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Record-breaking runner Ryuji Kashiwabara produced another powerful run to lift two-time defending champion Toyo University to a top finish in the first half of the Tokyo-Hakone collegiate ekiden road relay on Sunday.

Kashiwabara, running the uphill 23.4-km fifth and final leg of the day, took the sash 2 minutes, 54 seconds off the pace in third place and turned it into a 27-second lead over Waseda University heading into Monday’s 109.9-km return trip.

Toyo University covered the 108-km course from Tokyo’s Otemachi district to the spa resort of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture in a record time of 5 hours, 29 minutes, 50 seconds.

Waseda University had the lead through the first four legs before Kashiwabara overtook Hideki Inomata.

The Toyo University junior posted the fastest time in the fifth leg for the third straight year with 1:17:53 — 45 seconds off the record he set a year earlier.

“Before the start, my teammates told me to just enjoy running,” said a teary-eyed Kashiwabara, who was struggling for much of last year.

Tokai University placed third, 1:57 behind Toyo. Meiji University was fourth, an additional 24 seconds back.

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