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Komazawa University Breaks Izumo Ekiden CR in First Win Since 2013

2021 National University Ekiden champion Komazawa University ran an almost perfect season-opener to win the Izumo Ekiden for the first time since 2013. 2nd after a good run from Kyosuke Hanao on the opening leg, 1500 m U20 NR holder Keita Sato had a big impact in his college ekiden debut, putting Komazawa into 1st and beating 3000 mSC NR holder Ryuji Miura (Juntendo Univ.) by 4 seconds to set a new CR of 15:27 for his 5.8 km stage. 27:23.44 10000 m runner Ren Tazawa and 1:00:40 half marathoner Chikara Yamano were both second on the next two stages, but still extended Komazawa's lead to 33 seconds.

The weakest link on the team, fifth man Taiyo Yasuhara initially lost 12 seconds to his chasers, but on the second half of his stage he turned it around and reopened Komazawa's lead to 44 seconds, winning the stage on time. Critically, that meant anchor Mebuki Suzuki, a 27:41.68 10000 m runner who lost most of the last year to a stress fracture, could afford to play it safely in his comeback run. But even though he never looked to be pushing too hard, Suzuki still scored a stage win to bring Komazawa home to the win in 2:08:32 for the 45.1 km course, 33 seconds under 2022 Hakone Ekiden winner Aoyama Gakuin University's CR.

In its first Izumo in 9 years Chuo University went out in 1st thanks to star junior Yamato Yoshii, but while it couldn't hang on to the lead Chuo was always in the top 3. Over the last three stages it went back and forth with 2019 winner Koku Gakuin University, but KGU anchor Kenzo Ijichi was too strong for Chuo's Shunsuke Yoshii and pulled away in the last 3 km of the stage to finish 2nd in 2:09:24. Ranked 7th pre-race, KGU's performance was the biggest upset of the day. Chuo was 24 seconds behind in 3rd, with AGU only 4th in 2:10:18.

Juntendo couldn't capitalize on Miura's performance on the Second Stage and spent most of the race around 5th. Anchor Shunsuke Shikama was run down by Soka University's Yudai Shimazu, but in a home straight sprint finish Shikama fought him off again, 5th in 2:10:50 to Soka's 2:10:52. Soka's performance came thanks in part to a brilliant CR-breaking run from National University 10000 m champ Philip Mulwa, who ran 23:36 for the 8.5 km Third Stage, 10 seconds under the old CR set by 10000 m NR holder Akira Aizawa.

Hosei University was 7th in 2:11:54, just ahead of defending champ Tokyo Kokusai University, who had problems making up for the absence of Vincent Yegon and could only manage 8th in 2:11:59. Despite a comeback run from 2nd-year Kosuke Ishida, Toyo University was far back in 9th in 2:13:35.

The Kansai Region's Kwansei Gakuin University pulled off its pre-race goal of its first-ever top 10 finish, starting in 4th thanks to a surprisingly great run from 3rd-year Kazuki Moriya and steadily dropping, but managing to hold off Teikyo University for 10th in 2:14:27. Schools from outside the Kanto Region, home of Hakone, are almost never able to beat any of the 10 Kanto programs at Izumo, and when Kwansei anchor Shinnya Nakao came across ahead of Teikyo he and the rest of the team looked as happy at pulling it off as if they had won.

Next up on the university men's circuit is Saturday's Hakone Ekiden Qualifier half marathon in Tokyo, where all the other Kanto Region universities will try to join the 10 teams that ran Izumo in the field at Hakone in January. Three weeks later is the National University Ekiden, where Komazawa will be going for a title defense and a shot at winning the triple crown of Izumo, Nationals and Hakone title in the same season. Head coach Hiroaki Oyagi was optimistic in post-race interviews, saying that Izumo makes different demands from the other ekidens given its short 7.5 km average stage length and that he'd been nervous about where Tazawa and Suzuki were in their fitness, but that the momentum of the win here would motivate the team to carry that through to Nationals.

