Some athletes battled wind and rain and avoided lightning. Others had to be flexible with limited track availability. And, of course, they couldn’t even see how it was going with their closest rivals.

Still, the 2021 DODEA-Europe Track and Field Championships came to a conclusion Saturday after six days of athletes competing on their own tracks across seven countries in Europe and the Middle East.

One record was set. Several athletes won multiple events. And the final sports championship from a school year scarred by the coronavirus pandemic is in the books.

“It didn’t go as planned,” said Kathy Clemmons, DODEA-Europe’s athletic coordinator. “But the coaches and athletes were resourceful and did what they had to do.”

Wiesbaden’s first go at the competition – where events were spread out throughout the week – was interrupted by lightning on Monday, first-year coach Jessica Jacobs said.

It got better for the Warriors after that. Especially the girls team. Led by freshman Makiah Parker and sophomore Ava Stout, Wiesbaden totaled 190 points. Kaiserslautern, which won the boys competition with an even higher total of 194, was second in the girls race with 136.5 points. Ramstein was a distant second in the boys competition with 111.

Kaiserslautern senior Griffen Parsells set a DODEA-Europe record in the 1,600 meters with a time of 4 minutes and 22.18 seconds. Lakenheath’s Austin Burt set the old mark of 4:24.16 in 2017.

“I’ve been hoping to beat it since my freshman year,” Parsells said Tuesday. “I wanted to go under 4:20, but I’m happy with the record.”

Parsells’ closest competitor – Ramstein’s Gideon Zaugg – finished 17 seconds behind.

Parsells, who has committed to run track and cross country at Lewis-Clark State University in Idaho, is used to running by himself. He won at the European cross country championships earlier this season. The only other championship held by DODEA-Europe was marksmanship. Many other sports were cancelled entirely. Others were limited to practices on school.

“I’m glad we were able to do this,” Parsells said. “Especially after losing the season last year.”

It was a good week for the Parsells family. Griffen also won the 800. His sister, Piper, a sophomore, won the girls 800.

Her accomplishments were overshadowed by two other younger competitors on the girls side, though.

Parker won the most events possible – four – and Stout won three. Parker topped the field in the 100 (12.42 seconds), 200 (25.72) and 400 (57.97) and anchored the 4x400 relay team (4:18.36). Stout was also on that relay team and won the 100 hurdles (14.98) and 300 hurdles (45.77) in dominant fashion.

Jacobs said both athletes arrived in Wiesbaden this year, so should be among the favorites next year if there is a post-coronavirus environment.

Competing in a virtual environment can be a challenge, Jacobs said.

“Like all season, we just kept plugging away,” she said. “It was: ‘go out and compete against your teammates, yourself and the clock.’ They had to use a lot of mental imagery just to remain competitive.”

The two Warriors weren’t the only multiple winners on the girls’ side. Ella Bishop’s time of 5:20.08 not only kept the Parsell siblings from sweeping the 1,600 – Piper finished second – but the Stuttgart runner also won the 3,200 (11:18.07) and anchored the school’s winning 4x800 relay team (10:48.39). Hohenfels’ June Smith won both the high jump (5 feet, 2 inches) and the shot put (29-3).

On the boys’ side, Kaiserslautern’s Larry Haynes was first in the 100 (11.08) and 200 (22.30) and anchored the winning 4x100 relay team (45.34). Wiesbaden’s Dom Bivins won the 400 (51.85) and anchored the winning 4x400 relay team (3:36.43). Teammate Garrett Cheney was also a part of that foursome and won the 300 hurdles (43.07). Ramstein’s Gideon Zaugg won the 3,200 (10:14.45) and was on the winning 4x800 team (8:32.90) and finished second behind Parsells in the 800 and 1,600.

The most success by one team in a single event was Kaiserslautern taking four of the top five spots in the boys 200. The Raiders scored 28 points in that event alone. 

The 2021 DODEA-Europe track and field championships could go down in history as the most unique, with athletes competing in seven countries in Europe and the Middle East thanks to travel restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic.

The 2021 DODEA-Europe track and field championships could go down in history as the most unique, with athletes competing in seven countries in Europe and the Middle East thanks to travel restrictions imposed by the coronavirus pandemic. (Michael Abrams/Stars and Stripes)

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Kent has filled numerous roles at Stars and Stripes including: copy editor, news editor, desk editor, reporter/photographer, web editor and overseas sports editor. Based at Aviano Air Base, Italy, he’s been TDY to countries such as Afghanistan Iraq, Kosovo and Bosnia. Born in California, he’s a 1988 graduate of Humboldt State University and has been a journalist for 40 years.

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