Put up against football defenses, an opposing basketball team’s star player or the Pacific’s finest track-and-field sprinters, few stood much of a chance against Jarrett Mitchell. Put up against the Far East’s best cross-country and track distance runners, nobody stood a chance against Amanda Henderson.
Kubasaki’s multitalented sophomore and Seoul American’s relentless senior distance specialist each helped bring home a Far East Division I title banner to their respective school, and came away with Stars and Stripes Pacific high school year 2011-12 Athlete of the Year honors, as selected by Stripes’ staff.
“He’s the epitome of a teammate; we’re happy to have him,” said Mitchell’s basketball and track coach, Jon Fick. Kubasaki’s D-I football title-game berth, the Dragons’ second straight D-I basketball tournament title and Okinawa Activities Council district track title “don’t happen without Jarrett.”
Battling ankle injuries for most of the school year, Mitchell carried the football 69 times for 758 yards, helping power the Dragons to a 6-2 overall record, their best since winning their only Division I football title in 2005.
Kubasaki ended Kadena’s five-year Okinawa Activities Council regular-season title monolith, then reached its second D-I title game by eliminating Seoul American 22-7 in the Oct. 29 semifinal. Two weeks later, the Dragons lost the D-I final 34-6 at Yokota.
On the hardwood, where Mitchell had to wait nearly a month for his ankle to heal enough to let him play, it wasn’t so much the numbers he put up – which weren’t many – but his executing the defensive role to which Fick assigned him: Stay glued to the opponent’s best offensive player the entire game.
Kubasaki thus rolled to a 23-15 overall record, including the Dragons’ 55-47 come-from-behind victory in the D-I Tournament final against Okkodo on Feb. 25 at Naval Base Guam.
“He embraced his role,” Fick said. “He would have started for any other team and would have been their top one or two player.”
In track, Mitchell spent much of his time looking up at Yokota’s Preston Brooks and Okinawa Christian International’s Rahman Cairnes through the regular season and into the Far East meet at Yokota. He finally caught Cairnes in the OAC district meet’s 100-meter final, outrunning Cairnes 10.93 to 11.05 seconds, the second-fastest time in the region all season. He finished fourth in both the 100 and 200 in the Far East meet.
“Track was tough for him,” Fick said. “He was goal-oriented; just had some tough kids ahead of him. He caught Rahman at districts; hard work paid off.”
Whether at Kubasaki in her freshman year or at Seoul American her last three, hard work epitomized Henderson as he racked up her second straight unbeaten cross-country season and also ran the table during the track season, except for a disqualification in the 800 at the Mike Petty Memorial Meet in April on Okinawa; meet officials ruled she’d stepped off the track during the race.
That served as motivation for Henderson, who won every other 800, 1,500 and 3,000 race she entered, going unbeaten in DODDS Korea and beating the Far East meet times set by her old teammate Siarria Ingram.
Henderson clocked 2 minutes, 25.19 seconds in the 800 (old record 2:32.0) and 11:03.76 in the 3,000, besting the old mark of 11:12.7. In the 1,500, she beat the northwest Pacific record twice, first at Mike Petty, then at Far East, where she ran 4:56.45; Ingram’s old Far East mark was 5:02.1.
“She does not know failure. She does not like to lose. She inspires others to reach and exceed their potential,” Falcons track coach David R. Abbott said.
Back in the fall, Henderson posted the Pacific’s fastest girls cross-country time of the season, 19:32 in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Council finals on Oct. 29 at International Christian-Uijongbu. Seoul American won the KAIAC girls and the Far East D-I girls team titles, thanks largely to Henderson repeating as individual Far East champion with a 20:55.5.
“She works so hard, be it in or out of season,” cross-country coach Steve Boyd said. “Her work ethic, you wish you could put it in a jar and sell it.”
-- COACH OF THE YEAR: Al Garrido of Nile C. Kinnick once more mentored the Red Devils girls volleyball team to its school-best third straight DODDS Japan and Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools titles, a 76-2 regular-season mark the last three years, and a school-first runner-up finish in the Far East D-I Tournament at Seoul American, up two notches from last year. His track and field teams, despite numerous migrations of key athletes to other sports, won the Far East D-I boys team title and came in a close second behind American School In Japan for the overall school gold.
