Gaudy times and undefeated records compiled during the season mean little in the Far East High School Cross Country Meet.
Tom McKinney knows that all too well. He’s coached Okinawa’s Kadena Panthers to two Far East team titles, and last year coached the pre-meet favorite, Brant Casteel, the island champion who had posted the season’s best time (16 minutes, 30 seconds).
Instead, Casteel’s rival Matt Coon enjoyed the spotlight, completing the Far East course at Okinawa’s Camp Hansen in 17:03, 8 seconds faster than Casteel.
More surprising, on the girls’ side, Nadine Mulvany of Kinnick came out of nowhere to edge Kadena’s Michelle Castillo 19:51-20:34. Pre-race favorite Julie Monti of Kubasaki finished ninth (21:53).
“You never know,” McKinney said. “It comes down to who’s the most prepared and who brings what to the table on race day.”
Many factors come into play. Most of the teams will converge on Kadena Air Base’s Banyan Tree Golf Course, host site of Monday’s and Tuesday’s meet, from Japan and South Korea, where temperatures are 20 to 30 degrees cooler than Okinawa.
“Here, it’s been in the 70s with winds,” McKinney said. “In Japan, it’s in the 60s; in Korea, it’s in the 50s. The heat will be a factor. That should favor Guam High, Kubasaki and us.”
Even what runners put in their bodies the morning of the race can be a factor. “You could get sick on race day,” McKinney said. “When you travel, you have to watch what your kids eat and drink. Don’t try something new at Far East. Be smart.”
Another factor is paying attention to each area’s leading runners but not putting a lot of stock in regular-season times.
“Everything goes out the window” at Far East, Zama American coach Mitch Moellendick said. “This is for all the marbles. Everybody’s going to go after it across the board, 110 percent, not holding back for anybody.”
Moellendick possesses the reigning Kanto Plain and DODDS-Japan champion in Andrew Quallio, a junior, while Seoul American brings Korea champion John Lohr, joining two-time Okinawa champion Casteel.
“I’m sure we’ll see those three within 30 seconds of each other,” McKinney said.
“Andrew has a good shot at winning, but it’s not a given,” Moellendick said. “This may be the most wide-open field I’ve ever seen.”
“There’s no lock on any single runner,” Seoul American assistant coach Roger Kacmarski said. “These three based on their times have the best chance (but) there’s a lot of people who can win this race.”
On the girls’ side, Mulvany this season gave way to yet another Red Devils surprise – freshman Gee Mi Jorde, the DODDS-Japan champion. She was a middle-school running star who joined Kinnick’s varsity this year and took the Kanto Plain and DODDS-Japan by surprise.
“We’re happy to have her,” Kinnick coach Philip Bailey said. “She’s very driven. She pushes herself always to excel. … She’s never happy with second.”
Coupled with Guam High freshman Susan Smith, Kadena sophomore Chasity Cordova – also unbeaten on Okinawa this season – plus Seoul American’s Olivia Wenzel and Kiersten Pak-Blyzniuk and defending champion Mulvany, “it could be a slugfest for the girls, too,” Moellendick said.
Kacmarski feels that teams across the board are deeper than in past seasons. “It should be a wide-open meet, both for the top runners and the No. 1 team,” he said.
2007 Far East High School Cross Country Meet
Proponent-Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific.Dates-Nov. 5-6, 2007.Site-Banyan Tree Golf Course, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.Host school-Kadena High School, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.Format-3.1-mile individual race on Monday. Top four finishers score points for their teams. Ties to be broken in favor of team with fourth-place runner who finishes with best time. 31.5-mile team relay on Tuesday. Teams run in pairs, with one boy and one girl running two 2.5-kilometer legs each, total of 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles per pair. Ties to be broken in favor of team with fifth pair that finishes with best time. Overall scoring determined by combined placement in boys and girls 3.1-mile individual races and team relay. Ties broken in favor of team that places highest in team relay.Schedule of events-Opening ceremony 7 p.m. Sunday at Kadena High School cafeteria. Boys 3.1-mile individual race 8 a.m., girls 3.1-mile individual race 9 a.m. Monday. Team relay 8 a.m. Tuesday. Awards ceremony 1 p.m. Tuesday, Kadena Officers’ Club.Participating schools-Kadena, Kubasaki, Okinawa; E.J. King, Matthew C. Perry, Yokota, Zama American, Nile C. Kinnick, Robert D. Edgren, Japan; Seoul American, Osan American, Taegu American, South Korea; Guam High.Awards-All-Far East medals to top 10 finishers in 3.1-mile individual races. Team trophies and individual medals to top three teams in 3.1-mile individual races and team relay. Plaque to overall team champion.Returning All-Far East runnersBoys-Brant Casteel, Kadena; Kevin Blackburn, Zama American; David Heitstuman, E.J. King; John Lohr, Seoul American; David Krievs, Kubasaki. Girls-Nadine Mulvany, Nile C. Kinnick; Cassie McDonald, Kadena; Sarah Jagodzinski, Johanna Jorgensen, Guam High.Newcomers to watch- Boys-Andrew Quallio, Zama American, finished ninth in Florida 4-A championships in 16:24 last year. Girls-Gee Mi Jorde, Nile C. Kinnick, DODDS-Japan champion.