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Aoyama Gakuin University Sends Eight Men Sub-29 in One Race at Kanto Region 10000 m Time Trials

by Brett Larner
video by naoki620

With six weeks to the day to go to the start of the 2016 Hakone Ekiden, defending champion Aoyama Gakuin University showed that it is right on the cusp of realizing head coach Susumu Hara's vision with one of the greatest team performances in Japanese track history at the Kanto Region University 10000 m Time Trials at Kanagawa's beautiful Keio University Field. 

Aoyama Gakuin's entire roster of A-listers was entered in the fastest of the day's 13 heats, and in absolutely perfect conditions all but captain Daichi Kamino started.  Senior Kazuma Kubota, winner of his stages at this season's Izumo and National University Ekidens, led almost the entire way after a 2:47 opening 1000 m, talented first-year Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.), 2015 World University Games half marathon bronze medalist Yuta Takahashi (Teikyo Univ.) and silver medalist Tadashi Isshiki (Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) and Ethiopian first-year Derese Workneh (Takushoku Univ.) taking brief turns up front mid-race but Kubota quickly re-asserting himself.

With 650 m to go Kubota launched a serious kick that dropped the field, clocking a 2:39 last 1000 m to take the win in a PB 28:24.50.  The next 13 finishers all broke 29 minutes, all but Isshiki doing it in PB time.  Including Kubota 8 of the 14 runners to go sub-29 were from Aoyama Gakuin, 7 in PB time and 5 clearing 29 for the first time.  Along with Kamino, World University Games half marathon gold medalist Yusuke Ogura and third-year Yuhi Akiyama, the race's outcome meant that Aoyama Gakuin now has 11 men with 10000 m PBs under 29 minutes, third-year Ryota Motegi just missing out on adding to the haul with a PB of 29:00.67 and second-year Ryusuke Sadanaga likewise PBing but just missing out at 29:02.52.

11 men, 10 places on the Hakone Ekiden starting roster.  Yes, break 29 in college and it's still not good enough to make your school's 10-man starting roster.  That's what Hara has brought to the table with his long-term development plan geared to peak this season.
Tadashi Isshiki (3rd yr.) - 28:23.40
Kazuma Kubota (4th yr.) - 28:24.50
Yusuke Ogura (4th yr.) - 28:27.73
Yuta Shimoda (2nd yr.) - 28:33.77
Yuki Nakamura (2nd yr.,) - 28:34.66
Toshinori Watanabe (4th yr.) - 28:35.05
Kokoro Watanabe (4th yr.) - 28:37.38
Daichi Kamino (4th yr.) - 28:41.48
Kazuki Tamura (2nd yr.) - 28:46.81
Kinari Ikeda (3rd yr.) - 28:51.31
Yuhi Akiyama (3rd yr.) - 28:58.93

Juntendo's Shiojiri held on for 3rd in 28:32.35, one of the best times ever by a Japanese first-year.  5 more runners broke 29 in the B-heat, all in PBs led by last year's B-heat winner Junya Uemura (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) in 28:54.32.  The other men's heats and both women's heats were likewise almost completely filled with new PBs at the top of their fields, an indication of both how good the conditions were and how seriously the fields were racing.  Last year's women's winner Ayumi Uehara (Matsuyama Univ.) took nearly 15 seconds off the PB mark she set at Keio last year to repeat in a quality 32:36.25.  After a long layoff due to injury senior Ken Yokote (Meiji Univ.), the only Japanese university runner to break 28 minutes so far this year, was one of the few not to PB, making a return to competition for the first time in over 4 months with a win in one of the slower heats in 29:21.97.

Next weekend 2015 National University Ekiden champion Toyo University's Hazuma Hattori will aim to join Yokote in the sub-28 club at the Hachioji Distance meet, with a handful of other top-level Hakone collegiates running in the B-heat.  From there everything over the next month focuses on each team's final training and preparations for Hakone.  With its top ten now averaging 28:35.61 for 10000 m and an incredible 1:02:36 for the half marathon, roughly the distance each runner tackles in Hakone, Aoyama Gakuin looks unstoppable.  Toyo unexpectedly got the better of them earlier this month at Nationals, but it will take one of the best performances in Toyo history for them to pull the same upset on the sport's biggest stage come January.  Whatever happens, get ready for something special.

