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Far East tournaments in tennis, cross country and wrestling will again include international schools, DODEA Pacific officials announced Wednesday.

The decision, finalized Tuesday by DODEA Pacific director Diana Ohman, overturns a ruling made in September 2004 to limit those tournaments to DODEA Pacific schools because of concerns about facilities and billeting availability at host sites.

The issue had been debated for years, DODEA Pacific Far East athletics coordinator Don Hobbs said, adding that a majority of coaches and FEAC members supported bringing international schools back.

Ohman’s predecessor, Nancy Bresell, made the ruling to exclude international schools because event organizers had expressed “concern that some of those events had become too large,” Hobbs said.

As many as 25 schools participated in some of those events, severely taxing billeting especially. To allay those concerns, DODEA-Pacific plans to cap the number of teams in those three events at 16. With 12 DODEA Pacific cross-country and tennis programs and 11 wrestling teams, that leaves openings for four non-DODEA tennis and cross country teams and five wrestling teams, Hobbs said.

“That’s good news,” said Craig Eby, longtime athletics director, track and cross-country coach at Christian Academy Japan, one of the affected international schools.

For now, Tuesday’s ruling does not affect baseball, softball and track and field, which were added as Far East sports this year, Hobbs said.

“We’ll have more information before the end of the first quarter” of the next school year, he said. “We want to take baby steps to ensure the events’ success. And we’re always flirting with bad weather here.”

Tentatively, Far East tennis is scheduled for Nov. 8-11 at Kadena Air Base, Okinawa; cross country is slated for Nov. 8-9 at Yokota Air Base, Japan; and wrestling will be Feb. 14-17 at Camp Humphreys, South Korea.

Unlike in the past, when event organizers invited international schools, “Hobbs has final say” as to who may be invited, he said.

Hobbs said he hasn’t decided how he’ll determine which schools will be invited but expected to have an answer by the start of school. “I want to develop something fair and equitable,” he said.

For certain, any non-DODEA wrestling team must have “at least eight” weight classes filled, Hobbs said.

Whether international schools will flock back to tennis and cross country meets is a “good question,” Eby said. Since 2004, international schools have competed in Asia-Pacific Invitational meets, cross country on Guam and tennis in a variety of locations.Eby did say that CAJ, American School In Japan and St. Mary’s International “all want to go” back to wrestling.

While wrestling might benefit from greater competition, Yokota coach Brian Kitts said Tuesday’s ruling could tip the competitive scales in tennis and cross country back in favor of international programs. From their 1976 inception to 2003, only Kadena won cross-country titles in 1984 and 2002 and tennis in 1989.

“I feel happy for wrestling, but I feel badly for everybody else,” Kitts said.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He served 10½ years in the Air Force, the last 4½ assigned to Stripes in Tokyo, and was then hired by Stripes on Oct. 25, 1985. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages Pacific Storm Tracker.
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