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Okinawa runners score middle-of-the-pack finish

Date Posted: 2007-02-01

The Okinawa high school distance runners did what they always did, but faster and better than ever before.

Their performance at the Nationwide High School Long Distance Relay Races was so out of character, they surprised themselves. Seven Okinawa teens running in the 4.8km race in Hiroshima City found themselves in the middle of the race, with one, Kei Miyazato, outrunning six frontrunners.

The Okinawa squad, which normally finishes races in last or next to last place, found itself finishing in 35th place out of 47 teams. Hyogo Prefecture took the win with 2:19:40, while Okinawa time was 2:25:14.

Okinawa’s Atsushi Toyama was ecstatic: “We never had experience competing with runners close to us,” he said. “It was very different racing with runners behind us. It was exciting.” Toyama said he’d always been in races where “all the runners had gone before us.”

Okinawa’s distance running team has been criticized before for its lack of motivation, with some critics saying it all stems from Okinawa’s slow, laid back lifestyle. This year, the students have changed their mindset and are studying, showing little patience with being behind, and are learning to hustle like their mainland counterparts.

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