Monday, October 12, 2015

Aoyama Gakuin University Smashes Izumo Ekiden Course Record (updated)

by Brett Larner

Despite missing its best runner, 2015 Hakone Ekiden course record setter Aoyama Gakuin University delivered a thrilling anchor stage win over defending champion Komazawa University to win the 2015 Izumo Ekiden in a course record 2:09:05.

For almost the entire race, returning after a typhoon-induced cancellation last year with a 45.1 km course 600 m longer than Komazawa's 2:09:11 course record win version in 2013, Aoyama Gakuin and Komazawa dueled head to head for the title in the first of the Big Three University Ekidens, the crown jewels of Japan's racing schedule.  Komazawa's Keisuke Nakatani, this year's World University Games 10000 m bronze medalist, went to his limit against AGU rival Yusuke Ogura, the World University Games half marathon gold medalist, beating him by 15 seconds to put Komazawa well ahead on the 8.0 km First Stage.  Komazawa's second man Kenya Sonota extended the lead to 24 seconds over the day's shortest run, the 5.8 km Second Stage, but ultra-reliable AGU senior Kazuma Kubota turned it around on the 8.5 km Third Stage with a course record 24:11 to run down Komazawa's Naoki Kudo, 3rd at last year's Ageo City Half Marathon.  Kubota's version of the stage included the 600 m addition to the course, meaning that translated to the old 7.9 km length his time was equivalent to 22:29, 7 seconds under the old course record held by sub-1:01 half marathoner Kenta Murayama, then of Komazawa.

Komazawa's fourth man Shota Baba cut down AGU's lead from 5 seconds to 1 second over the 6.2 km stage against Yuta Shimoda, the fastest-ever Japanese 18-year-old half marathoner after a 1:02:22 PB at March's National University Half Marathon Championships, setting up a thrilling final two stages.  On the 6.4 km Fifth Stage Komazawa's Yusuke Nishiyama was far ahead of AGU's Shun Yamamura on paper, but Yamamura stayed locked to Nishiyama stride for stride, only 2 seconds slower by stage's end.  Kubota earned most respect for his MVP-quality performance, but Yamamura deserves almost as much credit for running well beyond his potential to keep AGU right at the front.

With just a 3 second lead, Komazawa anchor Shohei Otsuka, a 28:34.31 runner over 10000 m on the track, faced 2015 National University Half Marathon champion and World University Games half marathon silver medalist Tadashi Isshiki, 28:23.40 for 10000 m, over the 10.2 Sixth Stage.  Isshiki quickly closed the gap to Otsuka, and through halfway the pair ran close together.  Immediately after crossing halfway Isshiki threw down, gapping Otsuka and never looking back.

Isshiki sailed on solo to cross the finish line in 2:09:05, 6 seconds better than Komazawa's 2013 course record despite a course 600 m longer.  Scaling it to the old 44.5 km course AGU's time was equivalent to 2:07:22, almost two minutes better than Komazawa's old record and mirroring the stunning quality of its record-setting win at January's Hakone Ekiden, even without star member Daichi Kamino.

Otsuka flailed after losing ground on Isshiki, dropping in pace as behind him Kenyan first-year Dominic Nyairo, a replacement for ailing Yamanashi Gakuin University fourth-year Enock Omwamba, gained ground.  With less than than a kilometer to go Nyairo overtook Otsuka for 2nd, bringing much consternation to Komazawa head coach Hiroaki Oyagi.  Thanks in part to Nyairo, whose 28:41 stage-winning time was faster than his track 10000 m best of 28:11.49, Yamanashi Gakuin, sporting a young team of mostly first and second-years, took 2nd 38 seconds back from AGU in 2:09:43, Komazawa another 7 seconds back in 2:09:50.  Along with AGU, both schools' times were under the old course record when adjusted for the extra 600 m.

Top three contender schools Toyo University, Tokai University and Waseda University took 4th through 6th, with Chuo Gakuin University outrunning the strong Meiji University for 7th thanks to a 15:51 course record for the 5.8 km Second Stage run by this year's 3000 m steeplechase national champion Hironori Tsuetaki.  Toyo and Tokai joined the top three in breaking the old course record on adjusted time, an indication of the both the high quality of the field and the luck of many of the best schools to be racing head to head throughout the entire ekiden.

