoming a factor at the national level.

The indoor track was built on the 1650 square meter campus of the former Asahikawa Toei H.S., where Asahikawa Ryukoku H.S. will relocate next summer. Coated in durable vinyl, the massive white torus of the track stands out from its surroundings. Ranging from 5.4 m to 7.2 m in width, the track's housing is wide enough to accommodate four lanes. In the future, two lanes will be covered with artificial turf and one lane will have a 100 m segment coated with standard all-weather track surface material. The enclosure's ceiling is 4 m high at its maximum point, creating a spacious area inside. The facility is equipped with a heating system and can be used throughout the year.

Head coach Fumihito Abe, 45, commented, "From what I hear this is the first greenhouse track of this scale in Japan. I want to take advantage of it to overcome the handicap we face by being in a snowy part of the country. We can't lose at the Hokkaido Prefecture High School Ekiden."

Asahikawa can be more than 20˚C below freezing in the winter, but in years past the school's ekiden team has continued to train outdoors even in that kind of bitter cold. For serious runs the ekiden team had to travel to Sapporo to train inside domed stadiums. Coach Abe asked the school administration to build an indoor track as part of its campus relocation. Construction begin in August through the support of Yukio Tanaka, 72, a senior director of the Northern Hokkaido Athletics Association, head of a building company that handles greenhouse construction and civil engineering work, and friend of the school. 

Team members who did test runs on the track were impressed. Senior captain Sakura Ishibashi said, ”This will be a great place to train without having to worry about wind or snow. We're all super grateful and want to show our thanks by succeeding." Star senior Kanan Tarisawa was also excited about the track, saying, "It feels bright an open inside, and that makes it easy to run in. After we win the Hokkaido race we'll be training here to break our school record of 19th at Nationals." 

Response to the new track has been great. When coach Abe posted a video of the new track on the team's official Twitter account it got likes from Tokyo Olympians Yuki Koike and Haruka Kitaguchi, as well as two-time Olympic marathon medalist Yuko Arimori. In the future the track will be opened to other school sports teams, area clubs and local residents. In a land of deep snowfall it is sure to become an important community-based sports facility.

© 2021 Fumihito Abe, all rights reserved

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translated by Brett Larner

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