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Kanagawa Wins National University Ekiden Kanto Region Qualifier

Home to Japan's best university men's distance running teams, the Tokyo area held its qualifier for November's National University Men's Ekiden Sunday at Sagamihara Gion Stadium in rural Kanagawa. 20 teams of 8 runners each competed for 7 spots available at Nationals, with 2 runners from each team running in 4 heats of 10000 m and teams scored on their 8 runners' total times. For the first time, 3 of the 4 heats had winning times under 29 minutes, making it the highest-level edition in event history.

Tokai University, Toyo University and Soka University were the favorites to take the top 3 spots, with at least 9 teams in contention for the remaining 4. Tokai was strong out of the gate, 2nd-year Hibiki Yoshida running a PB 28:59.50 to win Heat 1 by over 45 seconds. Toyo's Ren Umezaki was 3rd in 29:49.77 and Soka's Kaiya Yokoyama 5th in 29:50.51, and interspersed between them in a sign of things to come were Kanagawa University 1st-year Haruto Miyamoto and Daito Bunka University's Yugo Nishidai.

DBU's Peter Wanjiru, the only Kenyan athlete not to run in Heat 4, beat Toyo duo Takaya Kumazaki and Keishun Kushima to win Heat 2 in 28:48.57, and with a PB from its other runner Yukihiro Otani DBU was in an unexpectedly strong position halfway through the meet. Tokai and Soka dropped, neither Tokai runner clearing 30 minutes and Soka's Ryo Yoshida running only 30:24.01.

Heat 3 was the slowest, but it had another DBU runner, 4th-year Haruto Ono, out front with a 29:41.26 for the win. Kanagawa's Atsuki Kobayashi and Atsushi Utsuno took 2nd and 5th, while Tokai and Toyo took hits with their 2nd runners both over 30 minutes. Kanagawa led the team standings after the 3rd race, with only 25 seconds separating 5th and 9th.

Soka 4th-year Philip Mulwa took Heat 4 out hard, leading a pack of 9 Kenyans from different schools to win in 28:21.68. Post-race Mulwa was happy, saying he'd been injured post-Hakone and that the win in his first race this season gave him a good idea of where he stands in his fitness. He had more reason to be happy when teammate Yudai Shimazu came home in 29:06.39, sealing Soka's first-ever Nationals appearance.

Boniface Mulwa of Yamanashi Gakuin University was 2nd in 28:38.56 and Peter Kamau of Kokushikan University 3rd in 28:44.66. Toyo's Kazuki Matsuyama was the top Japanese man at 5th in 28:52.36, leading the chase pack behind Mulwa's fast early pace and stopping a breakaway challenge from Tokai's Yuto Kajitani.

When the team scores were in Kanagawa was the surprise winner in 3:57:35.80 by less than 18 seconds, not winning any individual races but the only team with all 8 runners under 30 minutes. Toyo, a top-tier team running the qualifier for the first time in 14 years after a bad race at Nationals last year, was 2nd, with fellow pre-race favorites Soka and Tokai going 3-4 and DBU a solid 5th 25 seconds behind Tokai. Chuo Gakuin University was 6th, with Nihon University beating Josai University by 40 seconds to take the final qualifying spot. Nihon Yakka University was a rare DNF when Kenyan 4th-year Noah Kiplimo slowed to a walk, then dropped out of Heat 4. All 7 teams qualifying teams now join the 8 other Tokyo-area schools that filled the podium at last year's Nationals and the best from the rest of the country at November's main event.

54th National University Men's Ekiden Kanto Region Qualifier

Sagamihara Gion Stadium, Kanagawa, 19 June, 2022
team scores are cumulative times for 8x10000 m

Team Results - top 7 qualify for Nationals
1. Kanagawa University - 3:57:35.80
2. Toyo University - 3:57:54.30
3. Soka University - 3:58:09.99
4. Tokai University - 3:58:10.86
5. Daito Bunka University - 3:58:36.05
6. Chuo Gakuin University - 3:58:48.82
7. Nihon University - 3:59:04.40
8. Josai University - 3:59:44.33
9. Teikyo University - 4:00:05.07
10. Kokushikan University - 4:00:32.79
11. Rikkyo University - 4:01:03.46
12. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 4:01:08.38
13. Surugadai University - 4:01:19.69
14. Hosei University - 4:03:00.70
15. Nittai University - 4:05:07.57
16. Senshu University - 4:05:25.59
17. Jobu University - 4:06:42.50
18. Takushoku University - 4:08:18.49
19. Tokyo Nogyo University - 4:08:57.35
DNF - Nihon Yakka University

Individual Results
Heat 1
1. Hibiki Yoshida (2nd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 28:59.50 - PB
2. Haruto Miyamoto (1st yr., Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:45.40
3. Ren Umezaki (2nd yr., Toyo Univ.) - 29:49.77
4. Yugo Nishidai (2nd yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 29:50.12 - PB
5. Kaiya Yokoyama (4th yr., Soka Univ.) - 29:50.51

Heat 2
1. Peter Wanjiru (2nd yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 28:48.57
2. Takaya Kumazaki (3rd yr., Toyo Univ.) - 29:29.31
3. Keishun Kushima (3rd yr., Toyo Univ.) - 29:41.49
4. Kaito Suetsugu (3rd yr., Teikyo Univ.) - 29:46.86
5. Shota Shimazaki (4th yr., Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:49.84

Heat 3
1. Haruto Ono (4th yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 29:41.26
2. Atsuki Kobayashi (3rd yr., Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:44.53
3. Daisuke Kuwata (3rd yr., Soka Univ.) - 29:45.45
4. Tatsuya Matsuoka (4th yr., Nihon Univ.) - 29:45.99
5. Atsushi Utsuno (3rd yr., Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:47.29

Heat 4
1. Philip Mulwa (4th yr., Soka Univ.) - 28:21.68
2. Boniface Mulwa (4th yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:38.56
3. Peter Kamau (2nd yr., Kokushikan Univ.) - 28:44.66
4. Godfrey Musanga (1st yr., Surugadai Univ.) - 28:47.58 - PB
5. Kazuki Matsuyama (3rd yr., Toyo Univ.) - 28:52.36
6. Toru Kubota (3rd yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 28:53.61
7. Yuto Kajitani (2nd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 28:57.56
8. Reishi Yoshida (2nd yr., Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 28:58.47
9. Ryosuke Yamasaki (4th yr., Kanagawa Univ.) - 28:58.74 - PB
10. Charles Ndungu (4th yr., Nihon Univ.) - 28:58.75

© 2022 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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