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Athletes hope to leap to victory in Korea

By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: May 4, 2017

CAMP HUMPHREYS, South Korea – Jumpers will enter Saturday’s Korea district track and field finals “peaking at the right time,” Humphreys coach and the meet’s manager Ron Merriwether said.

In particular, Merriwether’s high jumper Miles Brice, who came out of nowhere to record the biggest jump of the Pacific’s season in last week’s final regular-season meet at Humphreys.

The Blackhawks sophomore leaped 6 feet, 3¼ inches last Saturday, beating his personal best by 3¼ inches and topping the Pacific by 1¼ over Quintin Metcalf of Seoul American.

“He had one of those days, the right place at the right time,” Merriwether said of Brice. “It’s all coming together. He’s peaking at the right time.”

And it’s not just in the high-jump area where Korea athletes have enjoyed success.

Jarvis Stokes of Daegu leads the region in the long jump at 22-5¾, just ahead of Seoul American’s Christian Williams (22-1) and Levi Johnson (21-7). In fact, six of the top seven overseas long-jump marks belong to Korea athletes.

“They’re pushing each other to the next level,” Merriwether said. “It’s great. That’s what competition does, athletes taking up the challenge.”

Saturday’s meet is the second of four district finals this season involving DODEA teams. The Kanto Plain finals are next Saturday at Yokota Air Base and the Guam finals are May 19 at Okkodo High School.

Qualifying deadline for the May 22-23 Far East meet later this month at Yokota has come and gone, but Merriwether says he’s still expecting strong performances.

“I see a very competitive event come Saturday,” he said. “Athletes in preparation for Far East (are) going to be on display.”

Meanwhile, on the diamond and pitch at Kadena Air Base, multiple Okinawa titles remain to be decided among the girls on Friday.

Kubasaki visits Kadena in the fifth regular-season softball meeting and the Dragons are at the Panthers in the third soccer match of the regular season.

Dragons softball is seeking its first regular-season title ever against Kadena, while Panthers girls soccer takes aim at its first regular-season title in 10 years.

But to eighth-year Kubasaki softball coach Stephanie Davis, Friday’s showdown at Ryukyu Middle School’s Habu Field is just another game.

“I feel like they need to go into every game with the same mentality,” Davis said, adding that she hadn’t told the players prior to Friday’s game what stakes were involved. “To tell them anything different … is not part of what I believe in.”

The Panthers surely know it, Kadena coach Tom Bell said. “It’s going to be a good game,” he said, adding that the fact that it’s senior recognition night should contribute to a “good turnout.”

Kadena girls soccer ruled Far East in the mid-2000s, capturing three straight Far East Division I titles from 2004-06, but since then, Kubasaki has held sway over the island, with five Far East titles since 2007 and every district title since that season.

“We’ve gotten to the point where we realize we can win big games if we play well together,” said coach Abe Summers, whose Panthers lost at Kubasaki 1-0 on March 22 and replied 1-0 on April 12 by the same score.

“We’ll give them a very good game,” Summers said. “Things have evened out more than they have in the past. If we can play at full strength, we can break that trend.”

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

Twitter: @ornauer_stripes

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