-- TEAM OF THE YEAR: ASIJ girls volleyball won its third Far East D-I Tournament title in six years, dropping just one set behind the play of Most Valuable Player Liz Thornton, the third Thornton sister so honored when the Mustangs earn a title. And seven of ASIJ’s 10 players return next season, including Thornton and her setter, Baileigh Gibson.
-- PROGRAM OF THE YEAR: Those Mustangs again. Kanto titles in tennis, cross country and boys and girls basketball, the Asia-Pacific Invitational cross-country team title, overall school gold in Far East D-I track, second place in Kanto and Far East D-I girls soccer and arguably the best baseball team in school history.
-- MOST IMPROVED TEAM/BEST NEWCOMERS: E.J. King girls volleyball hadn’t come within a whiff of Center Court since placing fourth in the 1999 Far East Division II Tournament, when in transferred the Rock sisters, senior Ashley and junior Katie, each with AAU backgrounds and a wealth of stateside experience. Overnight, Cobras volleyball was transformed into a contender, taking bronze in the D-II Tournament in November at Daegu, South Korea, and DODDS Japan D-II team regular-season honors.
Kubasaki cross country had not come within a whiff of an OAC district or Far East team title in more than a decade, before freshman triathlete Erik Armes joined forces with sophomore Alli Robles and ended that long title drought for the Dragons. Armes took gold in the districts and at Far East as well.
Then, there was Chad Wilder, the Zama American wrestler singled out as “The Next One,” a transfer from Florida billed as the logical successor to Michael Spencer as the program’s signature athlete. He proved more than up to the task, winning the Far East 141-pound gold and securing Outstanding Wrestler honors.
-- MOST IMPROVED PROGRAM: In a rather crowded field, Kubasaki noses in front, Far East D-I cross-country school champion, football runner-up, second straight boys basketball title and the girls soccer team finally taking that last step up, capturing D-I gold after two runner-up and one bronze finish the previous three years.
-- PLAY/GAME OF THE YEAR: ASIJ at Kinnick on May 11 at Yokosuka Naval Base, perhaps the most exciting game of soccer I’ve seen in a long time. Mari McDonald scored for the Red Devils in the first 90 seconds. It became an intense defensive battle from there, with Kinnick sweeper Kayla Forsythe and first-year keeper Emily Stith somehow keeping the ball out of the net. On one point-blank chance, ASIJ’s Katey Helwick blasted a shot toward the far post left, and Stith made one of her 23 saves by diving full-out right to grab the ball with her hand. Red Devils hung on to win 1-0.
Previous Athletes of the Year
1987 – Kevin Maxwell, senior, Zama American School, Japan. Football, basketball, baseball, track and field. University of Georgia, Athens, Ga.
1988 – Carol Williams, junior, American School In Japan. Volleyball, soccer, basketball. University of California-Davis, Davis, Calif.
1989 – Elbert Bailey, senior, Kubasaki High School, Okinawa. Football, wrestling. Columbia University, New York. Commissioned into U.S. Air Force.
1990 – James Carson, senior, Yokota High School, Japan. Football, basketball, baseball. University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.
1991 – Robert Weeks, senior, Kadena High School, Okinawa. Football, basketball, track and field. University of Connecticut, Storrs, Conn. Sumi Pyo, junior, Seoul International School, Seongnam, South Korea. Cross country, soccer, basketball. Wesleyan College, Mass.; Wheaton College, Ill.
1992 – Katherine Greig, sophomore, American School In Japan. Volleyball, swimming, basketball. Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif.
1993 – Jamel Smith, senior, Kubasaki High School, Okinawa. Football, wrestling. Willamette College, Salem, Ore.
1994 – Melissa Calkins, senior, Trinity Christian School, Guam. Volleyball, track and field, basketball. Christian Heritage, El Cajon, Calif.; University of Guam, Mangilao, Guam.
1995 – Meleesa Meno, senior, Kubasaki High School, Okinawa. Volleyball, soccer, basketball. University of Arizona, Tucson, Ariz.
