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Another Change to Hakone Ekiden Select Team - Now Restricted Only to Athletes Without Hakone Experience

The Inter-University Athletic Union of Kanto (KGRR), organizers of the Hakone Ekiden, have announced that its Representative Committee, the highest voting body in its organization, has made the decision to change the qualification system for the Kanto Student Alliance select team made up of runners from universities that fail to qualify as a team for Hakone at October's Yosenkai qualifier. In its current incarnation the select team accepted athletes who had taken part in Hakone, including registration as an alternate, a maximum of once, but beginning with Hakone's 94th edition in 2018 it will be limited to only athletes who have never run in the actual race before.

In essence, the Kanto Student Alliance will now be made up entirely of rookies. A KGRR spokesperson explained, "We have made this decision after careful consideration of the Select Team's original purpose of sharing the Hakone experience with as wide a range of students and universities as possible." There will be no change to the use of individual results from the Oct. 14 Yosenkai 20 km for team selection.

One athlete who is expected to benefit from the change is Tokyo University third-year Shuichi Kondo. As a first and second-year he was twice an alternate for the Kanto Student Alliance team, meaning that he had used up his eligibility under the previous selection criteria. He will now get another chance to run in next year's Hakone Ekiden as a member of the team. Asked about the change Kondo calmly commented, "I just have to do everything I need to do to be ready for the Yosenkai."

An excellent road racer, Kondo ran 2:14:13 at February's Tokyo Marathon, ranking him 21st in the Japanese collegiate record books. If he runs for the Kanto Student Alliance team he will be most likely to run one of its most competitive stages such as the Second Stage. Both a scholar and athlete, he is likely to draw extra attention.

Tokyo University has only run Hakone once, making the 60th anniversary race in 1984 where it finished 17th of 20 teams. At the 81st Hakone Ekiden in 2005 Tokyo University first-year Sho Matsumoto ran the Eighth Stage as a member of the Kanto Region University Select Team, the precursor to the current Kanto Student Alliance team.

Translator's note: 2017 London World Championships Japanese national team captain Yuki Kawauchi (Saitama Pref. Gov't), who ran Hakone twice as a member of the old Kanto Region University Select Team and credits the experience as critical to his development as an athlete, has been a vocal critic of the KGRR's continued push to restrict participation on the Kanto Student Alliance team. In 2012 he wrote an eloquent appeal to the KGRR asking them to reconsider their decision to change the team format.

source article:
http://www.hochi.co.jp/sports/feature/hakone/20170727-OHT1T50269.html
translated by Brett Larner

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