The town of Kokonoe, Oita canceled the 28th Kokonoe Kyushu Invitational High School Ekiden on Sept. 24 after athletes were stung by killer hornets and the nest could not be removed. The ekiden had been previously canceled due to typhoons and the coronavirus pandemic, but it was the first time in its history that it was canceled because of killer hornets.
According to the town's Board of Education, 18 boys' teams from schools from the prefectures in Kyushu and from Tokushima Prefecture had been invited by organizers to run the ekiden, a 7-stage, 42.195 km race around the Kokonoe countryside. While practicing on the course the day before the race, a total of 22 high school athletes from teams located in Fukuoka, Saga, Miyazaki and Kagoshima were attacked and stung by killer hornets. At least 3 athletes from Miyazaki and Kagoshima were taken to the hospital for treatment, but there were no serious injuries.
After the incident was reported, town officials investigated and located a nest in a forest along the course. The hornets had built the nest in the cracks in a tree trunk, making it difficult to completely remove. As a result, officials made the decision to cancel the race. Following one cancelation due to a typhoon and two due to the pandemic, it was the fourth time the race has been canceled since it began in 1996.
A spokesperson from the Board of Education commented, "We had the scouted the course in advance but didn't notice the hornet nest. We would like to apologize to all the high schoolers who had been looking forward to running our race." The cancelation was announced at 8:00 p.m. on the 23rd, and some people came to watch the next morning unaware the race was not going to take place.
Translator's note: This incident follows the cancelation of a Kagawa Prefecture high school ekiden in 2020 after the area along part of the course was invaded by wild boars. Killer hornet attacks have occurred at other Japanese races in the past.
translated by Brett Larner