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CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa — Far East high school tennis and cross country championships will become annual events next year, Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific officials announced Thursday.

Since its inception in 1980, DODDS-Pacific staged Far East tournaments in both sports biennially, with tennis in odd-numbered years and cross country in even-numbered years.

“The coaches have been lobbying for this for many years,” said Don Hobbs, DODDS-Pacific’s Far East Activities Council chair. “We listened to the pros and cons. Some of the pros were that they’re lifetime sports and we should be promoting those.”

Budgetary concerns, Hobbs said, were the biggest obstacle.

“We had to make some kind of adjustment” to keep within DODDS-Pacific’s travel budget, Hobbs said.

Starting with the 2004-05 school year, Hobbs said, DODDS-Pacific will authorize one fewer participant in Far East tournaments that permit a student-manager to travel with teams from the 12 DODDS-Pacific schools.

Those include girls volleyball, boys and girls basketball, wrestling and boys and girls soccer.

In basketball, for instance, “if a school wants to send nine players and a manager, they can,” Hobbs said. “They can also send 10 players, but if they do, they can’t take a manager.”

The move would free up 132 travel slots each year for teams in Far East tennis or cross country meets, Hobbs said.

“It took some creative thinking by FEAC, and we were able to come up with this,” Hobbs said. “It was a good tradeoff to get other Far East events on an annual basis.”

“It’s time. It’s past its time,” said John Thek, who’s coached cross country at Yokota High in Japan for 25 years. “I’m glad it’s happening. I’m happy for the kids, who now will be able to compete every year in a wonderful sport” that “has taken a back seat after all these years.”

The sites for all of next year’s Far East tournaments and activities will be set at the next FEAC meeting, scheduled for March 4-5 on Okinawa.

In another development, the dates of this year’s Class A Far East High School soccer tournaments — boys at Taegu American and girls at Pusan American in South Korea — have been moved to April 26-28, Hobbs said. Originally scheduled for April 29-May 1, they were pushed back “to accommodate students taking the SAT on Saturday, May 1.”

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He served 10½ years in the Air Force, the last 4½ assigned to Stripes in Tokyo, and was then hired by Stripes on Oct. 25, 1985. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages Pacific Storm Tracker.
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