With lead off runner Sam Pons running 23:20, faster than the stage winning time the last two Izumo Ekidens but only good enough for 9th this year, the American Ivy League Select Team ran in 11th through most of the race before unexpectedly returning to 9th thanks to a strong run from anchor James Leakos.  Kyoto Sangyo University scored a moral victory of sorts with a 10th-place finish, outrunning Kanto region schools Daito Bunka University and Josai University to finish as the best non-Kanto school in Japan.

University ekiden season continues on Saturday with the Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai qualifying race in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park.  AGU, Komazawa and the top Kanto region schools will next meet up at the Nov. 1 National University Ekiden.  After such a dominant performance there's little doubt that AGU is well on its way to a rare triple crown win this season.

27th Izumo Ekiden
Izumo, Shimane, 10/12/15
21 teams, 6 stages, 45.1 km
click here for complete results

Top Team Results
1. Aoyama Gakuin University - 2:09:05 - CR
2. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 2:09:43
3. Komazawa University - 2:09:50
4. Toyo University - 2:10:40
5. Tokai University - 2:10:55
6. Waseda University - 2:12:06
7. Chuo Gakuin University - 2:12:32
8. Meiji University - 2:12:53
9. Ivy League Select Team - 2:15:20
10. Kyoto Sangyo University - 2:15:24

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (8.0 km)
1. Keisuke Nakatani (Komazawa Univ.) - 22:34
2. Yusuke Ogura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 22:49
3. John Kariuki (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 22:51
9. Sam Pons (Ivy League) - 23:20

Second Stage (5.8 km)
1. Hironori Tsuetaki (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 15:51 - CR
2. Kenya Sonota (Komazawa Univ.) - 15:59
3. Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 16:03
13. Tyler Udland (Ivy League) - 16:57

Third Stage (8.5 km)
1. Kazuma Kubota (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 24:11 - CR
2. Hazuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 24:13
3. Takaya Sato (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 24:38
14. Chris Bendtsen (Ivy League) - 26:10

Fourth Stage (6.2 km)
1. Ryo Kuchimachi (Toyo Univ.) - 17:49
2. Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 17:56
3. Kazuma Taira (Waseda Univ.) - 18:01
10. Alejandro Arroyo Yamin (Ivy League) - 18:38

Fifth Stage (6.4 km)
1. Yusuke Nishiyama (Komazawa Univ.) - 18:34
2. Shun Yamamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 18:36
3. Shunya Nomura (Toyo Univ.) - 18:41
10. Will Geiken (Ivy League) - 19:39

Sixth Stage (10.2 km)
1. Dominic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:41
2. Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:11
3. Yasutaka Ishibashi (Tokai Univ.) - 29:53
7. James Leakos (Ivy League) - 30:36

Alternates' 5000 m
1. Kazuma Tashiro (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 14:02.86
2. Jeffrey Mukule (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 14:06.66
3. Tatsuhiko Hori (Toyo Univ.) - 14:07.26
23. George Galasso (Ivy League) - 15:03.86

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Chicago Marathon - Japanese Results

by Brett Larner
photo by Dr. Helmut Winter

2013 World Championships bronze medalist and half marathon national record holder Kayoko Fukushi (Team Wacoal) ran arguably her most confident marathon to date in Chicago, hanging with the lead pack throughout the race and doing her share of pushing the tempo but ultimately unable to handle winner Florence Kiplagat's big move.  Kiplagat took the win in 2:23:33 over Ethiopian Yebrgual Melese, with Fukushi coming up just short of Ethiopian Birhane Dibaba, 2:24:24 to 2:24:25, just 4 seconds off Fukushi's best from Osaka Women's two years ago.  Contemporary Japanese women's marathoning being what it is, Fukushi's time was still good for #2 this year behind the 2:22:48 run by Sairi Maeda (Daihatsu) in Nagoya in March.

