Things learned, observed in Pacific high school spring sports season Week 4.0
It was noble in concept when then-district superintendent Mike Diekmann put a true DODDS Japan sports circuit on the map for school year 1999-2000.
Schools in far-flung locales, E.J. King, Matthew C. Perry and Robert D. Edgren no longer had to go longing for competition against their Kanto Plain brethren; they each now have full-fledged schedules in football, volleyball, tennis, cross country, basketball, wrestling, baseball, softball, track and soccer.
Problem is, the weather sometimes is uncooperative and the calendar always is, at least where tennis, baseball, softball, track and sometimes soccer are concerned.
Purely by chance, the last two weekends have proven to be rain magnets. Heavy rain, sideways rain, the sort of rain that settles in and keeps up all day or all weekend.
Two Kanto Plain track and field meets got called off 17 hours before they were to begin on Saturday, an international-schools meet at Tokyo’s Kinuta Park and a DODDS all-comers meet at Camp Zama. This, a week after a combined Japan schools practice meet at Zama got almost completely washed out, except for a few running events. Guess the meet organizers didn’t want to take a chance after that March 10 washout. Wise decision.
Baseball and softball were completely out of the conversation on March 9-10 at Zama. Perry, King and Edgren did get in some boys and girls games at Yokota, Zama and Nile C. Kinnick on Friday, but Saturday’s action was a wash. Soccer matches did get played at Sasebo, where E.J. King’s fields are turfed, and at Iwakuni, where Perry’s match organizers got creative in clearing the field; more on that later.
It’s an exercise in frustration, especially since most weekends are filled, wall to wall, with long-haul matches on the schedule. It’s 360 miles from Tokyo to Misawa, some 560 miles to Iwakuni and 780 to Sasebo. It’s much easier to reschedule Kanto Plain matches, when the schools are so much closer. It’s nigh onto impossible to reschedule DODDS Japan sports events of most any type once postponed. Worse, there are fewer options for the outlying schools, where international schools are fewer or more distant than in the Kan-to and Japanese schools have their own leagues.
Squeegees are normally associated with tennis courts when rain turns hardcourts into skating rinks. Mark Lange, Matthew C. Perry’s boys soccer coach, continues to make creative use of the court driers on a different sort of court – the soccer pitch.
From 6:30 a.m. Saturday, Lange and his star striker Tyelor Apple, among others, wielded Squeegees to clear off enough water from Lake Perry (Lange’s nickname for the school field when it becomes waterlogged due to heavy rain) so that Robert D. Edgren and the host Matthew C. Perry Samurai could play, albeit on a shortened field. The two schools teed it up, then played a mix-and-match game as the two sides used each other’s players in a friendly match.
“Masters in the bag, working on my doctorate,” Lange posted on Facebook in response to me calling him, “Lord of the Squeegee.”
In between raindrops, Perry’s boys improved to 11-2 on the season, and the DODDS Japan season should likely come down to the Samurai and the 3-0 Nile C. Kinnick Red Devils. Jay Schlesinger, Marcus Boehler and Zach Yoder have been white hot, as have region goal-scoring leader Apple (20), Gaku Lange (15) and Yuta Fleming (12).
Over in Korea, Gyeonggi Suwon International (7-0) and Seoul Foreign (8-0) continue to point toward their April 14 showdown, which will likely mean first place in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference Division I season. And it’s a pretty wild scrum underneath those two, where any of four teams can finish third.
GSIS has certainly improved in the KAIAC D-I girls season, 4-1-1. Taejon Christian International (4-2-2) is on the Knights’ heels, but everybody is chasing Seoul Foreign (8-0), which will likely win yet another regular-season title and KAIAC tournament top seed at Seoul American on April 27-28. Just don’t sleep on Daegu High, which is a notoriously slow starter but always catches fire come late April.
Bragging rights among girls in Japan belong to Kinnick (4-0) and Zama (4-1), led by Kaile Johnson and Rachel Walls with eight goals each. They’ll tee it up Monday evening; the Red Devils will take command if they win.
On Okinawa, where bad weather was hardly a bother (for once), Rahman Cairnes gave Okinawa Christian International School a rare triple gold-medal performance as the first Okinawa Activities Council track and field meet of the season was held Friday at Kubasaki’s Mike Petty Stadium.
Cairnes won the long jump, 100- and 200-meter sprints, breaching the 11-second mark in the 100, clocking a 10.99 in mid-March with seven meets left before Far East in late May. It’ll be interesting to see if he can challenge the Pacific record, 10.54, set last season by Andre Watson of Kubasaki.
Derrick Taylor scored double-gold for Kadena, winning the 400 and 110 hurdles, while Kadena’s Janika Caines swept the long jump and 100 and Columbus Wilson of Kubasaki the high jump and 300 hurdles.
Kubasaki ruled the distance courses, as freshman Erik Armes and junior Allie Reichenberg each swept the boys and girls 1,500 and 3,000. A strong opening statement by Armes, the freshman triathloner who won the boys gold medal in last November’s Far East cross-country meet.
On the soccer pitch, Kadena’s boys record leveled at 1-1 after losing 1-0 on Friday against a combined squad of Okinawa Diplomats youth players and Mil United adult strikers. And the Dragons baseball team struggled against adult opposition of its own, falling 12-1 Saturday against the Ryukyu University Stingray.
Nick Barker of Kubasaki returned from a finger injury suffered during the wrestling season and scored a goal right off the bat on Sunday at Kubasaki, but Konan High School, more renowned for its Japan National Championship Baseball Tournament title team, rallied for two second-half goals to beat the Dragons 3-2.
Guam’s spring sports (fourth-quarter) season begins very soon, and with it, the Guam High Panthers, the reigning island champions, will take to the pitch for the first time since winning the second island championship in school history, but without striker Meagan Speck, who’ll play next fall for North Carolina-Charlotte, and All-Island midfielder Lexi Vermeire.
Still, the Panthers have reason to be excited as the season approaches. All-Island keeper Melanie Strudthoff will return in the net and at midfield, while freshman Tayler Kukes, who plays for Guam’s U-14 national team, will fill Speck’s spot, and I’m told she’s got a solid left foot. And there won’t be a five-month layoff between the island’s girls soccer season and Far East.