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Defending champion Aoyama Gakuin University seized the lead on Saturday in the outward-bound leg of the two-day Hakone Ekiden road relay.

Aoyama Gakuin’s team covered the 107.5-km, five-stage leg from Tokyo’s Otemachi business district to the resort town of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture in 5 hours, 25 minutes, 55 seconds, 3:04 ahead of Japan collegiate champion Toyo University, which won the championship in 2012 and 2014.

Kazuma Kubota ran the 21.3-km first stage in 1:01:22, giving Aoyama Gakuin a lead it would not relinquish.

Komazawa University was third another 2:16 back. A total of 21 teams are taking part in this year’s classic event.

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