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Aoyama Gakuin University took the lead in the third of Sunday’s five stages and never looked back, crossing the line first to win the outward half of the 98th Tokyo-Hakone collegiate ekiden road relay.

Aoyama Gakuin freshman Aoi Ota moved his team up to first place 18 kilometers into stage 3 and anchor Hiroki Wakabayashi extended the lead to finish in 5 hours, 22 minutes, 6 seconds, giving his team a 2-minute, 37-second lead to take into the return leg of the prestigious event to be run on Monday.

Teikyo University finished second and Komazawa University third, 3 minutes, 28 seconds behind Aoyama Gakuin.

The two-day, round-trip race features 21 teams of university students from Kanto-area schools.

The outbound route is a 107.5 km course that starts in the Otemachi business district in Tokyo and finishes at Lake Ashinoko in Hakone, a popular tourist spot in the mountainous west of Kanagawa Prefecture.

Komazawa University staged a dramatic final-leg comeback to win the overall title last year.

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