1996 – David Page, sophomore, Seoul American High School. Football, basketball, baseball. University of California, Berkeley, Calif.; Hinds Junior College, Jackson, Miss.; Southern Methodist University, Dallas. Works for Ernst & Young. Han Ripley, senior, Seoul American High School. Football, basketball, baseball. Daytona Beach Community College, Daytona Beach, Fla.; University of Florida, Gainesville, Fla.
1997, 1998 – Julie Stauffer, sophomore-junior, Faith Academy, Manila. Basketball, soccer, baseball, softball. Cedarville College, Ohio.
1999 – Josh Whitney, senior, Kadena High School, Okinawa. Cross country, basketball, soccer. Quinnipiac College, Hamden, Conn. Yuki Basso, senior, Seisen International School, Tokyo. Volleyball, basketball. Boston College, Newton, Mass.
2000 – Justin McCloskey, senior, Matthew C. Perry High School, Japan. Football, basketball, baseball. Lewis & Clark College, Portland, Ore. Olivia Anglade, sophomore, Seoul American High School. Tennis, basketball, soccer, softball.
2001 – Ray Lamb, senior, Seoul American High School. Football, wrestling. New Mexico Military Academy, Roswell, N.M. Kirsten Nelson, senior, Christian Academy In Japan. Volleyball, basketball, track and field. Houghton College, Houghton, N.Y. Teaches and coaches at Taejon Christian International School in South Korea.
2002 – Mike Chamberlain, junior, Yokota High School, Japan. Football, wrestling, soccer. Carroll College, Montana. Olivia Anglade, senior, Seoul American High School. Tennis, basketball, soccer. Stanford University, Palo Alto, Calif. Lori Shields, senior, Osan American High School, South Korea. Volleyball, basketball, soccer. Florida Tech, Melbourne, Fla. Commissioned into U.S. Army.
2003 – Mike Chamberlain, senior, Yokota High School, Japan. Football, wrestling, soccer. Carroll College, Helena, Montana. Brieanna Carroll, sophomore, Pusan American School, South Korea. Cross country, basketball, soccer. Pepperdine University, Malibu, Calif. Theresa Gittens, junior, Kadena High School, Okinawa. Basketball, soccer, softball. Missouri Valley College, Marshall, Mo.
2004 – Scott Tunis, junior, Seoul American High School. Football, wrestling, soccer. New Mexico Military Academy, Roswell, N.M. Katie LaGrave, Kadena High School, Okinawa. Volleyball, basketball, soccer. Augsburg College, Minneapolis.
2005 – Adam Krievs, senior, Nile C. Kinnick and Matthew C. Perry, Japan. Football, wrestling, soccer. San Bernardino Valley Community College, San Bernardino, Calif. Dianne Abel, junior, Kadena, Okinawa. Cross country, basketball, soccer. Winthrop University, Rock Hill, S.C.; University of West Florida, Pensacola, Fla.
2006 – Carlos Albaladejo, junior, Osan American High School, South Korea. Football, wrestling, soccer. Lynnette Grant, senior, Taegu American School, South Korea. Volleyball, basketball, softball. Jacksonville State University, Alabama (killed in car accident in September 2006).
2007 – David Heitstuman, junior, E.J. King High School, Japan, cross country, wrestling, soccer. Naval Academy, Annapolis, Md. Zori Drew, senior, Kadena High School, Okinawa, volleyball, basketball, softball. Brigham Young University-Hawaii.
2008 – Andrew Quallio, junior, Zama American, Japan, cross country, track and field. Monica Hayes, senior, Kadena, Okinawa, basketball, softball. University of Dubuque (Iowa).
2009 — Andrew Quallio, senior, Zama American, Japan, cross country, track and field. Air Force Academy, Colorado. Celine Baldevia, senior, Osan American, South Korea, volleyball, basketball, soccer.
2010 — Stanley Schrock, senior, Kadena, Okinawa, football, basketball, soccer. Colorado State University-Mesa, Grand Junction, Colo. Liz Gleaves, junior Seoul American, volleyball, basketball, soccer.
2011 – Lotty Smith, senior, Kadena, Okinawa, football, basketball, track and field. Liz Gleaves, senior, Seoul American, volleyball, basketball, soccer. Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Va.