The name Kadena became synonymous with championships in 2004.

Be it the largest Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific high school or the biggest Pacific Air Forces base’s interservice teams, titles seemed to find their way to Kadena Air Base in droves.

Kadena High’s Panthers racked up a record four DODDS Far East titles in four sports in a six-month span.

The base’s interservice football team took the inaugural Okinawa Football League crown. And a softball team composed primarily of Air Force players won two of four Pacific Grand Slam legs, led by one PACAF Athlete of the Year and two players selected to the All-Air Force team.

Kadena High: Home of champions

To hear some of the Panthers stars say so, Kadena High’s four Far East champion teams shared two common denominators: superior depth and expectations.

“We expected to do it in those sports,” said junior Anthony Soroka of Kadena’s Far East champion tennis and boys soccer squads. “We expect to do it in everything else. We want to show that we can do it in everything.”

The presence of so many championship banners in the high school gym — Kadena boasts 20 Far East team titles — serves as a motivator, Soroka said. “When you see all those banners, you have those high expectations and you hold yourself to that,” he said.

The Panthers’ championship run began April 30. Kadena’s boys soccer team edged Okinawa island-rival Kubasaki 2-1 in one Far East Class AA final at Yokota Air Base, while at nearby Camp Zama, the Panthers’ girls shut out Kubasaki 2-0.

Depth played a major role in the championships, junior Niki Kauzlarich said. “We had great starters, but it was the overall team,” she said. “The bench would give you the same effort as the starting players.”

The roll continued in the fall when Kadena repeated its Far East cross country title and won its first Far East tennis team championship.

Panthers runners won every award there was to win: Kauzlarich and senior Jon Turner captured the 3.1-mile individual races, Kadena won the team relay and placed eight runners on the All-Far East team.

Then came tennis, in which Kadena edged Seoul American for top team honors. Sophomore star Amy Lopes won the girls singles title.

High school beginnings, continuings and endings

Kadena’s cross country and tennis titles came about partly due to one of two major changes in the way DODDS-Pacific conducts its Far East high school tournaments.

n Citing concerns over availability of billeting and athletic facilities, DODDS-Pacific’s Far East Activities Council began limiting tournament fields in those sports and in wrestling to DODDS teams.

n Then last month, FEAC mandated an annual DODDS-Pacific interdistrict football playoff for large schools of 360 students or greater and small schools.

One result of the DODDS-only decision was removing international schools, which had long dominated tennis and cross country, from the Far East mix.

And it helped Pusan American end a 10-year Far East tournament title drought, as junior James Edwards won a boys tennis singles crown.

Amanda Reiff and Jessica Guertin of South Korea’s Osan American captured the girls doubles, Edwards and his sister Mary took the mixed doubles, and Seoul American’s Thomas Kim and Allen Chin the boys doubles.

In the final Far East wrestling tournament in which DODDS and non-DODDS schools competed last February, Seoul American won the dual-meet crown for its first Far East mat title. St. Mary’s International of Tokyo took the individual freestyle team title.

The football playoff decision means the end of the Rising Sun Bowl All-Japan championship, and perhaps the World Bowl All-Star series between Korea and Singapore.

Chris Roach and reigning Pacific football power Yokota ran their on-field winning streak to 48 games, won a sixth straight Japan Football League and Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools titles and fifth straight Rising Sun Bowl, beating Okinawa’s Kadena Islanders 50-6 on Nov. 13.

The verdict renewed calls for Kadena and Kubasaki to field full squads, instead of split squads, in future Rising Sun Bowls. The interdistrict playoff decision means Kadena and Kubasaki will do just that, starting next fall.

The Islanders, led by running back tandem Keith Loving and David McCowan, captured their first outright Okinawa Activities Council championship since 1983 by pounding the Kadena Buccaneers 37-12 in the island final on Nov. 4.

Meanwhile, pass-happy Bruce Voelker and Seoul American extended the Far East’s second-longest winning streak to 20 games and won its fourth straight Korea football title. The Korea All-Stars avenged a 55-6 loss to Singapore in 2003 by routing the Falcons All-Stars 51-0 at Yongsan Garrison.

In basketball, Seoul American made it two straight Class AA boys titles, as MVP Jake Abramowitz and the Falcons routed Nile C. Kinnick 76-48 in front of a home crowd at Falcon Gym.