Chicago Marathon
Chicago, U.S.A., 10/11/15
click here for complete results

1. Florence Kiplagat (Kenya) - 2:23:33
2. Yebrgual Melese (Ethiopia) - 2:23:43
3. Birhane Dibaba (Ethiopia) - 2:24:24
4. Kayoko Fukushi (Japan/Wacoal) - 2:24:25
5. Mulu Seboka (Ethiopia) - 2:24:40

1. Dickson Chumba (Kenya) - 2:09:25
2. Sammy Kitwara (Kenya) - 2:09:50
3. Samuel Ndungu (Kenya) - 2:10:06
4. Girmay Birhanu (Ethiopia) - 2:10:07
5. Luke Puskedra (U.S.A.) - 2:10:24
21. Satoshi Yoshii (Japan/Juhachi Ginko) - 2:20:33
22. Shogo Kanezawa (Japan/Chugoku Denryoku) - 2:20:40

photo (c) 2015 Dr. Helmut Winter, all rights reserved
text (c) 2015 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Sunday, October 11, 2015

A Battle of Champions - Izumo Ekiden Preview

by Brett Larner

The road ahead awaits.  Back after a typhoon-induced cancellation last year, the Izumo Ekiden kicks off the 2015-16 university men's ekiden season on Oct. 12.  Short and sweet with six stages averaging 7.5 km, Izumo is an indication of things to come in the buildup to the biggest of them all, January's season-ending Hakone Ekiden.

2015 Hakone winner Aoyama Gakuin University and defending Izumo champion Komazawa University are the clear favorites, with preceding champs Toyo University and Waseda University and darkhorse Yamanashi Gakuin University conceivably in the game.  Back again this year, the Ivy League Select Team fields a lineup that could see it equal its best-ever 8th-place finish if all goes perfectly.

No typhoon is on the horizon, but the forecast does call for strong winds straight out of the west, meaning a tailwind on the first half of the course and a powerful headwind in the second half.  In the pre-race coaches' press conference almost all the top teams' coaches indicated that they had stacked their teams accordingly with their best runners on the first three stages, meaning a blazing fast pace early on shifting to more strength-oriented runners through the back half.

2015 World University Games half marathon gold medalist Yusuke Ogura leads off on the 8.0 km First Stage for AGU ranked #1, but apart from Kenyan John Kariuki, the one hit on Kyushu's Daiichi Kogyo University team, Ogura's main competition is 2015 World University Games 10000 m bronze medalist Keisuke Nakatani of Komazawa.  Waseda, Toyo and YGU will likely all be struggling to hang on to this lead trio as Ogura and Nakatani battle it out for pride.

30 km collegiate national record holder Yuma Hattori should make up whatever deficit Toyo has on the 5.8 km Second Stage, the day's shortest, where he has a clear advantage over Komazawa's Kenya Sonota and AGU's Yuki Nakamura.  Also likely to make up ground is this year's 3000 mSC national champion Hironori Tsuetaki, who AGU head coach Susumu Hara recently called the strongest current Japanese collegiate athlete.

AGU's Kazuma Kubota leads the 8.5 km Third Stage on paper and, given his past reliability, should be a key player for the team's chances.  Komazawa's Naoki Kudo and Toyo's Hazuma Hattori don't look Kubota's equal on paper, but since his breakthrough at last year's Ageo City Half Marathon Kudo has quickly risen to become the most aggressive Japanese collegiate on the circuit right now, while Hattori delivered a stunning win over all the Kenyan favorites at last month's National University Championships 5000 m and has yet to have the opportunity to do the same over longer distances.  If Hattori is not in the lead when he takes the tasuki from his holder brother look for him to kick someone down at the end.  The Ivy League's Chris Bendtsen is ranked third on the Third Stage, the best pre-race ranking on anyone on the team, and could also make up some ground into the top eight after the first two stages.

