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Ledama Kisaisa 57:27 to Lead Yosenkai 20 km to World Record-Setting Depth

Under heavy skies and falling mist, Obirin University 2nd-year Josphat Ledama Kisaisa frontran the Yosenkai 20 km Road Race in Tokyo's Showa Kinen Park to win in 57:27 and lead the field to world record-setting depth.

The official qualifying race for second-tier Tokyo-area universities to join the best at the legendary Hakone Ekiden, the Yosenkai featured 49 university teams of 10 to 12 runners apiece scored on the aggregate time of their top 10 finishers. The 10 fastest teams would join the 10 schools already seeded for the 2018 Hakone Ekiden, with a 21st team made up of top-placing individuals from non-qualifying schools rounding out the field.

Hot from the gun, Kisaisa led a lead pack of 6 Kenyans through 5 km in 14:14, on track to break the unbreakable 57:01 course record set in 2007 by Mekubo Mogusu (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.). 2nd last year in 58:27, Kisaisa showed no sign of slowing down as the race went on. By 10 km the lead pack had split in half, last year's winner Patrick Mathenge Wambui (Nihon Univ.) among the casualties to Kisaisa's 28:31. This year's National University Championships 10000 m winner Simon Kariuki (Nihon Yakka Univ.) was next, and when Kisaisa threw in a surge ahead of 15 km he dropped his final competition, Kanto Region half marathon champion Doninic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin University).

Hitting 15 km in 42:44 Kisaisa was 2 seconds up on Mogusu's CR, but although he had run almost evenly up to that point the 19-year-old showed his lack of experience at longer distances as he faded 30 seconds over the last 5 km. Luckily for him Nyairo, a sub-61 half-marathoner, faded too. Kisaisa crossed the finish line in 57:27, equivalent to a 1:00:36 half marathon and the 3rd-fastest time in history behind on Mogusu's two wins. Nyairo was close behind in 57:33, just better on equivalence than his half marathon PB at 1:00:42. Kariuki was 3rd in 58:11, with last year's winner Wambui a distant 4th in 59:02.

With no top-level Japanese men in the race the lead group of Japanese men took advantage of the favorable conditions to go through 5 km in a decent 14:48, low-59 pace. After a slower second 5 km took them through 10 km in 29:50 three runners broke away, Hidaka Hayashi (Daito Bunka Univ.), Keita Sakamoto (Jobu Univ.) and Ryota Sato (Teikyo Univ.) putting 6 seconds on the main chase pack to hit 15 km in 44:42.

From there Sato's teammate Kazuya Azegami (Teikyo Univ.) turned on the jets, flying past the lead trio and splitting the fastest final 5 km in the entire field, 14:41, to take the top Japanese spot at 7th in 59:30, a 1:02:46 half marathon equivalent versus his 1:03:34 best. Ken Nakayama (Chuo Univ.) followed him past the breakaway trio to take the 2nd Japanese spot at 8th in 59:36, with Hayashi just behind in 59:38 for 9th.

All told 22 men broke 60 minutes, making this year's Yosenkai one of the deepest 20 km races in history. Further down the field it set world records for depth, with 41 men under 1:00:30, 80 under 1:01:00, 138 under 1:01:30, 178 under 1:02:00 and 210 under 1:02:30, all new records. 212 men ran the equivalent of a sub-1:06 half marathon, bringing the Yosenkai up in depth at quality to the level of November's Ageo City Half Marathon and March's National University Half Marathon.

But this depth comes in the context of a team race for a bigger goal, the honor of getting your school into the world's biggest road race. Having dropped down to the Yosenkai from the seeded bracket last year, Teikyo University took the top position in large part thanks to Azegami and sub-60 teammates Issei Iwasa and Ryota Sato. Last year's Yosenkai winner Daito Bunka University was 2nd, as expected making it into the top 3. Last year in its first season under new head coach Masakazu Fujiwara, Chuo University's 87-year streak of Hakone appearances, the longest in history, came to an end. This year much of the media focus was on whether it could make it back, and to universal surprise Chuo bounced back with a 3rd-place team finish to qualify with room to spare.

Josai University and Tokyo Kokusai University also returned from exile from last year's Hakone to make it into the top 10 alongside repeaters Yamanashi Gakuin University, All-time Japanese #2 for 1500 m Kazuya Watanabe, who entered TKU this year at age 30 in hopes of running Hakone, came one step closer to making that dream a reality when he finished as the team's 9th scoring member, putting him into range of making TKU's Hakone roster of ten. Takushoku University, Koku Gakuin University, Kokushikan University and Jobu University. Falling from grace, legacy schools Nihon University and Meiji University and newcomer Soka University all missed the return trip to Hakone this year, finishing 11th, 13th and 12th respectively. In Meiji's case it was largely down to bad luck, with #1 man Hiroyuki Sakaguchi a last-minute scratch and star 2nd-year Norimichi Miwa a DNF after a bad fall just 3 km into the race.

