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Aoyama Gakuin leads Hakone Ekiden after 1st day

The Yomiuri Shimbun
The runners set off at the start of the 100th Tokyo-Hakone Intercollegiate Ekiden in front of The Yomiuri Shimbun building in Otematchi, Tokyo, on Tuesday.

Aoyama Gakuin University, aiming for its sixth title and first in two years, will take a lead of over 2½ minutes over defending champion Komazawa University in the second day of the two-day 100th Tokyo-Hakone Intercollegiate Ekiden on Wednesday.

Aoyama Gakuin, whose runners posted the top times in three of the five stages on Tuesday, covered the 107.5-kilometer course starting from The Yomiuri Shimbun building in central Tokyo to Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, in a record-shattering 5 hours 18 minutes 13 seconds.

On an overcast day with intermittent rain, Komazawa, looking to completed the Triple Crown of major collegiate ekiden titles for a second consecutive year, was second in 5:20:51 — also below the previous first-day record of 5:21:16 set by Aoyama Gakuin in 2020.

Josai University, which got a record-setting run from fifth-stage runner Yuito Yamamoto, was in striking distance in third at 5:21:30, nearly four minutes ahead of fourth-place Toyo University. Chuo University, regarded as one of the pre-race favorites, was well back in 13th at 5:30:35.

Aoyama Gakuin took over the lead in the 21.4-kilometer third leg, which junior Aoi Ota ran in a stage-winning time of 59:47. At the handoff, Aoyama Gakuin held a 26-second lead over Komazawa.

Ace Issei Sato then padded the lead in the 20.9-kilometer fourth leg, clocking 1:01:10, 1:22 faster than Komazawa’s Takuma Yamakawa.

Hiroki Wakabayashi then brought the sash home for Aoyama Gakuin in the grueling, uphill 20.8-kilometer fifth stage in 1:09:32 — which would have been a record, had not Josai’s Yamamoto finished his run in 1:09:14. Yamamoto himself held the previous record of 1:10:04.

Komazawa took the early lead when Kotaro Shinohara won the 21.3-kilometer first stage in 1:01:02. Aoyama Gakuin moved into second place, 22 seconds behind Komazawa, when Asahi Kuroda posted the fastest time in the 23.1-kilometer second stage of 1:06:07.