Skip to main content

Kanagawa University Wins Kanto Region Qualifier for National University Men's Ekiden



After a DNF in the final round knocked it out of contention last year, Kanagawa University led the qualifiers for November's National University Men's Ekiden from the most competitive region in Japan to win the Kanto Region Qualifier Sunday in Urawa, Saitama.

With six schools from Kanto already seeded for Nationals after taking the top six spots last year twenty more lined up in Urawa for four heats of 10000 m on the track, two runners from each school per heat. The combined times of each school's eight runners would determine who would stay and who would go come November, the top nine teams on aggregate time making the cut. With the four heats graded by time the first heat established the early favorites, runners from Kanagawa, Tokai University and Daito Bunka University taking the top three spots.

Heat 2 went out bafflingly slow, with one exception. Running alone, Juntendo University senior Kento Hanazawa fearlessly went it alone, opening up a 300 m lead at one point and looking like he would lap the entire pack all at once. Overall it doesn't make any difference whether an individual heat is fast or slow -- if everybody is fast or slow the difference between their aggregate times remains unchanged. But one runner going far out front can have a major impact, especially further down near the cutoff for qualifying where the difference in final aggregate times is often a matter of seconds. Up more than 50 seconds at his peak, Hanazawa ended up winning the heat by just over 11 seconds, still a significant contribution to Juntendo's standing. Daito Bunka's Katsuya Kawasumi was 2nd, solidifying DBU's standings near the top of the field.


Heat 3 saw Chuo University, struggling under new head coach Masakazu Fujiwara, try to get into the mix, teammates Shoma Funatsu and Ken Nakayama working together up front and Funatsu getting the win in 29:06.78. Another DBU runner, Kohei Arai, was 2nd in 29:12.04, while Kanagawa runners went 3-4 a few seconds back to strengthen Kanagawa's position atop the team standings heading into the final heat. The top seven were relatively secure in their chances of making the top nine, but at the bottom it was close. Just over 30 seconds separated 8th-place Nittai University from Josai University, Juntendo and Soka University. Every second counted, and for two runners it meant something more.

Last year Kanagawa's Atsushi Yamato and Soka's Muthoni Muiru both DNF'd in the final heat. With all eight runners scoring in team qualifying their breakdowns meant both Kanagawa and Soka were out of contention for Nationals. This year both Yamato and Muiru were back. From the start Muiru was up front, dueling the entire way with #1-ranked Patrick Wambui (Nihon University), the only sub-28 man in the field. Close behind, Rio Olympian Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo University) and Hiroyuki Sakaguchi (Meiji University) worked together to try to stay in reach, shaking off top-ranked Japanese man Kengo Suzuki (Kanagawa Universtiy), Yamato and Shiojiri's teammate Wataru Tochigi and running down Ethiopian Derese Workneh (Takushoku University).


In the home straight Wambui outkicked Muiru to take the win in 28:27.25, Muiru less than a second behind in 28:28.08. Sakaguchi did the same to Shiojiri, taking 3rd in 28:35.47, the fastest time ever by a Japanese man at the Kanto Region Qualifier, with Shiojiri 4th in 28:35.92. Yamato was 8th in 28:51.20, making up for last year by ensuring Kanagawa the top spot among the qualifying teams by a margin of over 40 seconds over runner-up Tokai. The fast times by Shiojiri and Tochigi were what Juntendo needed to move up into the qualifying bracket, knocking Nittai out as it took 8th, 25 seconds ahead of 9th-placer Josai. Unlucky top non-qualifier Nittai was just over 12 seconds behind Josai, Soka another half second behind in 11th despite Muiru's comeback performance, both teams just 1.5 seconds per runner from making the grade. Small programs and their coaches live and die on qualifying, and you can be sure that none felt it more keenly than Soka.

