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Kashiwabara record helps Toyo build lead

Kyodo

Ryuji Kashiwabara rewrote his own fifth-leg record as Toyo University built a commanding lead of more than 5 minutes after the first half of the Tokyo-Hakone collegiate ekiden road relay on Monday.

Kashiwabara and four teammates covered the 108-km course from Tokyo’s Otemachi district to the spa resort of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture in a record 5 hours, 24 minutes, 45 seconds.

Waseda University, the 2011 Tokyo-Hakone ekiden champion, placed second and will start Tuesday’s 109.9-km return trip 5 minutes, 7 seconds after Toyo.

Meiji University is an additional 14 seconds behind in third.

Kashiwabara clocked 1:16:39 in the uphill 23.4-km fifth and final leg of the day — 29 seconds faster than the previous record he set two years ago.

“I almost started to cry when I found out my teammates were taking the lead into my leg,” the senior captain said. “My job was to extend the lead. I felt the pressure to produce a strong run, but I was able to enjoy my last Hakone ekiden run in the end.

“We also have good runners for the return trip. I just hope each of them will put in solid runs and we’ll win in convincing fashion.”

Waseda sophomore Suguru Osako ran the fastest time in the opening leg but Keita Shitara put Toyo in front in the second leg.

Kashiwabara first came into the national spotlight in 2009 when the then-freshman broke former Juntendo University ekiden star Masato Imai’s fifth-leg record by 47 seconds in the annual race.

He then broke his own record a year later with 1:17:08.

Kashiwabara has outclassed other runners in the fifth leg in all four years of his college career.