CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – Jon Fick watched Kubasaki capture the Far East Division I football title and his own Dragons basketball team finish second in last month’s D-I Tournament.
A good number of athletes from those teams have migrated to the track this spring.
Respective 1,600-meter Pacific record holders Jessica Ircink and Erik Armes, have transferred to the States, while Ryan Bugler and Allie Reichenberg graduated last June. That takes 45 Far East team points away from the boys and girls teams, Fick notes.
“But we have a lot of athletes here,” he said. “To win football and to come in second in basketball, we have to have something.”
What the Dragons do have, in Fick’s third season as coach, is more of a balance, especially on the girls side. While the table was tilted in favor of distance a year ago, Fick says the hope is that the Dragons can get points in other areas to make up the shortfall.
“We lost a lot of points, but we can make up for them if our throwers and relays come through,” Fick said.
Plenty of upperclass experience populates the boys sprint corps, led by football speedsters Jarrett Mitchell and Winston Maxwell, and Fick believes that Rahman Farnell, late of basketball, is prepared to have a big senior season.
Among girls sprinters, youth is clearly served with sophomores Kaelyn Francis and Kortney Mitchell – also of basketball – at the start line.
It’s not as though the distance cupboard is bare: Senior Jessica Freedman and junior Sam Fugate return. Seniors Kareem Key and Kane Wilton lead the throwers corps, senior Josie Mitchell heads the jumps and hurdles group and junior DeQuan Alderman will run middle distances.
“We need some middle distance in the boys; the girls, we have some stars in some areas,” Fick said.
“You take away the 800, the mile and the two-mile and we’re still in the running. It won’t be as dominant as last year, but we’ll compete. I’m pretty optimistic.”
They’ll get a stern challenge in the distance events from Kadena, with two-time Far East cross-country champions Ana Hernandez and Andrew Kilkenny; Yokota, with sophomore distance phenom Daniel Galvin; and Zama, with sophomore Jarell Hibler.
Nile C. Kinnick, the DODDS Japan and girls D-I team champion, returns most of the crew that earned those points, including three-fourths of the crew that set a Pacific 1,600 relay record, sophomore Aya Stewart and juniors Rhyssa Hizon and Shakita Samuels.
At the Division II level, Zama has shown early promise, thanks to Hibler, junior hurdler Candace Bowman and senior thrower Niyah Lewis. Daegu finally has some good numbers and the same coach for a second season for the first time, as does Osan.
But the Cougars face replacing their entire squad, half of which moved to Humphreys. The Blackhawks welcome a new-old face to Pacific track, new coach Mitchell Moellendick, who coached Zama in the 2000s.