Gleaves, Seoul dominated when it counted
To really appreciate Seoul American’s unprecedented Far East Division I title feats, and Liz Gleaves’ three straight tournament MVP awards, one must look well beyond the numbers.
It was Gleaves’ athleticism, her ability to leap to whatever height needed to make a soccer save, a volleyball spike or a basketball bucket, that had the Pacific talking — so much that she inspired a Facebook page entitled “OMG — LIZ GLEAVES!” which boasts 118 members.
The senior stands just 5 feet, 5 inches. Yet Gleaves and the Falcons stood tallest in Pacific high school sports. Fittingly, they topped the list of this year’s top stories.
“She’s a phenomenal athlete,” said Gleaves’ basketball and soccer coach, Billy Ratcliff.
She became the first girl in DODDS Pacific Far East tournament history to earn three straight MVP awards, and the Falcons, including Destinee Harrison, Gloria Patterson and Tiffaney Mitchell among others, won Division I titles in three sports.
On Feb. 20 at Camp Zama, Japan, Gleaves scored 14 points and the Falcons outscored Faith Academy 16-11 in the fourth quarter to rally for a 50-47 victory in the Division I basketball championship.
On May 22, Gleaves made six regulation saves and three in the penalty-kick shootout as the Falcons outlasted Faith 1-0 in the D-I soccer final at Okinawa’s Kubasaki High School.
On Nov. 13, on their home court, the Falcons capped coach Denny Hilgar’s 31st and final season with a 25-20, 25-15, 25-27, 12-25, 15-4 victory, once more over Faith, and the school’s first D-I volleyball title.
The rest of this year’s top Pacific high school sports stories:
No. 2. DODDS-Pacific adds track and field, baseball and softball to Far East championship calendar:
For years, coaches and athletics directors lobbied DODDS-Pacific to add baseball, softball and track to the Far East Activities Calendar. In January, they got their wish as DODDS-Pacific director Diana Ohman gave it her stamp of approval, with the tournaments staged in May.
No. 3. “Speed Inc.” keeps Kadena football title run going:
Led by “Speed Inc.,” senior running backs Thomas McDonald (1,033 yards, 19 touchdowns, 99 carries) and Shariff Coleman (1,148, 14, 110), Kadena’s football team went 9-0, outscored foes 387-87, won its fifth consecutive Okinawa Activities Council regular-season title and its third D-I championships in four years.
No. 4. Daegu volleyball, football celebrate rare D-II titles together:
On Nov. 6, the Daegu American football team avenged its loss in the 2009 title game with a 28-2 victory over Zama American that gave the Warriors their first Far East Division II boys title in any sport since taking it all in basketball in 1990. It also gave them a chance to celebrate with their girls volleyball counterparts, who repeated as D-II champions.
No. 5. Pitching powers Kadena, Kubasaki to first Far East softball, baseball titles:
Patrick “Duck” Duffy and Desirae Seals threw complete-game victories as Kubasaki’s baseball team and Kadena’s softball team — the latter seven-time OAC champions — won the inaugural Far East tournaments. Kubasaki baseball downed Kadena 8-4 on May 21 at Naval Air Facility Atsugi; Kadena softball routed Robert D. Edgren 22-9 the next day at Kadena Air Base.
No. 6. Kinnick track wins overall team crowns in Kanto, Far East:
Days apart in May, Valerie James’ three gold medals helped power Nile C. Kinnick’s track and field team to the overall team title in the Kanto Plain Invitational Meet on May 17 in Tokyo, then the boys 1,600 relay team recovered from a mid-race spill to win gold and give the Red Devils the overall team title in the Far East meet May 27 at Kubasaki. Kinnick also won the girls team title by five points over Kubasaki.
No. 7. Gadsden, Shikama strike double gold in Far East tennis:
The only thing missing on Amber Gadsden’s tennis résumé was a Far East Tournament gold medal. On Nov. 11, the Guam High senior crowned her career with two golds, in singles and teaming with her freshman sister Chloe for the girls doubles title at Kadena Air Base. St. Mary’s International freshman Kent Shikama did the same, winning the boys singles and teaming with Stefan Byland for the doubles.
No. 8. St. Mary’s Langley, Seoul’s Henderson rule XC courses:
Senior Kelly Langley of St. Mary’s International and Seoul American junior Amanda Henderson stood tallest on the Pacific’s cross-country courses. Langley captured an unofficial triple crown, winning the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools, Asia-Pacific Invitational and Far East meet titles; Henderson went unbeaten in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference and also won Far East gold. Each runner went unbeaten.
No. 9. Speck, Strudthoff help Guam High unseat Guam soccer dynasty:
Meagan Speck’s 11th goal and Melanie Strudthoff’s eighth shutout of the season on Dec. 11 brought an end to Notre Dame’s five-year run atop Guam’s girls high school soccer world. The 1-0 victory gave the Panthers their first island championship since 2003.
No. 10. Big Four powers Osan boys volleyball to first KAIAC D-I title:
After playing bridesmaid to Seoul Foreign the previous three seasons, Billy Bortscheller, Jason Griess, Nathan Baldevia and Matt Albonetti finally broke through with a school-first KAIAC regular-season and D-I Tournament titles and regular-season win over Seoul Foreign.