Headed for Petty: Things learned and observed during Cherry Blossom weekend in Kanto
Published: April 4, 2010
Musings, mutterings and the occasional schmahts as Ornauer marvels at the abounding pretty little cherry blossoms all over the Kan-to and rushes headlong toward a track meet so big, it's known by one name:
-- See what happens when Kubasaki's girls softball team plays somebody other than Kadena, and plays somewhere other than Okinawa? The gloves and bats come alive (Vanessa Ellis 6-for-12, 2 home runs, 10 RBIs leading the way) and the Dragons go a robust 3-1 at the Zama Invitational weekend jamboree. Just the dose of confidence needed in Dragons softball nation. Now, they know they can win.
-- I don't think any player or coach on either side would say it out loud, but it had to be planted somewhere in the back of their minds: Kadena beats Kubasaki regularly simply because ... well, Kadena's won all seven island championships and Kubasaki hasn't beaten the Panthers in its last eight tries.
-- The four-team, two-day event held a little something for everybody involved, starting with Kadena's 5-4 Friday loss to two-time DODEA Japan champion Nile C. Kinnick. In so doing, the Red Devils avenged their defeat against the Panthers in last year's DODEA Japan tournament, and gave Kadena a good wakeup moment. "The girls know if they don't bring their A game, they can be beat," coach Jesse Costa said.
-- Kinnick had been unbeaten entering last week before dropping a DODEA Japan twin bill at Zama, then going 1-3 in the Zama Invitational. "I think we proved ... we can beat anybody, but it's going to take a lot to beat everybody," coach Danel MacWhyte said. He referenced next month's Far East tournament at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa, for which the Zama jamboree served as a tune-up.
-- As for host Zama, with its youthful roster (eight freshmen, five of whom start), it was their taste of fire-testing, which should prove invaluable as at least half of those freshmen are due to stay at Zama until they graduate (see more in Thursday's Home Team page).
-- Friday's games were played at MacArthur and King Fields near Rambler Park on Naval Air Facility Atsugi, then Saturday's took place at Field 2 of the Yano Fitness & Sports Complex to coincide with Camp Zama's annual Cherry Blossom Festival. The trees held that feel of an early-spring snowfall with all the sakura in bloom. But watching the softball with a middle-school band playing across the street on the youth soccer field had sort of a Japan Pro Baseball feel to it (those who've gone to an NPB game know what I'm talking about).
-- Over in Korea, the team that everybody wanted to see, Seoul American, continues to roll, sweeping a third straight weekend twin bill over Daegu American (12-8) and Osan American (26-0). The four-run win over Daegu was as close as an opponent has come to beating the Falcons, who played their bench for the majority of the contest to give them playing time to prepare for Far East.
-- Speaking of Daegu, judging from the photos on Facebook, I'm guessing the Warriors girls soccer team made some new friends over the weekend. On Friday, they were to play at Yongsan International-Seoul, but the Guardians lost most of their lineup to a class trip that afternoon; had the game been played two hours earlier, that would not have happened. As it was, Daegu coach Ed Thompson lent several of his players to YIS-Seoul to give them a complete side, then they scrimmaged. And posed for quite a few photos afterward.
-- Matthew C. Perry striker Andre Bugawan, who had just 14 goals last season, continues to pile up goals at a rapid rate -- a region-leading 23 as the Samurai took fifth place in the Osaka International Futsal Tournament over the weekend (Nile C. Kinnick took seventh). For Samurai coach Mark Lange, Bugawan has already topped by five goals the highest scorer Lange has ever had in his years of coaching.
-- And give Kinnick and Perry the James Brown Award for the hardest-working soccer teams in the Pacific. Kinnick rode all night Thursday on a bus, played Friday at Perry, then the two teams boarded a bus and drove six hours to Osaka for Saturday's Futsal Tournament. After that, Kinnick and Perry each boarded another bus for home. "We did a lot to play soccer over the weekend, no question about it," Lange said.
-- You think Kinnick's Shannon Jackson, who tossed the shot a Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools-record 33 feet on Saturday at Yokota isn't going to play a game of "break my own record" the rest of the track and field season? She beat the 20-year-old mark of 10.05 meters set by Christian Academy Japan's Lark Amos by one-hundredth of a meter.
-- That high-jump record might also be dead-on-arrival at this coming weekend's Mike Petty Memorial Meet. CAJ's Shorai Ashida matched the 17-year-old Kanto record at 1.95 meters, or 6 feet, 4 1/2 inches. That's one inch shy of the Pacific mark set five years ago by Kadena's Marquis Newton. I seriously believe that 2 meters is possible at some point this season, perhaps at next month's Kanto Invitational. The Ashida vs. Kadena's Lotty Smith high-jump battle, both at Petty and Kanto, should be one for the ages.
-- Also on the endangered list: A.J. Watson of Kubasaki is taking dead aim at the 100 and 200 records; he ran 11.08 (the 100 record is 10.55) and 22.46 (the 200 mark is 21.4), each a Pacific season best. Cory Serfoss of Kinnick will likely take a run at some hurdles marks. And depending on Saturday's weather, the boys 400 relay and 400 record might also be in trouble (predictions later this week).
-- Though the boys shot put record is likely well out of reach, there is a new sheriff of the event in town: CAJ's Miles Peterson, in his first competition of the season (he was on senior trip last month), put the shot 13 meters. Easily a region best for the season.
-- Ryan Christianson swept the sprints. Soren Rasmussen and Sam Krauth dominated the distance events. Kinnick might have something to say about it, but I'm going out on a limb right now: American School In Japan will win the Kanto boys track team title this season.
-- Enjoyable travel moment of the week: For a guy who still lives with analog cassette tapes and boxes filled with vinyl albums, I continue to edge into the 21st century. Those PASMO commuter IC cards sure make life easier while using the Tokyo metro and other public train lines. Registration is simple and takes a couple of minutes, can be done in English and all you do is plunk down a 500-yen deposit, then "charge" up the card with as much yen as you desire (or can afford). No hassle with buying tickets at every stop. And they can be used on municipal or private train lines, the Tokyo Monorail, on buses; you can even buy a quick Coca-Cola with the card.
Five days until Petty!