From there things get more unpredictable given the impending effects of the wind.  Komazawa's Shota Baba is the likely favorite, but despite his relatively slow track times AGU's Yuta Shimoda shouldn't be ignored.  Although he wasn't good enough to make AGU's 2015 Hakone-winning team just two months later Shimoda ran 1:02:22 at the National University Half Marathon Championships, the best-ever by a Japanese 18-year-old.  It could be time for him to break through on the ekiden circuit.

Komazawa and AGU lead the Fifth Stage, where runners will be plowing straight into the wind the entire way without interruption.  On the 10.2 km Sixth Stage, the day's last and longest, AGU has 2015 National University Half Marathon champion and World University Games half marathon silver medalist Tadashi Isshiki versus Komazawa's Shohei Otsuka, 11 seconds slower than Isshiki over 10000 m on the track.  Faster than both of them is YGU first-year Dominic Nyairo, a fill-in for ailing fourth-year Enock Omwamba.  At a recent time trial meet YGU had five men run sub-14 for 5000 m, most for the first time, so despite the absence of its best Japanese man Kazuma Tashiro if the YGU team lives up to head coach Kiyoshi Ueda's expectations of a strong team performance and Nyairo is anywhere near in range of the leaders look for him to make it an exciting hunt for the top in the final kilometers.

JRN will be on-site at the Izumo Ekiden covering the race live on Twitter @JRNLive and @JRNHeadlines, and after the fact for Meter magazine and Ivy League sponsor Tracksmith.  If you are in Japan watch the race live on Fuji TV starting at 1:05 p.m.  Check back post-race for exclusive coverage.

27th Izumo Ekiden Start List Highlights
Izumo, Shimane, 10/12/15

First Stage - 8.0 km
Yusuke Ogura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:55.97 / 28:27.73
John Kariuki (Daiichi Kogyo Univ.) - 13:54.07 / 28:29.87
Keisuke Nakatani (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:38.08 / 28:30.52
Shin Kimura (Meiji Univ.) - 13:51.76 / 28:37.33
Kazuto Kawabata (Tokai Univ.) - 13:49.33 / 28:44.71
Daisuke Uekado (Kyoto Sangyo Univ.) - 14:19.91 / 28:48.22
Jinnosuke Matsumura (Josai Univ.) - 13:50.63 / 28:57.47
Rintaro Takeda (Waseda Univ.) - 13:58.83 / 29:04.20
Naoya Takahashi (Toyo Univ.) - 13:59.10 / 29:06.60
Ryutaro Ichitani (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 13:51.46 / 29:15.14
Sam Pons (Ivy League) - 14:14.55 / 29:17.54

Second Stage - 5.8 km
Yuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 13:36.76
Hironori Tsuetaki (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 13:42.16
Toshiyuki Yanagi (Waseda Univ.) - 13:47.96
Kenya Sonota (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:50.14
Haruki Minatoya (Tokai Univ.) - 13:54.07
Shogo Hata (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 13:55.69
Yuki Nakamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:57.40
Tyler Udland (Ivy League) - 13:58.52

Third Stage - 8.5 km
Kazuma Kubota (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 13:49.27 / 28:30.78
Takaya Sato (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 13:53.15 / 28:46.02
Chris Bendtsen (Ivy League) - 13:57.46 / 28:49.08
Shinichiro Nakamura (Waseda Univ.) - 13:54.09 / 28:52.80
Naoki Kudo (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:52.97 / 28:54.40
Hazuma Hattori (Toyo Univ.) - 13:38.45 / 28:55.31
Keita Shioya (Chuo Gakuin Univ.) - 14:00.21 / 28:59.55
Chihaya Kasuga (Tokai Univ.) - 13:52.92 / 29:33.34

Fourth Stage - 6.2 km
Kazuma Taira (Waseda Univ.) - 13:45.74 / 29:07.12
Yuki Muta (Meiji Univ.) - 13:47.58 / 28:43.20
Shota Baba (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:57.25 / 28:37.21
Ryo Kuchimachi (Toyo Univ.) - 13:58.16 / 29:13.64
Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 13:58.85 / 28:48.92
Alejandro Arroyo Yamin (Ivy League) - 13:59.21 / 29:19.08
Yuki Hirota (Tokai Univ.) - 14:05.55 / 28:44.34
Yuta Shimoda (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 14:06.85 / 29:12.92

