It is this university that threatens the champion Komazawa..! Hakone Ekiden: A Complete Guide to the “Gods of the Mountains” in the run-up to the 100th Ekiden! | FRIDAY DIGITAL

It is this university that threatens the champion Komazawa..! Hakone Ekiden: A Complete Guide to the “Gods of the Mountains” in the run-up to the 100th Ekiden!

A complete guide to the 100th Hakone Ekiden, featuring all the noteworthy athletes who will make their mark on the history of the 100th race! The battle for the new "God of the Mountain" is also hot! Will Komada Univ. win by a landslide? Or will it be Chugaku University, Kokugakuin University, or Aogaku University?

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Keita Sato (right) and Meibuki Suzuki of Komazawa University】19-year-old Sato is being trained by general manager Hiroaki Oyagi (65) in the S team, which includes captain Suzuki, third-year runner Shinohara, and other elite runners.

Komazawa University (Komadai), the absolute champion in its quest to win the Triple Crown of Student Ekiden for the second year in a row, continues to gain momentum.

In the Izumo Ekiden in October, Koutaro Shinohara (3rd year) jumped out of the gate in the first section, followed by Keita Sato (2nd year), who won the sectional title. 39 seconds separated them in the second section, and the captain, Mebuki Suzuki (4th year), won the sectional title for the second consecutive year in the final six sections.

In the All-Japan University Ekiden in November, Sato broke the section record by 11 seconds in the 2nd section, and Shinohara was the top Japanese runner in the 3rd section, comfortably winning his 4th consecutive championship by a 3:34 margin over 2nd place.

He was the top Japanese runner in the third section, and he finished 3:34 ahead of second place. Atsushi Fujita, 47, who has been in charge of the team since this season, is also eager to win the Triple Crown.

On the other hand, Chuo University (hereinafter referred to as “Chuo University”), which lined up ace-class runners in the first half of the race with Komaba University in mind, was not successful. The team’s strategy of leading the race with an absolute ace failed, and they sank to fourth place.

In the Hakone Ekiden, Komadai is the clear favorite to win. They have a strong lineup of athletes, with Takuma Yamakawa, a sophomore, finishing 4th in the 5th section and Aoi Ito, a sophomore, finishing 1st in the 6th section in the last race. There is no need to worry about the mountains. The three aces, Shinohara, Sato, and Suzuki, are too fast. Especially in Izumo and All-Japan, Sato’s overwhelming speed seemed to decide the races.

Komadai’s three pillars also came out firing in the Hachioji Long Distance 10,000m on November 25. Sato clocked 27:28.50 (a new U20 Japanese record), the second fastest ever by a Japanese student, Suzuki 27:30.69 (the third fastest), and Shinohara 27:38.66 (the fifth fastest).

The double aces of Chūōdai University, which had battled with Komazawa University for the top spot in the last Hakone race, also competed in the same race, but the results were 28:01.02 for Yamato Yoshii and 28:25.70 for Shōta Nakano (4th year), a “dismal defeat” if one only looks at the times.

However, this difference may lead to a big turnaround in the New Year’s race. This is because it is rare for a winter 10,000m runner to run in the 27:00 range in the Hakone Ekiden.

In the past, Juntendo University’s Kazuya Shiojiri (27, now at Fujitsu) marked 27:47.87 for 10,000m in his junior year, but finished 10th in the second section in Hakone. The following winter, he did not run the 10,000m but concentrated on Hakone, running the second section in 1:06:45, the best Japanese record at that time. In contrast to Komada University, which was greedy for time this time, Chūdai University entered the 10,000m race in the winter with “the image of running a half-marathon as an intermediate race.

Komadai’s winning pattern is to take the lead in the early stages of the race and proceed with ease. The slight concerns of the champions are the lack of experienced runners in the second section, which is difficult to attack and can easily create a gap, and the fact that Sato has never run more than 20 km in an official race. It remains to be seen how well he will be able to show his ability when the race turns into a chase.

Komadai’s order is likely to be Suzuki in the 2nd ward and Sato in the 3rd ward. Shinohara is expected to enter in the 1st or 4th section. The rival schools will be looking to take a massive lead before Sato comes out and put pressure on them. The team aiming to achieve this is Chūōdai University, which finished second in the last race.

I wanted to show Komadai players that we have their backs in All-Japan,” said Sato. That didn’t happen, but we intend to do the same at the Hakone Ekiden. I think Sato won’t be as strong as he was in All-Japan at the Hakone distance. I think we have a chance to win,” said Masakazu Fujiwara, ekiden coach.

In the last Hakone Ekiden, Chudai’s Yoshii took the top spot by running the 2nd section in 1:06:22, the 8th fastest time in the team’s history, and Nakano won the 3rd section in consecutive years. This season, Yamato’s younger brother, Shunsuke Yoshii (sophomore), has run the 5000m in 13:22.01, the 6th fastest time ever by a Japanese student, and Nakano has run 13:24.11, the 10th fastest. The likely order this time is an aggressive one, with Shun Yoshii in the 1st section, Dai Yoshii in the 2nd section, and Nakano in the 3rd section, with Hitoshi Yuasa (4th year), the captain who outperformed Komadai’s Suzuki in the 7th section at All-Japan, possibly being used in the 4th section. Ace runner Dai Yoshii, who did poorly in the All-Japan, is eager for revenge, saying, “I want to take the lead in Hakone on my own. If he can defeat the three pillars of Komada University, he will be able to win the overall V for the first time in 28 years.

