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The Best of His Generation, Hyuga Endo Passes Over Hakone in Pursuit of Medal at Tokyo Olympics

translated by Brett Larner

Long distance runner Hyuga Endo, 18, joined the Sumitomo Denko corporate team this month after graduating from Fukushima's Gakuho Ishikawa H.S.  Endo won the National Sports Festival 3000 m his first year of high school and the 5000 m both his second and third years.  A leading candidate to become the star of the next generation, Endo has suppressed the desire to run the Hakone Ekiden and instead chosen to go the corporate road in a quest "to win a medal" at the Tokyo Olympics.  Sumitomo Denko head coach Yasuyuki Watanabe, 43, is planning in the long-term, saying, "I want him to have a long career."

Wearing a brand-new suit, Endo took part in the company's entrance ceremony for new employees.  "I'm glad that's over," he laughed afterward. Thanks to a phenomenal last kick, Endo was undefeated at the National Sports Festival all three years of high school.  In the 3000 m, the distance at which Endo says he has "the most confidence," he was the first Japanese high schooler ever to break eight minutes.  Expected to become the best of his generation, Endo chose the corporate leagues without hesitation.  "The Tokyo Olympics are in three years," he said.  "I definitely want to run there, and if I'm going to run I want to go for a medal.  I like ekidens, but it's hard to do both. When I asked myself, 'Which one do you want to go for?' the answer was the Olympics."

From the early days of his high school career Endo pared down his options to the single choice of becoming a corporate runner, settling upon Sumitomo Denko's coach Watanabe who had coached 5000 m national record holder Suguru Osako (Nike Oregon Project) among others.  Watanabe, who in the 2010-11 academic year as head coach of Waseda University became the only coach ever to lead a team to course record wins at all of the Big Three University Ekidens in a single season, welcomed him, saying, "It's good when there are a variety of ways of thinking.  I'll let you focus on speed-oriented training for an entire year."

In order to achieve Endo's dream, the pair have created a "four-year plan," their blueprint for the lead-up to the Tokyo Olympics.  The two years through 2018 will be dedicated to building Endo's basic physical capability, improving his core strength, the inner muscle strength in the core and pelvis, to help build the ability needed to compete in racing at speed over distance, and polishing his speed in races around 1500 m.  2019 will focus on clearing the Tokyo Olympics 1500 m and 5000 m qualifying standards, expected to be announced in 2019.  In 2020 he will go for a medal.

Looking at Endo's running in high school, coach Watanabe gave him high marks, saying, "It's running on a major scale.  His form in the lower body and leg motion is at the top level of Japanese distance.  I want to develop the speed and physical strength he will need to compete in the last kick, and to help him have a long career as an athlete."  Endo will be 30 at the time of the 2028 Olympics, where they hope to have him go for a medal in the marathon.

At the end of last year Endo experienced some pain in his left Achilles tendon, but that injury has completely healed and he now stands on a new start line. But one free of impatience.  "When you are racing on the track your spirit can't help soaring at the sound of cheering in the stadium," he says.  "I might be a little bit behind right now, but if you win in the end it's all good."  Three years to go.  Believing in the power of the shouting and cheering to come, Endo will be refining his strength and speed.

Hyuga Endo - born Aug. 5, 1998 in Koriyama, Fukushima.  18 years old.  Began running his fourth year of elementary school, winning the National Junior High School Championships high school his last year of junior high.  Won the National Sports Festival junior 3000 m his first year of high school and the junior 5000 m both his second and third years.  Won the National High School Championships 1500 m in 2016.  170 cm, 56 kg.  His family includes his mother, an older sister, and his older brother Seiya, 21, a runner for the ND Software corporate team.

1500 m: 3:45.58 (all-time H.S. #4)
3000 m: 7:59.18 (H.S. national record)
5000 m: 13:48.13 (all-time H.S. #7)

Endo's upcoming race schedule:
Depending upon his progress, Endo will make his corporate league debut in the 1500 m at either the Apr. 23 Hyogo Relay Carnival in Kobe or the May 6 Golden Games in Nobeoka.  After the May 19-21 Kansai Region Corporate Track and Field Championships he plans to run the 1500 m at the June 23-25 National Track and Field Championships.


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The Kawauchi Counter

Yuki Kawauchi's 2018 race results: Jan. 1: Marshfield New Year's Day Marathon, U.S.A.: 2:18:59 - 1st - CR
Jan. 14: Okukuma Road Race Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:03:28 - 7th
Jan. 21: Yashio Isshu Ekiden, Saitama: 1:01:03 - 1st - ran entire 20.0 km ekiden solo and beat all 103 teams of 6 runners each
Jan. 28: Okumusashi Ekiden First Stage (9.9 km), Saitama - 29:41 - 6th
Feb. 4: Saitama Ekiden Third Stage (12.1 km), Saitama - 36:54 - 4th
Feb. 11: Izumo Kunibiki Half Marathon, Shimane - cancelled due to heavy snow
Feb. 18: Kitakyushu Marathon, Fukuoka - 2:11:46 - 1st - CR
Feb. 25: Fukaya City Half Marathon, Saitama - 1:04:26 - 1st
Mar. 4: Kanaguri Hai Tamana Half Marathon, Kumamoto - 1:04:49 - 12th
Mar. 11: Yoshinogawa Riverside Half Marathon, Tokushima - 1:05:50 - 1st - CR
Mar. 18: Wan Jin Shi Marathon, Taiwan - 2:14:12 - 1st
Mar. 24: Heisei Kokusai University Time Trials, Saitama
              5000 m Heat 4: 14:53.95 - 1st
              5000 m Heat 6: 14:36.58 - 2nd