Fifth Stage - 6.4 km
Yusuke Nishiyama (Komazawa Univ.) - 13:57.04 / 28:58.01
Shun Yamamura (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 14:00.06 / 29:13.05
Ryota Tanaka (Meiji Univ.) - 14:01.10 / 29:49.23
Ryunosuke Hayashi (Tokai Univ.) - 14:07.23 / 29:43.44
Tomoki Kawamura (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 14:07.34 / 29:29.77
Will Geiken (Ivy League) - 14:16.99 / 29:47.91

Sixth Stage - 10.2 km
Dominic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:11.49
Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:23.40
Shohei Otsuka (Komazawa Univ.) - 28:34.31
Yasutaka Ishibashi (Tokai Univ.) - 28:52.69
Koki Ido (Waseda Univ.) - 28:54.84
James Leakos (Ivy League) - 29:26.83

text and photos (c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Kawauchi Breaks Kitakami Marathon Course Record - "This Was a Good Race"

translated by Brett Larner

Civil servant runner Yuki Kawauchi (28, Saitama Pref. Gov't) won the Kitakami Marathon in Iwate today, smashing the course record with a mark of 2:13:21.  "This year I haven't been able to run good times because of my injury problems," he said.  "This is the first time in a long time that I've been able to run like myself.  This was a good race.  I was targeting 2:14, so I think running 2:13 was very good."

Despite heavy rain and a tough, hilly course Kawauchi ran with strength, picking up the pace over the second half.  Lingering effects of the ankle sprain he suffered last December were nowhere to be seen.  2nd place was 7 minutes behind.  The Rio Olympics lie ahead.  "Before that," he said, "there are the selection races.  I've been feeling a lot of anxiety about them, but today, without any pace makers, I ran my best time this season, so I'm confident I can perform in my selection race too."

Including the 5 km and 10 km division, a total of 3088 people took part in the Kitakami Marathon.

Translator's note: This was Kawauchi's second-fastest marathon of 2015, his fastest having come in April at the Zurich Marathon where he ran 2:12:13 for 2nd.

Thursday, October 8, 2015

Hakone Ekiden Champ Aoyama Gakuin University Student Managers Run 42.195 km to Check Course Before Full-Team Training Run

by Shizuka Kaneshima
translated by Brett Larner

2015 Hakone Ekiden champion Aoyama Gakuin University wrapped up its primary training camp for the upcoming Big Three University Ekiden season with its annual 42.195 km team run.  Surprisingly, even team members not even considering doing a marathon were smiling and laughing as they ran.  Making it possible behind the scenes of this unique training run were the preparation and support of the team's student managers.

Their hard work started the day before this annual tradition took place.  While the team's runners had lunch and rested up for that evening's practice session the managers gathered in front of the team's lodgings.  For some reason they looked unhappy.  "We're going to go run the course now to check it out," third-year Ibuki Yoshida said.  This was the fourth year that the team was doing the 42.195 km run.  The course was the same every year.  Why did they need to go see it again?  "We have to check whether there are any potholes or whether any of the kilometer mark signs on the side of the road are missing," he said.  No kidding.  But if you want to check for trouble spots why not do it by bicycle?  There's no need for everyone to run it, right?  "Well," laughed Yoshida, "there's kind of silent peer pressure from the runners that we should have to enjoy suffering like they do too."

All five male student managers are former runners, but all have been off running for different amounts of time.  The longest-serving among them, fourth-year Hitoshi Mine, has been a manager for two years.  Yoshida became a manager after the Hakone Ekiden in January this year and has mostly not run since then.  Team captain Daichi Kamino smiled down from a window in the team's rooms as the five started their long slog over the course.  As they ground it out, the team's female student managers were also busy getting ready for the main workout.  Head coach Susumu Hara had said, "Just 35 or 40 km is not good enough.  Even if it's not official it's very important to actually cover the actual full marathon distance."  Taking that to heart, the women used a measuring device to count off exactly 195 m, stretching a roll of toilet paper across the mark as a finish line tape. 