KOKU GAKUIN UNIVERSITY, which finished fourth last time, also has a strong three-poster team of Kenzo Ijichi (4th year), Kiyosumi Hirabayashi (Kiyoto), and Ayumu Yamamoto (both 3rd years). Hirabayashi, in particular, ran well in the 2nd section in the last race, and won the section award in the 7th section in the All-Japan race, where the aces of each school gathered. There is a possibility that he will be ahead of Komadai in the second section.

It would be interesting to see if Aoyama Gakuin University (hereafter, Aoyama Gakuin University), the second place finisher in All-Japan, is able to fight for the lead at the end of the 2nd section.

In the 100th race, the match-up between the three aces of Komada University, the absolute champion, will determine the outcome of the race. Which university will be smiling in victory?

If the two runners who are expected to run in the first and second sections of the race can get ahead of Komada University, they will be able to win the championship for the first time in 28 years.
Kokugakuin Univ. Kiyosumi Hirabayashi (left) Ayumu Yamamoto】A relay of Hirabayashi in the 2nd section and Yamamoto in the 3rd section will again be the favorites. Hirabayashi is a slender runner weighing 43 kg, but his competitive spirit, which contrasts with his appearance, is his weapon.

Will the 4th “God of the Mountain” be born?

There are still some athletes to watch out for in this year’s Hakone. For example, Hibiki Yoshida (junior) of Soka University, who has emphatically declared that he wants to become the “God of Mountains,” was a student at Tokai University until his sophomore year, and ran the 5th section in his freshman year, finishing second in the section. Sportswriter Masayuki Sugizono, who has covered Hakone for eight years in a row, reveals, “At Tokai University, he suffered both mentally and physically.

Masayuki Sugizono, a sportswriter who has covered Hakone for eight years in a row, says, “At Tokai University, he suffered both mentally and physically and was driven to the point of quitting track and field. He always has a smile on his face when he talks to the press.

In his first two races as a Soka University student, in Izumo and All-Japan, he won a sectional prize.

Yuto Yamamoto, a senior at Josai University, who won the sectional award in the 5th section last time, beating the previous sectional record by 21 seconds, is also eager to assume the name of “God of the Mountain. Last time, he received the task in 13th place and helped his team to a seeding of 9th place, but he was only called the “mountain fairy. Writer Misa Fujii explains.

Yamamoto, who wears a white cap in practice, looked like a fairy as she ran lightly uphill.

The only “Gods of the Mountain” are Masato Imai (39), an alumnus of JUNDAI University, Ryuji Kashiwabara (34), an alumnus of Toyo University, and Daichi Jinno (30), an alumnus of Aoyama Gakuin University. Tetsuhiko Kim, who ran the 5th section for four consecutive years at Waseda University, said, “If the team does not finish in the top ranks, the “mountain gods” will not be able to compete.

If a team does not finish in the top ranks, they are not called ‘gods of the mountains.

In order for Yoshida and Yamamoto to be called “gods of the mountains,” they will have to use their own running to turn the tables on the stronger schools and break into the top group.

Junnen University’s Ryuji Miura (4th), who finished 6th in the 3000m steeplechase at the World Championships in August, Aoyama Gakuin University’s Asahi Kuroda (2nd), whose father has also run Hakone three times, and Tokyo University of Agriculture rookie Kazuma Maeda, the top Japanese in the Hakone preliminary round, will surely heat up the Hakone course.

Hibiki Yoshida, Soka University] “If I aim for Hakone, I only want to run in the mountains. Can he become the “god of the mountains” that he has been aiming for since he was a student at Tokai University?
Yusho Yamamoto, Josai University: “I was born in Tokamachi City, Niigata Prefecture. He says, “I have had an aptitude for uphill running since high school.
Aoyama-University: Kuroda Asahi won a sectional prize at Izumo and broke the sectional record at All-Japan, coming in second behind Komadai’s Sato. He has been steadily achieving results in the Ekiden.
Ryuji Miura, Jun Univ. He was impressed by the attitude of former captain Yuma Nishizawa, who won the last sectional award despite suffering from ulcerative colitis.
Wama Maeda, Tokyo University of Agriculture: Komada University general manager Hiroaki Oyagi, who saw Maeda’s performance at the All-Japan Championships in November, praised him, saying, “He has a strong feeling.

From the December 29, 2023 issue of FRIDAY

  • Interview and text by Masato Sakai (sports writer) Masato Sakai (Sports Writer) PHOTO Monthly Athletics Afro (JUNDAI, Miura, 7th) Kyodo News (KOMADAI, Yamakawa, in the map)

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