CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Charles Burns smiled as long-legged Stephen Thompson crossed the finish line after sprinting to the finish during Kubasaki’s 400-meter time trial on Thursday.

“What was your time?” he asked.

“Fifty-two,” Thompson replied.

“Wow. This early in the season,” Burns mused, thinking of how many seconds the junior sprinter could shave off in the next couple of months.

Thompson, who transferred to the Dragons from California and starred earlier this school year in football and basketball, figures to be one of the centerpieces, along with sprinter Tony Price, of a Kubasaki effort to bring the Okinawa Activities Council boys track title back to Camp Foster.

Price figures to be strong in the shorter sprints, while Thompson has already posted island bests in middle-distance runs, including 2 minutes, 12 seconds in the 800. Both will also run relay events.

Of big help, besides the presence of Price and Thompson, is that arch-rival Kadena no longer has sprinters Teeny Henry (transfer) and Emanuel Watkins and distance runner Chris Johnson (graduated) in the lineup.

“The boys have made up their mind,” Burns said two weeks before the island’s season-opening meet at Kubasaki’s Mike Petty Stadium. “The district trophy’s been at Kadena long enough, and it’s coming back home.”

That’s quite a turnaround from a year ago, when the girls were Kubasaki’s main strength, thanks to twins Crystal and Candace Sandness, all-around athlete Serafina Smith and distance runner Andrea Roxas.

But the Sandness twins transferred back to Utah, Roxas graduated and Smith broke her foot during the Far East Girls Class AA Basketball Tournament and is out until early April.

“I thought with the girls, we would just reload and the boys would rebuild. But it’s the other way around,” Burns said.

“That’s life” with any Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific sports team, Burns said. “You live, you adjust and keep going. As a coach, you learn to roll with it, take what’s left and make the best of it.”

Though there’s no DODDS-Pacific Far East track and field meet, Kubasaki and Kadena will face the best of the rest of the Pacific in its 3rd Alva W. “Mike” Petty Memorial Meet in April at Camp Foster.

And two of those schools, Nile C. Kinnick and Yokota, could challenge international schools for bragging rights in the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools, the Pacific’s other track program that includes DODDS teams.

Kinnick lost Brenden Lynce, unbeaten for two years in hurdles, to graduation, but returns his senior brother Leonard (sprints and high jump), junior Travis Ekmark (sprints and long jump), senior Joel Pettigrew (discus, shot put) and senior distance runner Eri Eveland.Yokota returns virtually its entire girls sprint team, led by Lindaya Brown and Victoria Sanders. Coach Matt Grant adds to his female arsenal freshman rising star sprinter Charlotte Taylor and senior transfer hurdler Andrevia Thomas.They, along with Kanto powers St. Mary’s International and American School In Japan, will attend the Petty Meet. Kubasaki and Kadena plan to return the favor at the Kanto championships on May 14 in Tokyo.

Burns is hopeful that Smith, the island’s reigning 200, 100 hurdles and long-jump champion, will be healthy by the Petty meet.

“If we can get through, do well, the next three weeks at the girls’ level, we’ll be all right,” Burns said. “All I want is for her to be ready for the Petty, district and Kanto meets.”

In the meantime, Burns and the Dragons plan to ride the fleet feet of Price and Thompson, among others, in hope of remaining at the top of the Okinawa Activities Council heap.

“Last year, Watkins and Johnson ate us alive. Watkins was an animal, and we had nobody who could keep up with Johnson,” Burns said. “This year, Price is the animal. And right behind him is Thompson.”

Key dates in Far East track

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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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