Aoyama Gakuin University won the 98th Tokyo-Hakone collegiate ekiden in a record 10 hours, 43 minutes, 42 seconds on Monday, capturing the iconic two-day race for the first time in two years and the sixth time in school history.

Aoyama Gakuin started the second day's return leg with a 2-minute, 37-second lead and ran with it. The team set two stage records en route to a record time in the five-stage 109.6-kilometer return leg from the mountain resort town of Hakone, Kanagawa Prefecture, to Tokyo's Otemachi business district.

The previous record was set by Aoyama Gakuin in the school's last victory in 2020.

Hironobu Nakakura crosses the finish line in Tokyo as Aoyama Gakuin University wins the two-day Tokyo-Hakone collegiate ekiden road relay on Jan. 3, 2022. (Kyodo)

Yuito Nakamura and Hironobu Nakakura ran the ninth and 10th stages, respectively, in record time as Aoyama Gakuin finished nearly 11 minutes ahead of Juntendo University, which started the return leg in fifth place.

"We surpassed the greatest team of the past, and that is due to these amazing students," manager Susumu Hara said.

"There is an Aoyama Gakuin method, and the athletes apply themselves and excel within that method. But, more than that, each individual is proactive, identifying every issue that stands in his way and tackling it."

Aoyama Gakuin University manager Susumu Hara (C) is tossed in the air in Tokyo by runners after his team claimed victory in the two-day Tokyo-Hakone collegiate ekiden road relay on Jan. 3, 2022. (Pool photo)(Kyodo)  

The two-day race features 20 university teams from the Kanto region and one select team of runners from other schools.

Defending champion Komazawa University started the return leg in third place, 3:28 back of the eventual winners, to finish third.

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Athletics: Aoyama Gakuin takes 1st-day Tokyo-Hakone ekiden lead