Carroll chasing Bennett in conference XC final
Eight times over the past three years, Brieanna Carroll has chased Alanna Bennett to the finish line, only to be denied every time.
Going into Saturday’s Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference cross country final at International Christian-Uijongbu, the Pusan American Panthers senior has one goal: to catch and pass the elusive Seoul Foreign league record-holder.
“I’ve got to give it all I’ve got, one last time,” Carroll said. “She’s won every time I’ve faced her. She’s always been one step ahead of me. I’ve always been on her tail. I want it.”
Carroll says she’s placing even more stock in beating Bennett in the KAIAC final, since Seoul Foreign and other international schools can’t enter the Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific Far East meet next month at Misawa Air Base, Japan.
And she said she’s drawing inspiration from the Boston Red Sox, who trailed the New York Yankees 3-0 in the American League championship series, only to win the next four games and reach their first World Series in 18 years.
“If they can do it, so can I,” Carroll said.
Bennett vs. Carroll is among a few intense, longtime rivalries likely to highlight the KAIAC season-ending tournaments Friday and Saturday, which for DODDS teams serve as warmups to Far East tournaments in Japan.
Cross country will be at Uijongbu, located north of Seoul. Seoul Foreign is scheduled to host girls tennis and Division I (large schools) girls volleyball. Seoul Foreign’s and Seoul American’s spikers are to resume what Falcons coach Denny Hilgar terms the “best team rivalry in KAIAC.”
Taejon Christian International will host boys tennis. Seoul American hosts KAIAC Division I boys volleyball — the only non-Far East tournament sport among the bunch.
For the first time in league history, KAIAC will hold Division II (small schools) volleyball tournaments, girls at Uijongbu and boys in Pusan.
The league’s growth, with Centennial Christian, ICS-Pyongtaek, Korea Kent Foreign and Korea International added this season, necessitated the split into divisional tournaments, Pusan American girls coach Laird Small said.
For Carroll, catching Bennett may be far easier said than done.
Since arriving at Seoul Foreign two years ago as a sophomore, Bennett has made a habit of shaving time off the KAIAC individual 3.1-mile record. She clocked the Taegu American course in 19 minutes, 4 seconds Saturday — 16 seconds better than what she ran at TCIS one week earlier.
The closest Carroll has come to that was a 19:36 on Sept. 18 at TCIS. She’s won all but two KAIAC races this season. Saturday at Taegu she finished 1:48 behind Bennett; Sept. 11 at Seoul Foreign, Bennett outpaced her 22:16-22:42.
Carroll sees KAIAC as a more intense meet because the competitors know each other so well.
“Here, it’s ‘Hey, we meet again. I know you as a player and I know your strengths. I’m going to enjoy playing you and may the best ‘man’ win,’” Carroll said. “KAIAC has always been my ‘big’ tournament. I love it.”
That intense rivalry spills over onto the volleyball court whenever Seoul American and Seoul Foreign meet.
Hilgar has coached the Falcons since 1980. His principle rival has been J.P. Rader, a former Seoul Foreign basketball and boys volleyball star who has coached the Crusaders girls spikers since 1990.
“I’m sure the rivalry pre-dates KAIAC,” said Hilgar of the league, which formed among DODDS and international schools in 1972. It’s one of the best rivalries “because the kids know each other so well,” he said of the Falcons and Crusaders, some of whom attend the same church groups and practice with each other during the offseason.
The Falcons have held sway during the season and KAIAC tournament the past two years; Seoul Foreign, for the two years before that.
Hilgar said he expects the Falcons and Crusaders to once more battle in the winner’s bracket final of the double-elimination tournament, then for the loser to battle back through the loser’s bracket to the title match.
“It’s going to be a great tournament,” Hilgar said.