34th Izumo Ekiden

Izumo, Shimane, 10 Oct. 2022
20 teams, 6 stages, 45.1 km

Top Team Results
1. Komazawa University - 2:08:32 - CR
2. Koku Gakuin University - 2:09:24
3. Chuo University - 2:09:48
4. Aoyama Gakuin University - 2:10:18
5. Juntendo University - 2:10:50
6. Soka University - 2:10:52
7. Hosei University - 2:11:54
8. Tokyo Kokusai University - 2:11:59
9. Toyo University - 2:13:35
10. Kwansei Gakuin University - 2:14:27
11. Teikyo University - 2:15:40
12. Ritsumeikan University - 2:18:09
13. Kantaiheiyo University - 2:18:13
14. Osaka Keizai University - 2:18:19
15. Kogakkan University - 2:18:44
16. Hokkaido Region Select Team - 2:18:51
17. Kansai University - 2:19:24
18. Daiichi Kogyo University - 2:20:42
19. Hokushinetsu Region Select Team - 2:21:17
20. Tohoku Region Select Team - 2:26:09

Top Individual Stage Results
First Stage (8.0 km)
1. Yamato Yoshii (Chuo Univ.) - 22:32
2. Kyosuke Hanao (Komazawa Univ.) - 22:41
3. Masahiro Mekata (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 22:45

Second Stage (5.8 km) 
1. Keita Sato (Komazawa Univ.) - 15:27 - CR
2. Ryuji Miura (Juntendo Univ.) - 15:31 (CR)
3. Tomohiro Chimori (Chuo Univ.) - 15:41 (CR)

Third Stage (8.5 km) 
1. Philip Mulwa (Soka Univ.) - 23:36 - CR
2. Ren Tazawa (Komazawa Univ.) - 23:50
3. Kotaro Kondo (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 23:51

Fourth Stage (6.2 km) 
1. Taiga Nakanishi (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 17:50
2. Chikara Yamano (Komazawa Univ.) - 18:09
3. Haruki Abe (Chuo Univ.) - 18:16

Fifth Stage (6.4 km) 
1. Taiyo Yasuhara (Toyo Univ.) - 19:04
2. Itta Tameike (Chuo Univ.) - 19:14
3. Itsuki Koizumi (Hosei Univ.) - 19:15

Sixth Stage (10.2 km) 
1. Mebuki Suzuki (Komazawa Univ.) - 29:21
2. Kenzo Ichiji (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 29:28
3. Yuito Nakamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:45

© 2022 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

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Rigajags said…
Thanks a lot for the article Brett and for live commentary on Twitter (i am the guy who was asking you questione through first half of the race)

Very good Izumo this season, first 3 stages were intense.

I guess Yoshii has found his dimension by going out fast and breaking the field.
Guess we should expect that again at the all Japan ekiden.

Sato and Miura was a fantastic match up and great debut for the rookie.
Can i ask you if you have data on Izumo second stage in terms of elevation gain like you have for Hakone?
I am asking as Miura/Sato ran a projected 13.30 5k (more or less), was wondering if it's more Downhill or uphill as there were a couple up and down.
Would be great seeing these 2 at It again at All Japan.

Too bad about no yegon but Mulwa keeps getting better and better.

Good to see Ishida back though he is still not close to how he was. Still a step forward compared to the horrible year he had.

Tazawa was also a nice sighting, still not as smooth as last decembre/january.

Team wise komazawa was simply too strong for the event.
Agu will likely build up from now on to peak at Hakone.
Chuo surprised me, very steady, i thought some runners would underperform but they have been very consistent.
Juntendo didnt field Ishii (likely wanted to test Uetani for future events) but they seem build more for longer distances.
KGU very good, we will check TKU and Soka again at the all Japan.
Toyo, still a lot of work to be done.

Can't wait for yosenkai (back in the streets course) and all Japan next months.

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