Asia-Pacific Invitational Cross-Country Meet, Day 2
Published: October 23, 2011
SportsBlog Nation's cross-country analyst Bruce Carrick breaks down the second and last day of the Asia-Pacific Invitational Cross-Country Meet:
Saturday's API Day 2 Beach-Road relay brought the the 8th Asia-Pacific Invitational to a conclusion. The boy-girl pairs of each school completed the 2.5-kilometer circuit four times, beginning at Ypao Beach Park.. Each school had five pairs, with the first four pairs counting in scoring. The beautiful clear sunrise was a welcome respite from Friday's rain. There were mixed feelings about the outgoing tide however. The beach run includes figuring a way to negotiate a rocky outcropping, with three options: Up and over on stairs, through a small meter-high tunnel or around in the water. The water course is the most fun, but low tides meant there would be very little splashing through the surf. Getting wet would have to wait for the massive post-race schooling-of-runners in the shallow bay waters.
The first two pairs to finish the 10-kilometer relay were from American School In Japan, making their lock on yet another relay trophy and overall meet championship, the Mustangs' fifth in API's eight years. It ended the two-year run on relay and overall championships by the combined St. Mary's and Seisen International teams of Tokyo. The Titans and Phoenix combined for second overall and in the relay.
Seoul Foreign repeated its fine performance of Friday and took third in the relay and overall. It takes a balanced performance for both boys and girls to finish in the top third of this field of 20-plus schools, and there is no doubt that the top three schools displayed exactly that balance.
George Washington, bouncing back from a disappointing boys race and building on the strength of their girls team, took fourth in the relay and overall. Right behind the Geckos, with the reverse profile of a strong boys team, John F. Kennedy took sixth in the relay and fifth overall. Christian Academy Japan (seventh), in being beaten by JFK in the relay, had give up hope of tying JFK and had to settle for sixth overall.
A team that really outperformed their Friday results was International Christian-Uijongbu of South Korea. Despite finishing 10th and sixth in the girls and boys races, the Eagles put it together for an impressive fifth-place finish in the relay and nearly overtook CAJ in the overall standings. They finished seventh overall. Guam High, with nearly the same numbers as ICS-U on Friday (seventh and 10th), was not quite as productive on Saturday, settling for eighth in the relay and eighth overall, tied with Yongsan International-Seoul by points but ahead by virtue of placing ahead of YIS-S in the relay.
Fifteen schools (or pairs of schools) competed for the relay and were thus eligible for the overall standings. In last place was cross-country newcomer Southern High, just behind Father Duenas Memorial and Academy of Our Lady of Guam. Hats off to this squad of first-year students and volunteer coach. As the Dolphins mature, they will surely rise in the ranks.
Most of the 12 schools below the top three may have exceptionally fine boys team or a good girls team, but their challenge in future years is to find balance. It seems especially that the the perennially strong teams from the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools have found a way to produce outstanding girls teams, a model that Guam and Korean schools would do well to consider carefully.
Revisiting the Friday race, a slight clerical correction in scoring moved CAJ girls up to fifth and Seoul Foreign down to sixth, an unexpectedly high finish for the CAJ girls. The Knights did not even bring a girls team in 2010.
Looking back on those Friday results, here are a couple of thoughts:
The course appears to be about 100 meters longer than 5,000 meters, which with the rain and mud, makes the athlete accomplishments that much more remarkable. The vast majority of the top 40 boys set season bests at 5,000 meters. The same is true of the top 20 girls. However, in the next 20, most of the girls were off their game, many nearly a minute off. These are the finishers who went into the race with high hopes, only to meet disappointment, be it a frustrating injury or unrealistic fast marks in earlier races. They did well still, considering that there were over 100 girls in the race; just not what they were hoping for perhaps. Coaches from Korea explain that the fast times in their athletes portfolio is due to the fact that they run on concrete-road races. For them especially, Guam's API is a unique and enriching chance to actually have a cross-country race. Same for Kanto, except that API is a unique experience to run on a flat course as well as on grass. As always, the teams that think to run in spikes always do well. All the coaches loved the course, and unanimously express their appreciation to the Okkodo principal and athletic director, with hopes for returning to Okkodo for next year.
Next up on the calendar is the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference finals on Saturday at ICS-U. From that race, we can better project how Seoul American and Osan American will fare when they come up against Guam High, Father Duenas, Academy of Our Lady, St. Mary's, Seisen, CAJ, St. Maur International, Yokota, Nile C. Kinnick, Zama American, Matthew C. Perry, E.J. King, and Robert D. Edgren at Far East, on the Tama Hills Recreation Center course Nov. 7-8. We don't have any cross-over links to the Okinawa schools of Kadena and Kubasaki, so it will be quite difficult to predict their outcomes in the Far East competition.