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On Making the New Year Ekiden

translated by Brett Larner

A member of the Press Kogyo corporate team posted this interesting entry on the team's blog ahead of their run at the Jan. 1 New Year Ekiden.

Hello.  In just a little time now the New Year Ekiden will kick off.  This will be kind of out of nowhere, but I want to talk about the distribution of places for the New Year Ekiden.  Most of you probably know that there's some variability in the number of places available for teams trying to make the New Year Ekiden.  The number of teams from any given region depends on the results from the previous year's New Year Ekiden.  The total number of teams that can run the New Year Ekiden is set at 37, with teams coming from 6 different regions: East Japan, Chubu, Hokuriku, Kansai, Chugoku and Kyushu.  To determine the number of teams from each region they use the following algorithm:

  1. Starting with a given region's number of teams that year, the region will lose one slot for each team that finishes 31st-37th.  (The total number of teams subtracted is 7, one each for 31st-37th.)
  2. After subtracting the slots in step 1, each region receives one additional slot.  (With 6 regions, 6 slots are now added.)
  3. The region with the best average placing of teams in the top 30 receives one more slot. (-7+6+1=0)
It's kind of complicated, but the basic point is that a region that doesn't have any teams finish 31st or lower will be guaranteed to pick up one extra slot the next year while on the other hand for any region that has 2 or more teams finish 31st or worse the poor results impact everybody in that region and it becomes that much harder for them all to qualify the next year because there is one less place available.

If you take the example of the East Japan region, at the January 2012 New Year Ekiden Press Kogyo finished 31st and the Tokyo Police Headquarters finished 34th.  That year the East Japan region had 13 teams in the New Year Ekiden, but:

13-2 (Press Kogyo, Tokyo Police) +1+0 (Kyushu had the best average placing of teams in the top 30) = 12 teams

And that's how we came to the number of slots available to East Japan region teams this year.

Incidentally, on all six regional Corporate League websites, in the East Japan Corporate Ekiden and New Year Ekiden programs, on the official TBS New Year Ekiden website, these rules ARE NOT WRITTEN ANYWHERE.  The fact that the number of slots within each region can decrease means that among the teams that run one year, at least one of them will not be able to run the next year.  These teams will almost certainly come from among the teams finishing 31st or lower.  For teams that barely made it through the qualifiers getting into the top 30 is really a life-or-death struggle as they are digging their own graves with regard to continued sponsorship if they don't make it.

But, like I said previously, these rule are not available to the public anywhere.  I found them by chance on 2channel and have been checking their accuracy for the last 2 or 3 years.  The changes in the number of slots really do follow these rules, but while teams more or less know that there are rules like this I'm pretty sure almost none of them understand exactly how they works or what the cutoff point they should be targeting is.  Last year Press Kogyo went into the race not knowing whether we had to make top 30 or top 29.

At the Hakone Ekiden in addition to the race up front the battle for the seeded bracket is always important, and the truth is that there is something like the seeded bracket at the New Year Ekiden too.  It would be nice if companies that sponsor ekiden teams would support them regardless of whether or not they make the New Year Ekiden, but for most of them if the team does not make the New Year Ekiden.....well, let's just say that the consequences are pretty severe.  It's no exaggeration to say that a team's fate depends on whether or not it makes the top 30.

This is pretty important for the people involved, but I think from the point of view of the spectators and fans these rules make things more interesting too.  At this point pretty much nobody in the public knows about these rules, but since they have a direct impact on the survival of the lower-placing teams if they said something about the 30th-31st place cutoff on the TV broadcast like, "Team X and Team Y are locked in battle for 30th!  Whichever team falters is going to lose one spot for their region next year!" I think people would get pretty excited about it.  Along with that, there should be something about the rules in the New Year Ekiden program since they directly affect whether some teams will be able to continue existing or not.

Sorry this article has gotten so long, but if it has helped people understand the New Year Ekiden's rules even a little better then I'll be happy.


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