KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – They’d begun the season as question marks. Andrew Kilkenny was fighting an illness and Ana Hernandez was coming off an injury-plagued sophomore season. But by the time the season ended on Nov. 6, life was golden for Kadena’s star cross-country runners.
Kilkenny and Hernandez each won their respective individual races at Camp Fuji, then helped power Kadena to the overall team title at Naval Air Facility Atsugi, helping the school win every award there was to win at the Division I level for the second time in history.
“And they’re only juniors,” coach Tom McKinney said. “They’re great to have.”
Kilkenny ran the 3.1-mile course at Camp Fuji, in the chill and altitude of 2,300 feet, in 17 minutes, 28.3 seconds, nearly 16 seconds ahead of runner-up Robert Beard of Nile C. Kinnick. Defending champion Erik Armes of Kubasaki suffered an asthma attack and finished fifth.
Kilkenny “came in focused this year,” McKinney said. Over the summer, Kilkenny trained at a Nike camp in North Carolina, “and came back with his mind focused on what he wanted to do.”
After battling illness for the first couple of weeks, he and teammate Yuji Callahan took turns finishing second behind Armes for much of the season; the three are avid training partners who regularly run on-island Ironman events.
In the Far East meet, Kilkenny came out of the wooded section of the course, 1¼ miles into the race, with a slight lead over Beard. “He got to the 800-meter mark, then took off on a sprint and the rest, as they say,” McKinney said.
Hernandez, meanwhile, battled shin splints and other leg injuries during her sophomore year and got left home for Far East.
“She learned what she had to do, train harder, be smart, be healthy, she changed her whole lifestyle to get ready for Far East,” McKinney said.
Ready for the challenge, Hernandez ran the Far East course in 20:22.2, almost a minute ahead of Kubasaki’s Allie Reichenberg (21:13.2) and Division II champion Lucille Nunnely of St. Maur International (21:14.4).
“She found a gear we didn’t know she had,” McKinney said.
With Armes transferring and Beard and Reichenberg graduating, the 2013 Far East could come down to a battle between Callahan and Kilkenny on the boys side, and Hernandez and Kubasaki newcomer Jessica Freedman, who took ninth at Far East, on the girls’.
“It should be a good battle,” McKinney said.
2012 Stars and Stripes All-Far East Cross Country Team
Andrew Kilkenny, Kadena, DODDS Pacific Far East meet 3.1-mile individual race gold medalist
Henry Valentine-Ramsden, Seoul Foreign, Asia-Pacific Invitational 3.1-mile individual race gold medalist
Erik Armes, Kubasaki, region’s fastest time, 16 minutes, 31 seconds
Ana Hernandez, Kadena, Far East meet 3.1-mile individual race gold medalist
Taylor Fell, St. John’s, Asia-Pacific Invitational 3.1-mile individual race gold medalist
Carydaliz Fontanez, Nile C. Kinnick, region’s fastest time, 19:19