The top-placing Japanese man in the field from a school that didn't qualify was Tokyo University's Shuichi Kondo, 20th in 59:54, marking him as the top seed for the Kanto Region Student Alliance select team, Hakone's 21st team. But don't look for the man who beat him by almost a kilometer, winner Josphat Ledama Kisaisa. Make what you will of the general rules that restrict teams at Hakone and most other major ekidens to fielding only one non-Japanese runner, but in the case of the Student Alliance it's strictly Japanese-only.

Despite the fact that the concept behind the Student Alliance team is to give as many students from as many different universities as possible a taste of the Hakone experience, that doesn't extend to any student athletes who don't happen to be Japanese citizens. With this performance Kisaisa is unarguably the best university distance athlete in Japan, but in his place at Hakone will be some guy who finished a kilometer and a half or more behind him but gets the golden ticket thanks to the color of his skin. What a loss for all the alumni of Obirin University, whose head coach is Kenyan-born Stephen Mayaka. If you want a differently-colored corollary to the white privilege video currently making the rounds, look no further.

Hakone Ekiden Yosenkai 20 km Road Race

Showa Kinen Park, Tachikawa, Tokyo, 10/14/17

Top Individual Results

click here for complete individual results

1. Josphat Ledama Kisaisa (Obirin Univ.) - 57:27
2. Dominic Nyairo (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 57:33
3. Simon Kariuki (Nihon Yakka Univ.) - 58:11
4. Patrick Mathenge Wambui (Nihon Univ.) - 59:02
5. Muthoni Muiru (Soka Univ.) - 59:06
6. Titus Wambua (Musashino Gakuin Univ.) - 59:10
7. Kazuya Azegami (Teikyo Univ.) - 59:30
8. Ken Nakayama (Chuo Univ.) - 59:36
9. Hidaka Hayashi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 59:38
10. Keita Sakamoto (Jobu Univ.) - 59:41
11. Hideaki Sumiyoshi (Kokushikan Univ.) - 59:43
12. Issei Iwasa (Teikyo Univ.) - 59:44
13. Noritoshi Hara (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 59:48
14. Shoma Funatsu (Chuo Univ.) - 59:48
15. Ryosuke Tobe (Takushoku Univ.) - 59:48
16. Ryota Sato (Teikyo Univ.) - 59:48
17. Kensuke Horio (Chuo Univ.) - 59:49
18. Tomoya Nishi (Takushoku Univ.) - 59:51
19. Akira Akasaka (Takushoku Univ.) - 59:53
20. Shuichi Kondo (Tokyo Univ.) - 59:54
21. Katsuya Kawasumi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 59:57
22. Suguru Otaguro (Jobu Univ.) - 59:58
23. Kenta Ueda (Yamanashi Gakuin Univ.) - 1:00:00
24. Genki Kaneko (Josai Univ.) - 1:00:01
25. Stanley Siteki (Tokyo Kokusai Univ.) - 1:00:04

Top Team Results

combined time of team's top ten finishers
top ten teams qualify for 2018 Hakone Ekiden
click here for complete team results

1. Teikyo University - 10:04:58
2. Daito Bunka University - 10:05:45
3. Chuo University - 10:06:03
4. Yamanashi Gakuin University - 10:06:21
5. Takushoku University - 10:06:27
6. Koku Gakuin University - 10:07:35
7. Kokushikan University - 10:07:47
8. Josai University - 10:08:50
9. Jobu University - 10:09:42
10. Tokyo Kokusai University - 10:10:34
11. Nihon University - 10:12:05
12. Soka University - 10:13:04
13. Meiji University - 10:13:05
14. Senshu University - 10:13:40
15. Reitaku University - 10:18:46

2018 Hakone Ekiden Field

Tokyo-Hakone-Tokyo, Jan. 2-3, 2018

Aoyama Gakuin University
Toyo University
Waseda University
Juntendo University
Kanagawa University
Chuo Gakuin University
Nittai University
Hosei University
Komazawa University
Tokai University
Teikyo University
Daito Bunka University
Chuo University
Yamanashi Gakuin University
Takushoku University
Koku Gakuin University
Kokushikan University
Josai University
Jobu University
Tokyo Kokusai University
Kanto Region Student Alliance

text and photos © 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved


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