Home cooking also agreed with Kubasaki’s girls. Coach Bob Driggs came out of a 12-season retirement, and with a back line of Shanon Sumter, Shanea McDaniel and Ka’leen Mathieu, the Dragons won their Pacific-record ninth Class AA title 46-41 over Guam’s John F. Kennedy Islanders.

In the Class A boys tournament at Osan Air Base, South Korea, Guam’s St. Paul Christian Warriors, led by co-MVP Andrew Borja, survived a two-game final with Japan’s E.J. King Cobras, losing the first game 65-63 in overtime before prevailing 60-53 in the deciding game.

And International School of the Sacred Heart, an all-girls school in Tokyo, won its first Far East title in any team sport. Led by sister post players Adena and Alecia Wallingford and floor general Mari Look, the Symbas downed Osan American 38-35 in the Class A girls hoops final.

Service spectrum: Yongsan, Yellow Box shine brightly

Few interservice basketball teams have tasted the success the Yongsan Runnin’ Rebels of Korea enjoyed last year.

With All-Armed Forces guard Ronald Bartley at the point, Yongsan cruised to a 37-5 record and won all five tournaments it entered, including the Koreawide Post-Level in March.

Bartley went on to lead Army to the All-Armed Forces gold medal, then helmed the All-Armed Forces team to a bronze in the International Military Sports Council tournament in Croatia and the gold in the Supreme Headquarters, Allied Powers Europe championship last month.

On the open tournament circuit, Yongsan overcame The Truth of Okinawa in a two-game final in the Martin Luther King event last January on Okinawa.

In the last major Pacificwide event of the year, Deon Johnson and Guam’s Andersen Bombers prevailed over Korea’s Kunsan Wolf Pack in the Osan Pacificwide Holiday Tournament in late December.

Yonnes Sanders paced Marine Corps Base Camp Butler to its first Marine Forces Pacific Regional Tournament title in more than 10 years with an 87-64 triumph over 1st Marine Aircraft Wing last April.

Five months later, Wing captured its first Marine regional soccer title, as Samuel “Doc” Ofosuhene scored twice and added an assist in a 4-1 victory over Base.

In August, four-time All-Armed Forces outfielder Gary Chaney hit a sixth-inning three-run home run to carry Okinawa’s 3rd Force Service Support Group to the Marine regional softball title 8-7 over Wing.

Wing’s Cherylton McRae made the All-Armed Forces men’s softball team for the 14th time, and Dexter Avery of Camp Carroll, South Korea, was selected a seventh time. Air Force won the gold in the All-Armed Forces tournament in September at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla.

Army prevailed over Air Force in the women’s All-Armed Forces at Peterson Air Force Base, Colo., with Twyla Sears of Kadena, Jamie Thompson of Japan’s Misawa Air Base and Christy Maxwell of Camp Casey, South Korea, being chosen for the All-Armed Forces team.

Softball’s open tournament circuit saw Yellow Box of Okinawa take the torch from Pacific Force as the region’s powerhouse.

Pacific Force broke up, after 15 years of being the area’s most dominant team, with 39 Pacific Grand Slam titles.

That threw the door open for Yellow Box, with PACAF Athlete of the Year and two-time All-Armed Forces catcher Dexter High and newcomers to the All-Air Force team, outfielder Scotty Roe and shortstop Carlo Aguon.

Yellow Box finished second to Korea’s International Guzzlers in the Yongsan Pacificwide tournament Memorial Day weekend. Yellow Box then won the Firecracker Shootout over the July 4 weekend at Okinawa’s Camp Foster, then the Kadena Klassic on Sept. 12 at Kadena Air Base.

Interservice football returned to Okinawa in the form of the OFL, composed of four Marine teams, Ryukyu University and the Kadena Dragons. It was the first time since 1989 that military football was played on the island.

Led by league MVP Trent Beavers, with 31 touchdowns, Kadena powered past Schwab 44-14 in the league title game on Dec. 11 at Kubasaki.

Three months earlier, the Yokosuka Seahawks capped a rise from 1-2 halfway through the season to their fifth straight U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League title, led by league MVP Robert Trisby, who caught six touchdown passes.

Roy Roberts ran for 158 yards and a touchdown on 16 carries to pace Yokosuka past Misawa 22-0 in the league title game on Sept. 11 at Yokosuka.

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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