Back out on the roads, early on in the male managers' run they were smiling and waving.  According to leader Ryo Uchimura, a fourth-year, "Hitoshi was the most energetic one when we started, but he was the first one to die."  3 hours and 45 minutes after they started all five finished the run more or less on schedule.  Yoshida slumped to the ground and had trouble making it up the steps back inside the team's residence.  He and the other four were all filled with a deep sense of accomplishment after finishing the workout a day earlier than the athletes on the team, but the female managers were quick to yank them back to reality.  "Hey, you have to work tomorrow too, so get it together and stop sitting around!" they scolded the men.

Truth.  Making sure that all the runners on the team could safely complete the full marathon distance the next day was one of the managers' biggest responsibilities.  Uchimura was scheduled to lead the runners by bicycle with the other four male managers covering drink station duties, handing off bottles to the large pack of athletes running 4:00/km pace at every station.

The next morning, sure enough, Yoshida was in a world of hurt.  "I can't move my legs..." he moaned before the decision was made to leave him behind at the accommodations.  "If you can't work for the main workout then why are you even here?" the female managers said as they shot him icy cold glares.  In his absence one of the women with no experience as a runner struggled to fill his place, gasping for breath as she paced the team's men at water stations to get their bottles to them.

When their run was finished the entire team posed for a memorial picture while their heightened sense of unity was still fresh and vital.  They asked me to take the picture.  A sea of smiles just as fresh and vital.  But I couldn't help thinking, "I'd like to ask all the managers to be in this picture too."

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

High Schooler Shimada 9:01.87 to Win National Sports Festival Junior Women's 3000 m

by Brett Larner
videos by Ekiden News

Just over a week after breaking into both the all-time Japanese junior and high school girls’ 3000 m top ten with a 9:01.23 best at Saitama’s Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, 2015 National High School Championships 3000 m runner-up Miho Shimada (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) was back with another big run to cap the 2015 National Sports Festival at Wakayama’s Kimiidera Park Field on Oct. 6.

After a slow 3:10 opening 1000 m Shimada effortlessly pulled away, dueling with Kenyan Monica Margaret (Aomori Yamada H.S.) as she pushed the pace well under 3:00/km.  Shimada's relentless attack was enough for the win in 9:01.87 just off her fresh new best, Margaret dropping nearly 3 seconds behind for 2nd in 9:04.55. National High School Championships 4th-placer Shinobu Koyoshigawa (Sera H.S.) moved up one spot to take 3rd in 9:14.34, while National High School champion Nana Kuraoka (Kagoshima Joshi H.S.) could manage only 10th in 9:24.72.

The junior boys’ 3000 m was much closer, with the top three finishing within 0.75 seconds of each other.  Haruki Nago (Kurashiki H.S.), whose team won the season-opening Nihonkai High School Boys Ekiden just two days earlier, emerged from the melee to win in 8:23.19 over Taiki Inoue (Suma Gakuen H.S.) and Kosei Tanaka (Kobayashi H.S.).

National Sports Festival
Kimiidera Park Field, Wakayama, Oct. 2-6, 2015
click here for complete results

Junior Women’s 3000 m
1. Miho Shimada (Yamanashi Gakuin Prep H.S.) – 9:01.87
2. Monica Margaret (Aomori Yamada H.S.) - 9:04.55
3. Shinobu Koyoshigawa (Sera H.S.) – 9:14.34
4. Naruha Sato (Eda H.S.) – 9:14.60
5. Rika Kaseda (Narita H.S.) – 9:16.35
6. Kanami Sagayama (Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S.) – 9:17.58
7. Hana Omori (Kojokan H.S.) – 9:17.80
8. Ryo Koido (Meisui H.S.) – 9:19.87
9. Wakana Kabasawa (Tokiwa H.S.) – 9:23.27
10. Nana Kuraoka (Kagoshima Joshi H.S.) – 9:24.72

