Toyo University briefly surrendered its lead from the first leg but finished strongly to win its first overall title at the Tokyo-Hakone collegiate ekiden road relay on Saturday.
“Each guy on the return trip got his job done firmly,” said Toyo’s Ryo Takami, the team’s 10th-leg runner, the anchor, on Saturday.
“After every runner finished his turn, I was going to cry and it made me worried whether I can run. I was also worried because my condition wasn’t very good lately.
“But there was no room to complain at all. After all, I just did my best being patient,” he added.
Holding a 22-second advantage over Waseda University thanks to Ryuji Kashiwabara’s stirring final-leg run in Friday’s race, Toyo saw Waseda snatch the lead in the sixth leg of the 109.9-km return trip from the spa resort of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture to Tokyo’s Otemachi district.
But Atsuyoshi Tobisaka closed the gap in the seventh leg, Yu Chiba regained the lead in the eighth and Toyo held on to complete the 217.9-km, 10-leg contest in 11 hours, 9 minutes, 14 seconds.
Waseda finished 41 seconds back to take the runnerup spot for the second year in a row. Nippon Sport Science University placed third.
When it was over, Kashiwabara expresses his heartfelt emotions about the race, describing it in terms that conjured up images of a storybook tale.
“I’m feeling like I’m dreaming,” said Kashiwabara. “Every race is a serious occasion for us, and I don’t know how we’re going to be. But hopefully, we’d like to become stronger.”
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