At the 94th Hakone Ekiden qualifying race held on October 14 in Tachikawa City, Tokyo, Meiji Gakuin University (“MGU”) finished in twenty-sixth place with a cumulative time of 10 hours, 42 minutes, and 7 seconds.
Before the start, each school’s cheering squad competed in a cheering battle. MGU’s squad gave an energetic, brilliant performance that fired up the crowd.
Then, at 9:35, the race that would determine who made the cut for the Hakone Ekiden began.
All the runners sprinted down the airstrip of the Japan Ground Self-Defense Force’s Camp Tachikawa.
MGU supporters first waited for the runners at the five-kilometer mark.
In addition to MGU alumni and faculty, members of the baseball and soccer teams as well as regular students also came to show their support. The MGU Ekiden team’s support base seems to be growing each year.
At last, the MGU runners dashed past the supporters.
Their raw athleticism stirred the supporters to cheer with even greater intensity. It looked like the MGU runners had reached the five-kilometer mark earlier than usual.
After the runners had passed the five-kilometer mark, the supporters moved to their second location, the sixteen-kilometer mark.
They also cheered the runners on from about 500 meters before the finish line.
This support at the most grueling final stage of the race appeared to give the runners an extra boost.
After all of the runners had finished, they awaited the announcement of the results together with the coaching staff and supporters.
Finally, the results of the qualifying race were announced, starting with the first-place team. The tension in the air was palpable.MGU’s results were announced: twenty-sixth place. The team had failed to break last year’s record of twentieth place. It was a bitter disappointment.
Nonetheless, there was no doubt that the runners had done their best, and their efforts had inspired and thrilled MGU’s supporters.
By running fiercely without giving up, they had set the stage for future attempts.
In addition, the team’s top finisher, first-year Takumi Ichihara, beat the time set by Seiji Miyaoka (Class of 2016), who was chosen for last year’s Kanto Region University Student United Team (a select team made up of the top-placing runners from universities that did not qualify as teams). This is sure to give him greater confidence in future competitions.
After the results were announced, the team’s captain, third-year Riku Suzuki, addressed his teammates and supporters.
“We won’t let these results be the end. We can try again next year, so I pledge that we will beat last year’s record of twentieth place.”
For the runners, the moment they cross the finish line marks the start of their next challenge.
Despite the disappointing results, they will hopefully grow and emerge even stronger next year.
A day will come when this year’s performance seems like just a stepping stone along the way to greater success.
We at MGU eagerly await the day when the runners’ efforts pay off, and the MGU uniform is worn proudly on the roads of Hakone.
Takumi Ichihara (1) 1:01.48 Rank161
Fumito Yamauchi (3) 1:02.22 Rank204
Daichi Amemiya (2) 1:03.55 Rank285
Naoya Soeda (3) 1:04.22 Rank306
Kai Ono (3) 1:04.23 Rank308
Tomomasa Ohata (3) 1:04.43 Rank318
Mao Sakagami (2) 1:04.58 Rank325
Tomoki Oya (3) 1:04.58 Rank327
Taiga Saito (1) 1:05.00 Rank328
Ryotaro Chiba (1) 1:05.38 Rank351
Riku Suzuki (3) 1:06.54 Rank394
Takumi Yamaguchi (2) 1:06.59 Rank398