Junior Men’s 3000 m
1. Haruki Nago (Kurashiki H.S.) – 8:23.19
2. Taiki Inoue (Suma Gakuen H.S.) – 8:23.89
3. Kosei Tanaka (Kobayashi H.S.) – 8:23.94
4. Chihiro Ono (Tsurusaki Kogyo H.S.) – 8:27.41
5. Koki Ishida (Sapporo Yamanote H.S.) – 8:28.56

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

First of the Big Three - Izumo Ekiden Entry Lists

by Brett Larner

The Izumo Ekiden has released the entry lists for this year's race on Monday, Oct. 12. The season-opening race on the Big Three men's university ekiden season calendar, Izumo returns for its 27th year after being canceled just before the race last year when a major typhoon hit the area.  Ten of the best men's university teams from the Tokyo area start their trip to the Jan. 2-3 Hakone Ekiden in Izumo alongside six schools from other parts of Japan, four regional select teams, and, from the U.S. an Ivy League Select Team, all racing over six stages totaling 45.1 km.  Click the chart below for complete entry lists and rankings for the top twelve teams in the field.

Five of the top seven teams are missing their best runner, among them 2015 Hakone Ekiden course record setter Aoyama Gakuin University. Despite the absence of 4th-year Daichi Kamino, a 1:01:21 half marathoner, AGU is ranked #1 in the field overall and, with a course record-setting Izumo win in 2012 behind it when Kamino and the other 4th-years were just starting out, it looks like the solid favorite.  2013 winner Komazawa University is almost dead-even with Yamanashi Gakuin University for 2nd, YGU missing its star Kenyan Enock Omwamba but bringing in 1st-year reserve Dominic Nyairo for his university ekiden debut.  2011 winner Toyo University and 2010 course record setter Waseda University are likewise almost even at 4th in the rankings, Waseda missing captain and 2014 Ageo City Half Marathon winner Koki Takada.

Meiji University, Tokai University and Chuo Gakuin University occupy the next tier of contenders for the 8-deep podium, Meiji running without sub-28 man Ken Yokote and Tokai lacking several key seniors.  The Ivy League Select Team, featuring an overwhelming Princeton presence, comes in ranked 9th and will need a better-than-average run to make the podium.  The Ivies aside, Kyoto Sangyo University is the top-ranked school from outside the Tokyo area at 12th but is well within range of Josai University and Daito Bunka University and could pull off a rare top 10 finish.

JRN will be on-site throughout the weekend to cover the race for Meter magazine and the Tracksmith website.  Look for coverage here and at both Meter and Tracksmith, uniform sponsors of the Ivy League Select Team.  Catch the live nationwide broadcast on Fuji TV starting at 12:55 p.m. on the 12th.

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved

Monday, October 5, 2015

Kurashiki H.S. and Okazaki Gakuen H.S. Win First Kurayoshi Ekiden Titles

by Brett Larner

Okayama prefecture's Kurashiki H.S. and Aichi's Okazaki Gakuen H.S. took their first-ever wins at the season's first big nationwide high school ekiden in Kurayoshi, Tottori on October 4.  In the 35th edition of the boys' race, Kurashiki, splitting its team into A and B squads, started slow, its B-squad 21st and A-squad 25th after the 10.0 km First Stage.  The A-squad moved up to 14th on the 3.0 km Second Stage, and with a stage best by its third runner Maeda it moved up to 3rd at halfway.  Kurashiki A's next three runners juggled between 1st and 2nd places, and with a 38-second lead over Kyushu Gakuin H.S. for the 5.0 km anchor stage it looked safe for the win.

Safe, that is, until Kurashiki A anchor Koga ran only the 12th-best time on the final stage, while behind him Kyushu Gakuin anchor Ueda bore down with a stage best 15:15.  It looked like it would be close, but in the end Koga had the margin he needed and broke the tape in 2:06:55, Kurashiki's first time winning in Kurayoshi.  Ueda was just 5 seconds behind him in 2:07:00.  Saikyo H.S. A was 3rd in 2:07:13, while 2014 National High School Ekiden Sera H.S.' A-squad finished 6th in 2:07:50.  Kurashiki's B-squad was strong enough to land in 10th in 2:09:08, making its chances look good for challenging Sera at Nationals in December.