National University Ekiden Kanto Region Qualifier

Komaba Stadium, Saitama, 6/18/17
click here for complete results

Team Results - top nine qualify for National University Ekiden
1. Kanagawa University - 3:56:16.62
2. Tokai University - 3:56:57.31
3. Koku Gakuin University - 3:57:43.15
4. Daito Bunka University - 3:57:49.49
5. Hosei University - 3:58:10.42
6. Teikyo University - 3:58:34.22
7. Meiji University - 3:58:40.53
8. Juntendo University - 3:58:40.74
9. Josai University - 3:59:05.34
-----
10. Nittai University - 3:59:17.69
11. Soka University - 3:59:18.38
12. Chuo University - 4:00:13.01

Heat 4
1. Patrick Wambui (Nihon Univ.) - 28:27.25
2. Muthoni Muiru (Soka Univ.) - 28:28.08
3. Hiroyuki Sakaguchi (Meiji Univ.) - 28:35.47
4. Kazuya Shiojiri (Juntendo Univ.) - 28:35.92
5. Kengo Suzuki (Kanagawa Univ.) - 28:45.24
6. Yuta Bando (Hosei Univ.) - 28:48.73
7. Kohei Mukai (Koku Gakuin Univ.) - 28:49.36
8. Atsushi Yamato (Kanagawa Univ.) - 28:51.20
9. Wataru Tochigi (Juntendo Univ.) - 28:53.61
10. Derese Workneh (Takushoku Univ.) - 28:54.91

Heat 3
1. Shoma Funatsu (Chuo Univ.) - 29:06.78
2. Kohei Arai (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 29:12.04
3. Yuki Suzuki (Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:15.98
4. Yamato Otsuka (Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:16.41
5. Ken Nakayama (Chuo Univ.) - 29:16.49

Heat 2
1. Kento Hanazawa (Juntendo Univ.) - 30:03.16
2. Katsuya Kawasumi (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 30:14.44
3. Ryota Tanaka (Meiji Univ.) - 30:15.32

Heat 1
1. Yohei Komatsu (Tokai Univ.) - 29:40.69
2. Kenta Koshikawa (Kanagawa Univ.) - 29:41.99
3. Shoma Yamamoto (Daito Bunka Univ.) - 29:43.85

© 2017 Brett Larner, all rights reserved

Comments

Most-Read This Week

How it Happened

Ancient History I went to Wesleyan University, where the legend of four-time Boston Marathon champ and Wes alum Bill Rodgers hung heavy over the cross-country team. Inspired by Koichi Morishita and Young-Cho Hwang’s duel at the 1992 Barcelona Olympics I ran my first marathon in 1993, qualifying for Boston ’94 where Bill was kind enough to sign a star-struck 20-year-old me’s bib number at the expo.

Three years later I moved to Japan for grad school, and through a long string of coincidences I came across a teenaged kid named Yuki Kawauchi down at my neighborhood track. I never imagined he’d become what he is, but right from the start there was just something different about him. After his 2:08:37 breakthrough at the 2011 Tokyo Marathon he called me up and asked me to help him get into races abroad. He’d finished 3rd on the brutal downhill Sixth Stage at the Hakone Ekiden, and given how he’d run the hills in the last 6 km at Tokyo ’11 I thought he’d do well at Boston or New York. “If M…

The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd
           …

Guinness Certifies Kawauchi's World Record 78 Career Sub-2:20 Marathons After Half Marathon in Panda Costume

Known as the Civil Servant Runner, Saitama Prefectural Government employee Yuki Kawauchi's career record of 78 sub-2:20 marathons was officially recognized as the Guinness World Record at a ceremony in his hometown of Kuki, Saitama on Mar. 25.  Raised in Kuki, Kawauchi began working for the Saitama Prefectural Government after graduating from university. Running while working full-time as a civil servant, he has qualified for the 2020 Tokyo Olympic trial race.

Earlier this month on the 18th Kawauchi ran Taiwan's Wan Jin Shi Marathon, winning in 2:14:12. His 78th time running faster than 2 hours and 20 minutes, his achievement was certified as the official Guinness World Record. He actually broke the previous record on Jan. 1 at the Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon in the U.S.A. with his 76th sub-2:20 but followed up with two performances, one in February and the other last week, before Guinness could ratify the record.

The official recognition ceremony took place Mar. 2…