A group of six Okinawa Activities Council shot-putters could be seen Friday watching and listening as a tall, older man in an Air Force track and field shirt talked tips and swung his body demonstratively to show proper form.
It was one of several moments that brought a different type of air to this weekend’s all-comers meet. Field events Friday at Kubasaki featured three Air Force types competing against high-school counterparts.
“It’s great,” Kadena sophomore Nolynn Riley said of having Michael Kemp, Air Force Academy Class of 2009 who threw shot, discus and hammer for the Falcons, present at the meet.
Listening and learning from him “puts you ahead of the curve … gives you a better foundation,” Riley said.
Kemp was joined Friday by long-jump specialist Demornic Lodge and high jumper Brandon Jones of Kadena, three of roughly 50 men and women athletes entered in the two-day event. Most are entered in sprint events. Kadena hosts Day 2 of the meet.
For Kemp, it was his first competition since 2008 - his last season - and it also opened the door for him to become a Kadena High throwing coach. The 25-year-old native of Daytona Beach, Fla., is a first lieutenant with Kadena’s 353rd Special Operations Group.
“It’s something I’ve been thinking about for awhile,” Kemp said, adding that just walking up to Mike Petty Stadium and seeing athletes warm up evoked memories of his competitive days.
Kadena coach Kevin Taylor said his old throwing coach took a new job and was receptive to bringing Kemp aboard.
“We’d love to have him,” Riley said.
Kemp put the shot 44 feet, 2 inches, short of his maximum of 50, but well ahead of the 38-1 thrown by Kubasaki’s Justin Clemenson. “I promise I’ll put on a better show” in discus, Kemp said, and he did, 154-11, short of his personal best 171 but well ahead of Kadena’s Anthony Sherman’s 119-8.
Jones, 21, an airman assigned to the 353rd and a former district champion out of Jacksonville, Fla., was competing for the first time in two years. He topped out at 6 feet, two inches shy of his personal best.
“It’s all right,” he said of being back in the jump pit.
Lodge, who’s also entered in sprint events, long-jumped 21-9.
While military athletes dominated the men’s side, a Kadena High threesome swept the women’s four field events, led by Jazmyn Sharper’s 28-10 and 69-11 in the shot and discus, Erika Bongo’s 14-8 in the long and Jasmine Rhodes’ 5-1 in the high.
“She’s a star,” Kubasaki sophomore Keila Welky said of Rhodes, a fellow sophomore.
Zama rises as a boys soccer power
With all eyes on reigning Far East Division II Tournament champion Matthew C. Perry and D-I runner-up Nile C. Kinnick, few saw Zama American’s boys soccer team coming. But the first two days of the DODDS Japan tournament, the Trojans fired warning shots across each team’s bows, signaling their arrival as a league and Far East D-II contender.
“That’s how it is,” first-year Trojans coach Marc Norton said after Zama stunned Perry 4-1 on Friday, the tournament’s second day. That came a day after the Trojans blanked host Kinnick 2-0.
The Trojans watched earlier Friday as the Samurai shut out the Red Devils 1-0. Then Ben Cook, who has six goals this season, unleashed a fusillade of shots at Perry’s net, scoring three times. JoJo Byrnes tallied his eighth goal.
“We’re tough when we play well, and we played well,” said Norton, whose Trojans are 8-0, their best start in at least 13 seasons.
Kinnick’s girls, as expected, were 3-0 after two days of play in the three-day DODDS Japan tournament at Yokota. Athena Peerson scored three times as the Red Devils blanked Zama and Edgren by a combined 8-0.
Kinnick softball also signals arrival
Behind the arms of Grace Huezo and transfer Kelly Osterbrink, Kinnick’s girls softball team has also begun its season in stride. The Red Devils improved to 8-0 emphatically on Thursday, thrashing Zama 16-1 and 29-9, each via run rule.
Zama only had one loss this season - 12-10 to defending D-I champion Kadena.
Falcons, Warriors split
After tying their last four matches, Seoul American’s boys got into the win column once again behind Andrew Clark’s two goals in a 2-0 shutout of Daegu at Camp Walker.
On the girls side, Sierra Anderson scored twice and Seoul American’s girls appeared in command 2-0 at halftime, but “our defense didn’t show up in the second half,” Falcons coach Scott Bittner said. Lari Robertson, Monica Morales and Sarah Wright each scored as Daegu rallied to beat the Falcons 3-2. “We had an incredible second half,” Warriors coach Brian Durrant said.