Kanto Region University 10000 m Time Trials
Keio University, Hiyoshi, Kanagawa, 11/21/15
click here for complete results

Men's 10000 m Heat 11
1. Kazuma Kubota (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:24.50 - PB
2. Yuki Hirota (3rd yr., Tokai Univ.) - 28:30.76 - PB
3. Kazuya Shiojiri (1st yr., Juntendo Univ.) - 28:32.85 - PB
4. Yuta Shimoda (2nd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:33.77 - PB
5. Yuki Nakamura (2nd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:34.66 - PB
6. Toshinori Watanabe (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:35.05 - PB
7. Tadashi Isshiki (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:35.55
8. Yuta Takahashi (4th yr., Teikyo Univ.) - 28:37.20 - PB
9. Kokoro Watanabe (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:37.38 - PB
10. Derese Workneh (1st yr., Takushoku Univ.) - 28:43.21 - PB
11. Toshio Takaki (4th yr., Tokai Univ.) - 28:44.41 - PB
12. Kazuki Tamura (2nd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:46.81 - PB
13. Kinari Ikeda (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 28:51.31 - PB
14. Jinnosuke Matsumura (3rd yr., Josai Univ.) - 28:56.24 - PB
15. Ryota Motegi (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:00.67 - PB
21. Yusuke Ogura (4th yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:13.64
27. Yuhi Akiyama (3rd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) -  29:53.83

Women's 10000 m Heat 2
1. Ayumi Uehara (3rd yr., Matsuyama Univ.) - 32:36.25 - PB
2. Fuyuka Kimura (3rd yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 32:40.54 - PB
3. Yuri Karasawa (2nd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 32:40.81 - PB
4. Ai Hosoda (2nd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 32:41.00 - PB
5. Maki Izumida (2nd yr., Rikkyo Univ.) - 33:27.10

Men's 10000 m Heat 10
1. Junya Uemura (3rd yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:54.32 - PB
2. Tatsuya Maruyama (3rd yr., Senshu Univ.) - 28:55.24 - PB
3. Mitsutaka Tomita (4th yr., Tokai Univ.) - 28:56.78 - PB
4. Ryutaro Ichitani (2nd yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 28:56.82 - PB
5. Kenta Muto (4th yr., Kokushikan Univ.) - 28:58.20 - PB
8. Ryusuke Sadanaga (2nd yr., Aoyama Gakuin Univ.) - 29:02.52 - PB

Men's 10000 m Heat 13
1. Hideaki Ishii (3rd yr., Kokushikan Univ.) - 29:03.37 - PB
2. Satoshi Kikuchi (3rd yr., Josai Univ.) - 29:08.49 - PB
3. Tomoki Kawamura (2nd yr., Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 29:13.05 - PB

Men's 10000 m Heat 12
1. Masaya Nakasha (2nd yr., Josai Univ.) - 29:16.95 - PB
2. Yusei Yoshida (2nd yr., Senshu Univ.) - 29:19.67 - PB
3. Keiichi Sakano (3rd yr., Heisei Kokusai Univ.) - 29:20.15 - PB

Men's 10000 m Heat 9
1. Ken Yokote (4th yr., Meiji Univ.) - 29:21.97
2. Keita Sakamoto (2nd yr., Jobu Univ.) - 29:32.13 - PB
3. Ken Tochiyama (4th yr., Takushoku Univ.) - 29:32.68 - PB

Women's 10000 m Heat 1
1. Haruka Tobimatsu (1st yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 33:49.20
2. Yumi Motohiro (1st yr., Daito Bunka Univ.) - 33:50.40 - PB
3. Riko Takagi (3rd yr., Nittai Univ.) - 33:52.42 - PB

(c) 2015 Brett Larner
all rights reserved


Brett Larner said…
The only countries with more sub-29 men in 2015 than the 8 sub-29 AGU runners in Heat 11:


Other countries' total sub-29 runners so far in 2015:

U.K.: 7
Canada: 6
Spain: 6
Uganda: 6
Mexico: 5
Russia: 4
Bahrain: 3
Italy: 3
South Africa: 3
Australia: 2
Germany: 2
New Zealand: 1
Morocco: 1
Brazil: 1
Finland: 0
France: 0
Ireland: 0
Poland: 0
Portugal: 0
Qatar: 0

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