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UK weekly edition, Wednesday, May 23, 2007

RAF MILDENHALL

They may not want to take those jerseys off this final time.

Lakenheath High School closed out the 2007 season with a return to glory as two separate teams claimed European championships in Germany over the past weekend and a long-distance runner demolished a 2- decade-old track record.

Two competitive nail-biters propelled both the soccer and softball teams to championships while Greg Billington etched his name into local sporting history with a 3,000-meter race time of 8 minutes, 34.16 seconds.

The boys soccer team put the exclamation point on one of its most successful seasons in decades with a 2-1 win over the International School of Brussels in Belgium, to claim the DODDS- Europe boys Division I crown.

The softball team prevailed in equally dramatic fashion with a 5-4 win over Ramstein in Germany, which had captured the European crown the past four seasons.

One sweet titleThe Lancers topped the ISB with two long-distance goals from Carl Snapp and Derek Dean.

Snapp got the scoring started by taking a Chris Davis assist and lofting the ball 35 yards into the far upper corner of the net. Dean then scorched a 45-yard free kick to put the Lancers well ahead of ISB, which threatened with a goal in the final 10 minutes of the match.

As well as Snapp and Davis played on the offensive front and as active as Dean was on defense, it was goalkeeper Eric Gallegos whose inspired play led the Lancers throughout the tourney. He was named tournament Most Valuable Player after holding ISB to one goal.

The date with ISB in the title match was a first for the Lancers since 1985. But they showed little nervousness en route to finishing the season undefeated, with a scoreless tie to traditional powerhouse Heidelberg, Germany, its only imperfection.

“Our 2007 season was a success because of teamwork. The Lakenheath Boys soccer team was made up of square pegs who had to fit round holes,” head coach Garrett Billington wrote in an e-mail to Stars and Stripes. “Nearly every boy played out of their spot for at least part of the season. Nearly every boy had to sacrifice something for the benefit of the team. Their sacrifices paid off in the end.”

A sliding catchThe Lady Lancers took the lead early against the Lady Royals off catcher Lisa McBride’s second inning three-run base-clearer. The team capitalized again in the seventh inning when Jessica Serd drove in the decisive run.

And it was Serd who made a sliding catch in shallow center field in the bottom of the seventh with Lady Royals runners in scoring position to keep the Lady Lancers up for good.

Lakenheath pitcher Rebecca Groff collected three strikeouts on her way to the win over powerhouse Ramstein, which had last finished a season without the title in 2002.

The title caps off a tremendous 20-1 season for the Lady Lancers, which only lost to Ramstein this season.

“I have to say that the championship was a great game for the ladies as well as the spectators,” Lady Lancers coach John Gilmore wrote Stars and Stripes in an e-mail. “The ladies liked the idea of playing Ramstein again because they had something to prove.”

Breaking recordsSenior Greg Billington has made a habit out of winning this year. But he left a mark in Germany over the past weekend that may stand for years after he leaves Lakenheath.

Billington obliterated a 21-year-old record in the 3,000 meters by topping the record of 8:36.9 by more than two seconds — a relatively significant margin in the world of track and field.

(For more on the track and field championship in Rüsselsheim, see Page 8.)

Add Alconbury, tooThe Alconbury girls soccer team also had a successful post-season tournament after earning a chance to compete for a Division IV title before falling to Brussels.

Alconbury took the early 1-0 lead in the game’s sixth minute when Elizabeth Eastman netted on a put back after the Brussels keeper bobbled a shot from the right wing.

But it was too much Lady Brigands in the end after five straight goals from Brussels.

John Vandiver, Steve Mraz and Rusty Bryan contributed to this report from Germany.

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