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Unofficial training partners, on-course rivals and now Far East champions. Humphreys junior Drew Wahlgren, left, won the boys Far East virtual Division I title and Osan freshman Sam Wood the Division II title.

Unofficial training partners, on-course rivals and now Far East champions. Humphreys junior Drew Wahlgren, left, won the boys Far East virtual Division I title and Osan freshman Sam Wood the Division II title. (Zoe Kalinowski/Special to Stars and Stripes)

It was almost like a rite of passage on Korea’s cross country courses this fall: Sam Wood and Drew Wahlgren would run together for most of the races, with Wood, an Osan freshman, finishing first and Wahlgren, a Humphreys junior, taking second in almost every race.

Following that formula, the two led a DODEA-Korea sweep of the top spots in the Far East virtual meet. Wood won the boys Division II title in 16 minutes, 42 seconds and Wahlgren the boys Division I in 17:13. 

“He is dedicated and trains to the detail; the struggle was getting him to take it easy,” said Wood’s coach, Trabille Cobb. “He would set a goal for race day, create a plan and then [set a personal record].” 

Wahlgren, who had set a school record with a 16:54 on Oct. 15, became the first Humphreys runner to win a D-I virtual title, despite being out with the flu the week before the meet. 

“He came back and crushed it,” Blackhawks coach Amy Gleason said. “The Humphreys coaching staff couldn’t ask for a better athlete than Drew.” 

Nile C. Kinnick sophomore Mia Bartram took first for the Division I girls after finishing fifth last year.

Nile C. Kinnick sophomore Mia Bartram took first for the Division I girls after finishing fifth last year. (Photo courtesy of Nile C. Kinnic)

Matthew C. Perry junior Jane Williams came in first in the Far East virtual Division II race and helped lead the Samurai to a school-first overall D-II team championship.

Matthew C. Perry junior Jane Williams came in first in the Far East virtual Division II race and helped lead the Samurai to a school-first overall D-II team championship. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Zama American junior Liliana Fennessey came in second in the Far East virtual Division II race.

Zama American junior Liliana Fennessey came in second in the Far East virtual Division II race. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

On the girls side, Matthew C. Perry junior Jane Williams took first in Division II with a 19:28 and Nile C. Kinnick sophomore Mia Bartram won the girls Division I, clocking 20:34.7, just nosing out junior teammate Bree Withers (20:35.1). 

Perry also achieved a school first, winning the Division II overall school championship as well as the girls team title. Kinnick was the Division I overall school winner and girls team champion. 

“I think they surprised even themselves,” Kinnick coach Luke Voth said of his team, which had just two girls and one boy returning. “They worked hard and gave themselves a chance by the end.” 

“I’m going to savor this one,” Perry coach Brad Cramer said of the school-first. “I’m excited. They put their work in, they peaked at the right time. For small-school Perry, this was huge for us.” 

Matthew C. Perry junior Tyler Gaines finished second in the Far East boys virtual Division II race. As a freshman for E.J. King two years ago, he won the D-II crown.

Matthew C. Perry junior Tyler Gaines finished second in the Far East boys virtual Division II race. As a freshman for E.J. King two years ago, he won the D-II crown. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Kadena senior Joseph Dluzeski took second in the Far East virtual boys Division I race and helped the Panthers win the boys team title.

Kadena senior Joseph Dluzeski took second in the Far East virtual boys Division I race and helped the Panthers win the boys team title. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Nile C. Kinnick freshman Maverick Kentz placed third in the Far East boys virtual Division I race.

Nile C. Kinnick freshman Maverick Kentz placed third in the Far East boys virtual Division I race. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Kadena won the Division I boys team crown, while Yokota edged Perry for the Division II boys title in a tiebreaker. 

Under the Far East virtual format used the last three years due to the coronavirus pandemic limiting travel, each school ran on regulation 400-meter tracks, seven boys and seven girls each, five runners scoring and the others pushing for a total of 12½ laps. 

Schools that did not have a regulation track ran on similar surfaces approved by DODEA-Pacific. Schools ran their qualifiers between Oct. 24-26, then turned those times in to DODEA-Pacific, which announced the results Thursday. 

Osan and Humphreys were back to running in Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference races this season and Wood and Wahlgren were like unofficial training partners, coaches said. 

“Sam was a good inspiration for him (Wahlgren),” Humphreys assistant coach for distance runners David Elger said. 

“I appreciated having Sam to run against all season,” Wahlgren said. “It kept me motivated to make me try for a sub-17,” which he did Oct. 15 at Humphreys. “I had no idea I’d broken the school record or won Far East until the principal made an announcement during my Korean class.” 

Wood posted a 16:36 in the same Oct. 15 meet that Wahlgren went under 17 minutes for the first time. “He tries to do his best every single day and realizes that it takes hard work and commitment to achieve the results he desires,” Cobb said. 

Bartram took fifth in the virtual Far East a year ago as a freshman. Eternally chipper, always smiling, Bartram is “100 percent positive all the time,” Voth said. 

“Kids like that rarely, if ever, have bad practices or races,” he said. “Whatever she’s doing, she’s all in. She works hard and looks for every opportunity to improve. Her mind and demeanor is always positive and that has a way of affecting everything she does.” 

As for Williams, she beat her previous best by 40.9 seconds. 

“Jane was amazing,” Cramer said. “She was flying. She was so smooth.” 

Former Far East virtual champion Tyler Gaines, a Perry junior, placed second in the boys D-II behind Wood. 

DODEA-Pacific officials said they’re hoping this will be the last of the virtual Far East meets. The 2023 Far East in-person meet is tentatively scheduled for Oct. 23-24 on Misawa Air Base, Japan. 

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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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