The return of the legendary Ageo City Half Marathon was the biggest news this weekend, but high-level races were happening on the road and track across the country. On the roads, this season's top non-Kanto Region program Kwansei Gakuin University toppled four-time winner Ritsumeikan University to take the top spot at the 84th Tango University Ekiden Saturday in Kyoto. The season ender for Kansai Region schools, Tango saw 22 teams racing 84.5 km in 8 stages. Ritsumeikan led early with a stage win by first runner Yuta Nagasawa before being overtaken by Kansai University on the second leg. Kwansei Gakuin hovered in the top 3 until the 12.3 km Fifth Stage, where 4th-year Sota Ueda wrapped his college career by breaking his own stage record with a new mark of 35:18 to put KGU into the lead. That's where they stayed for the rest of the race, winning in 4:16:01.
The battle for 2nd was intense over the 11.7 km anchor stage. Kyoto Sangyo University overtook Kansai for 2nd, but with Ritsumeikan only 6 seconds behind in 4th at the start of the final leg it went right down to the end. Ritsumeikan anchor Kota Yamasaki proved the strongest of the three, putting Ritsumeikan into the runner-up spot in 4:18:27 by 9 seconds over Kyoto Sangyo and another 38 over Kansai.
One of Japan's biggest marathons returned Sunday as the Kobe Marathon saw 19,458 finishers in its first post-pandemic edition. It was a Kenyan double in the elite end of the race. Elkanah Langat took the men's race in 2:12:47, dropping Japan-based Benard Kimani (Comodi Iida), Clement Langat and Shunpei Oda (Komanechi RC) over the first 30 km to win by 40 seconds. Veteran Junichi Tsubouchi (Kurosaki Harima) came from over two minutes behind at halfway to run Oda down for 4th and top Japanese honors in 2:18:36.
67-minute half marathoner Sharon Kemboi took the women's race in 2:29:13 in her debut, dropping Ugandan Immaculate Chemutai after halfway for the win. 2022 Hokkaido Marathon winner Haruka Yamaguchi (AC Kita) doubled back from a win at the Chiba Aqualine Marathon two weeks ago, starting conservatively with an opening 5 km split a minute slower than Kemboi and Chemutai's but catching the Ugandan around 32 km for 2nd in 2:35:19. After getting caught Chemutai lost four and a half minutes to Yamaguchi, taking 3rd in 2:39:41.
Yamaguchi's friend and rival Shiho Kaneshige (GRlab) was racing in Tokyo at the same time, where she ran 1:14:43 for her third-straight win at the Minato City Half Marathon. Men's winner Taichi Iino (Hiramatsu Byoin) made it two in a row for himself with a 1:05:31 course record.
Also Sunday in Tokyo, the Kanto Region University Time Trials meet returned to the new Olympic Stadium for the first time since the demolition of the old Olympic Stadium after years in exile at Kanagawa's Keio University Field. With ten heats of men's 10000 m on the program it was the lone women's 10000 m heat that proved the highlight of the night.
Top three Tomo Muramatsu (Ritsumeikan Univ.), Rio Einaga (Osaka Gakuin Univ.) and Yui Komatsu (Matsuyama Univ.) all ran PBs to finish within 0.49 of each other, Muramatsu taking the top spot in 32:27.29, Einaga next in 32:27.40 and Komatsu 3rd in 32:38.45. 4th and 5th placers Nanase Tanimoto (Meijo Univ.) and Hikaru Kitagawa (Osaka Geijutsu Univ.) were also under 33 minutes, making it one of the better collegiate women's 10000 m races in recent years. 3000 mSC university NR holder Reimi Yoshimura (Daito Bunka Univ.) was 14th in 33:59.99 in her debut at the distance, announcing post-race that she plans to relocate to the U.S. after graduating in the spring to pursue a career as a pro athlete instead of going the corporate league route.
Victor Kimutai (Josai Univ.) delivered the fastest time in the men's races, winning Heat 10 in a PB 28:35.74 by almost 5 seconds over Taisei Kiyono (Surugadai Univ.). Komazawa University's #1 half marathoner Chikara Yamano gave Ageo a miss to focus on the 10000 m instead, running 28:40.90 for 3rd. The top 12 in the fast heat all cleared 29 minutes.
Things were a little faster at Saturday's Chugoku Corporate Time Trials meet in Hiroshima, where Yamanashi Gakuin University grad Dominic Nyairo Omare (NTT Nishi Nihon) won the fastest men's heat in 28:22.09. The top 7 in that heat all broke 29 minutes, but a little more notable was Heat 2 where Ryuichi Yoshioka (Kyushu Univ.) won in 28:57.58, a rare sub-29 from a non-Kanto Region collegian. The women's 5000 m was an intramural workout-level performance by the Tenmaya corporate team, with Olympic marathoner Honami Maeda leading the team's five finishers in a conservative 16:04.47.
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