Proving its depth, Toyo University won the annual Tokyo-Hakone collegiate ekiden road relay for the third time in four years with a stunning record time on Tuesday.
Toyo completed the 217.9-km round trip between Tokyo’s Otemachi business district and the spa resort of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture in 10 hours, 51 minutes, 36 seconds, more than 8 minutes faster than the previous record of 10:59:51 set by Waseda University a year ago.
Komazawa University finished second in 11:00:38. Meiji University came in third in 11:02:50 and Waseda was fourth 20 seconds farther back.
Toyo started Tuesday’s 109.9-km return trip with a lead of more than 5 minutes ahead of Waseda after ekiden superstar Ryuji Kashiwabara broke his own record in the uphill 23.4-km fifth and final leg of Monday’s race.
Toyo was never in danger of losing the lead, with four of its five return-trip runners posting the fastest times in their respective legs.
Among them, sophomore Yuta Shitara clocked a record 1:02:32 in the 21.3-km seventh leg. His twin brother Keita ran the second leg for Toyo on Monday.
“We are so happy because we endured a tough defeat last year,” said Toyo coach Toshiyuki Sakai. “We won with a team effort. As for the record time, each of our runners did better than I could imagine.”
In last year’s race, Toyo finished 21 seconds behind Waseda, the closest margin between the top two finishers in Hakone ekiden history.
“I didn’t do anything as captain, and everyone thought about what to do to improve and acted in a responsible manner,” Kashiwabara said.
“At times I was tired of all the attention because of this Hakone ekiden. But in the end I’m glad I set a new record and won the title with my teammates.”
Kashiwabara helped Toyo win three Hakone ekiden titles in four years of his college career.
The Fukushima native first came into the national spotlight in 2009 when the then-freshman broke former Juntendo University star Masato Imai’s fifth-leg record by 47 seconds.
Kashiwabara rewrote his record in his sophomore and senior years.