Komazawa University held on to its overnight lead to win the Tokyo-Hakone collegiate ekiden road relay Tuesday for the second time in three years and eighth time overall.

Komazawa became the fifth school to sweep collegiate ekiden's three major titles in a season, having won the Izumo Ekiden in October and the national championship in November.

Komazawa University anchor Hibiki Aogaki crosses the finish line of the two-day Tokyo-Hakone collegiate ekiden road relay in Tokyo's Otemachi business district on Jan. 3, 2023. (Kyodo) ==Kyodo

After the 109.6-kilometer return leg from the mountainous hot spring resort of Hakone in Kanagawa Prefecture to Tokyo's Otemachi business district, the Tokyo-based school won in a two-day combined time of 10 hours, 47 minutes and 11 seconds.

In the 99th running of the annual race that began in 1920, Komazawa anchor Hibiki Aogaki crossed the finish line 1 minute, 42 seconds ahead of Takumi Sukegawa of second-place Chuo University.

Komazawa took a 30-second lead over Chuo it built the previous day into the return leg and never looked back.

"My manager told me to make things easier for Aogaki, so I ran hard to extend the lead," said Komazawa captain Chikara Yamano, who ran before the anchor. "To win the Hakone Ekiden was my goal since I came to this university. I continued to train hard."

Members of Komazawa University's road relay team pose for photos in Tokyo with manager Hiroaki Oyagi (back row, far L) after winning the Tokyo-Hakone collegiate ekiden on Jan. 3, 2023. (Pool photo)(Kyodo)

Aoyama Gakuin University, which had won six of the previous eight Tokyo-Hakone races, including in 2022, settled for a distant third after dropping as low as eighth during the return leg.

Aoyama Gakuin senior Hironori Kishimoto overtook five runners to put the school back in third, clocking the fastest time in the 23.1-kilometer, second-to-last leg.

"We are not a team that is satisfied with a third-place finish," Aoyama Gakuin manager Susumu Hara said. "I couldn't get some of the runners into top form. I accept this sincerely and will try to build a team to get revenge next year."

Kokugakuin University finished fourth and Juntendo University fifth. The top 10 schools earned automatic qualification for the 100th edition in 2024.

Rikkyo University, making its first appearance in 55 years, came in 18th in a field of 20 schools in eastern Japan's Kanto region and a team of selected runners from other schools.

The Hakone Ekiden is broadcast live on national television on Jan. 2 and 3 every year.

Roadside spectators were allowed for the first time in three years amid the continued spread of coronavirus infections.

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