The girls' race, celebrating its 30th running, was a three-way battle the entire way between 2013 National High School Ekiden champion Toyokawa H.S., 2012 national champion Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. and the relatively unheralded Okazaki Gakuen girls.  Toyokawa's Sarumida led on the 6.0 km First Stage, but a stage best by second runner Kawaguchi put Okazaki Gakuen into the lead where they stayed through the Third Stage.  Ritsumeikan Uji's fourth runner Nishiuchi in turn ran a stage best to move two seconds into the lead over Okazaki Gakuen going into the 5.0 km anchor stage.  There Okazaki Gakuen's Mitsube brought her best, outrunning Ritsumeikan Uji's Yamamoto by 20 seconds to give Okazaki Gakuen its first win in 1:09:59.  Ritsumeikan Uji took 2nd in 1:10:17, Toyokawa 3rd a short distance back in 1:10:27.  Running without most of its big names including the Takamatsu sisters, 2014 national champion Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. was only 9th in 1:11:51.

35th Nihonkai High School Boys Ekiden
Kurayoshi, Tottori, 10/4/15
7 stages, 42.195 km, 126 teams
click here for complete results

Team Results
1. Kurashiki H.S. A (Okayama) - 2:06:55
2. Kyushu Gakuin H.S. (Kumamoto) - 2:07:00
3. Saikyo H.S. A (Yamaguchi) - 2:07:13
4. Saku Chosei H.S. (Nagano) - 2:07:39
5. Hotoku Gakuen H.S. A (Hyogo) - 2:07:43
6. Sera H.S. A (Hiroshima) - 2:07:50
7. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. A (Hyogo) - 2:07:54
8. Omuta H.S. A (Fukuoka) - 2:08:50
9. Rakunan H.S. (Kyoto) - 2:09:02
10. Kurashiki H.S. B (Okayama) - 2:09:08

Stage Best Performances
First Stage (10.0 km) - Sakaguchi (Rakunan H.S.) - 29:44
Second Stage (3.0 km) - Ikeda (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. A) - 8:32
Third Stage (8.1075 km) - Maeda (Kurashiki H.S. A) - 24:07
Fourth Stage (8.0875 km) - Nishida (Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 24:18
Fifth Stage (3.0 km) - Akazawa (Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. A) - 8:39
Sixth Stage (5.0 km) - Mwaura (Kurashiki H.S. B) - 14:05
Seventh Stage (5.0 km) - Ueda (Kyushu Gakuin H.S.) - 15:15

30th Kurayoshi High School Girls Ekiden
Kurayoshi, Tottori, 10/4/15
5 stages, 21.0975 km, 102 teams
click here for complete results

Team Results
1. Okazaki Gakuen H.S. (Aichi) - 1:09:59
2. Ritsumeikan Uji H.S. - (Kyoto) - 1:10:17
3. Toyokawa H.S. A (Aichi) - 1:10:27
4. Nishiwaki Kogyo H.S. A (Hyogo) - 1:10:41
5. Kashiwa Nittai Prep H.S. (Chiba) - 1:11:07
6. Kamimura Gakuen H.S. (Kagoshima) - 1:11:15
7. Katsura H.S. A (Kyoto) - 1:11:32
8. Isahaya H.S. (Nagasaki) - 1:11:45
9. Osaka Kunei Joshi Gakuin H.S. A (Osaka) - 1:11:51
10. Sera H.S. (Hiroshima) - 1:12:13

Top Stage Performances
First Stage (6.0 km) - Sarumida (Toyokawa H.S. A) - 19:08
Second Stage (4.0975 km) - Kawaguchi (Okazaki Gakuen H.S.) - 13:14
Third Stage (3.0 km) - Matamura (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 10:09
Fourth Stage (3.0 km) - Nishiuchi (Ritsumeikan Uji H.S.) - 10:00
Fifth Stage (5.0 km) - Kitagawa (Kashiwa Nittai Prep H.S.) - 16:36

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved