Kinnick runners on track for solid season
Yokota Panthers freshman Ai Veazey negotiates a hurdle down the home stretch of the 300 low hurdles during Saturday's DODDS Japan/Kanto Plain season-opening track and field meet at Yokota Air Base, Japan. Veazey won the event.
Carydaliz Fontanez has lived her track and field years at Nile C. Kinnick in the shadows of Seoul American’s Amanda Henderson and Kubasaki’s Jessica Ircink and Allie Reichenberg.
That may change, if Saturday’s season-opening meet at Yokota was an indicator.
The senior distance specialist captured the 800, 1,600 and 3,200 races and helped the Red Devils win the 3,200 relay, leading a parade of Kinnick athletes who sparkled at Yokota High School’s Bonk Field.
“That would be good,” Red Devils coach Luke Voth said of Fontanez’s chances, within DODDS Japan and the Kanto Plain as well as Far East. “She’s running very dedicated right now. She’s working hard.”
Among other Kinnick winners on Saturday was Shakita Samuels, a junior who won the 200 and helped win the 1,600 relay, while tying for first in the high jump. Also, sophomore Jabari Johnson won the 200 and 400 going away, while senior Ian O’Brien captured the shot put.
Another Kanto luminary who fell just short last year in Far East, Yokota’s Daniel Galvin, offered up an indication of his own, taking the 800 and 1,600 and helping the Panthers win the 1,600 relay.
“Good start,” Voth said. “We have a lot to work on; everybody has something to work on. (But) I’m pleased with the performances, it was a nice day, it was a good first meet.”
Many a team on Saturday in many a sport got off to a good start or kept a good beginning going.
Freshman Macalah Danielsen, despite a sore arm, went 2-for-2 with two walks, two triples and four RBIs in her high-school debut, powering 2013 Far East Division I runner-up Kadena past Kubasaki 13-3 in a five-inning Okinawa softball season opener.
Danielsen, who along with many of the Panthers and Dragons play for the Lady Ambassadors softball club, confessed to nerves before the game. “I didn’t want to mess up; that feels really bad and makes me more nervous,” she said, adding she felt “comfortable” after her first hit.
Because so many play for the Ambassadors, Panthers coach Kelli Wilson says she’s “very confident” putting two freshmen and four sophomores in the lineup. “The good thing is, you can’t tell that they’re young,” Wilson said. “I don’t have anybody who’s new to the game.”
While Matthew C. Perry’s girls soccer team has broken out of the gate at 7-0 with freshman Bobbi Hill netting 11 goals and sophomore Ani Erhart seven, new coach Suzette Lopez says it’s all been pretty much against Division II-level competition.
“We’ll see how we do” next week at Yokota, Lopez said, adding that she loses several players in two weeks to DODDS Linguafest, just prior to a weekend series at Nile C. Kinnick. “We really are young.”
After a 1-2-1 start in last weekend’s Western Japan Athletic Association tournament, M.C. Perry’s boys swept their three home matches this weekend. Senior Gaku Lange led the way with 10 goals over the weekend.
“We righted the ship,” Lange’s father and Samurai coach Mark Lange said. “It’s amazing what a few goals will do. The season’s here, we’re happy, the boys worked hard, they controlled the ball. They feel good about themselves.”
Kadena’s boys soccer team, reigning Far East Division I champions, also got off to a good start, scoring five times in a win over Ginoza, but also giving up three goals, which Panthers coach Mike Callahan said was a concern entering the season.
“We need to work on our defensive structure and plug in the new pieces,” Callahan said. The Dragons’ next test comes Wednesday at Kubasaki, a 7-3 winner over Mil United, an adult team.
Another reigning D-I champion, Kinnick softball, opened with a weekend sweep of Robert D. Edgren, winning 19-13, 23-9 and 13-0.
DODDS Korea diamond champions Seoul American opened Saturday at Daegu, the baseball team pummeling the Warriors 27-2 in three innings and the softball team routing defending D-II champion Daegu 15-2 in six.
After losing twice at American School In Japan on Friday, reigning D-I baseball champion Kubasaki closed its four-game Tokyo swing by sweeping St. Mary’s International 7-1 and 12-1, the same Titans team the Dragons beat 19-1 last May 26 for their second Far East banner in four years.
“We hit the ball and didn’t make as many mistakes” as they did Friday, coach Randy Toor said.
Last year’s D-II softball runner-up E.J. King took the first step toward completing what Cobras coach McKinzy Best called “very much unfinished business.” They swept Zama in a Saturday doubleheader 10-2 and 14-13.