Kubasaki Dragons sophomore distance runner Erik Armes is hoping to put the bad experiences of the last 12 months behind him and become a dominant runner in DODDS Pacific once more.

Kubasaki Dragons sophomore distance runner Erik Armes is hoping to put the bad experiences of the last 12 months behind him and become a dominant runner in DODDS Pacific once more. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

To suggest that the last 12 months haven’t been the best year of Erik Armes’ life would be like suggesting Kobe Bryant can shoot a basketball. Both are a bit understated.

First, there were the stress fractures in Armes’ right leg in last April’s Mike Petty Memorial Meet that claimed the rest of his track and field season. Then, the Kubasaki sophomore and reigning champion suffered an asthma attack in November’s Far East cross-country 3.1-miler; his training partner, Kadena’s Andrew Kilkenny, won the gold instead.

“You learn from your mistakes. You rehabilitate and get stronger,” said Armes, who is probably not all the way back from the first injury, but is getting close, runner, teammates and coaches say. As for the asthma, “they’ve put me on a couple of meds to prevent it from happening again.”

It was hard, he said, not being able to run with teammates and to have those things happen to him. “There were a lot of personal goals I didn’t achieve,” said Armes, who transfers away from Okinawa on June 1.

He continues to compete in Ironman-type sports events such as aquathlons and triathlons, in addition to running high school track. His training regimen and medicines have “worked so far,” he said. “Gotta go out there and do my best and not worry about those things.”

Health was a major concern for Dragons coach Jon Fick last season, when Kubasaki finished a combined fourth in the Far East meet, with the boys placing fifth and the girls sixth.

“We got bit by the injury bug” last season, he said. “If we stay healthy, we’ll be pretty solid in both the boys and girls. The kids are working hard and we’ve got some good additions to the coaching staff.”

Kubasaki fared well in the transfer rounds, claiming sprinter Rahman Farnell and distance man Ryan Bugler from Okinawa Christian International and distance runner Jessica Freedman from the States. “We got a lot of key returners and some nice additions. Sometimes you’re on the better end of that,” Fick said.

Kadena also expects to be strong, especially on the girls side with reigning Far East cross-country champion Ana Hernandez. Coach Kevin Taylor’s lineup is also dotted with solid returners and some freshmen with potential.

The Kanto Plain’s DODDS teams are perhaps as deep as they’ve ever been, despite some key losses to graduation and transfers.

Yokota promotes assistant Maggie Chan-Roper, a Hong Kong Olympian in 2000 and 2004, to the head coaching post. Zama American’s Tom Dignan transfers in from Germany. Key newcomers transfer in from other sports, Sarah Hamner from Yokota softball, De’Asia Brown from Kinnick soccer. Experience, plus the addition of distance freshman Jerrell Hibbler, strengthen Zama’s lineup.

Although Korea’s DODDS teams are faced with their usual problem – no on-base track facilities – Osan American, which welcomes a new coach, Lar Nique Lunsford, expects to be a Division II contender. Seoul American and Daegu have new coaches in Jesse J. Smith and Phillip Loyd respectively.

The Far East meet is again scheduled for Yokota, May 21-22 with the 23rd as a rain date if needed.

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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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