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ISHIKAWA, Okinawa – DODDS Japan sports events have been sidelined for the rest of March due to ongoing earthquake relief operations, gasoline shortages and concerns over radiation and aftershock hazards, officials said Tuesday.

That means DODDS Japan tournaments next weekend - softball at Yokota, boys soccer at Nile C. Kinnick and girls soccer and baseball at Zama American - have been postponed and potentially cancelled, though officials said they’re looking for open dates.

“I’m not ruling it out, but the question is when,” DODDS Pacific athletics coordinator Don Hobbs said. Spring break is in mid-April, followed by Advanced Placement tests in May, then Far East tournaments in late May, leaving little time to reschedule.

“All that tied into this catastrophe, to try to find good dates is not easily done,” Hobbs said.

For high school sports in the rest of the Pacific, it’s business as normal. Third-quarter rugby, softball and basketball playoffs continue on Guam, while the Okinawa and Korea regular seasons are being played as scheduled.

Teams in Japan may practice if they can get to and from fields on their own, but no activity buses will be available to take students home afterward, DODDS Japan District Superintendent Clayton Fujie said.

The cancellation news was not received well by some students and coaches, but most said they understood.

“I don’t mind that the sports are put off for a month,” Zama American senior discus and shot-putter Roland Cote posted on his Facebook page. “I mean, safety first. But I really hope the whole season isn’t cancelled. Make it shorter or something, but I really don’t want it to be cancelled.”

“Not very well,” coach Mark Lange of how his Matthew C. Perry boys soccer team took the news. His Samurai are the defending Far East Division II Tournament champion and are 10-1 on the current season.

“Some of them talked about how this is their senior year. I told them this is bigger than us,” said Lange, adding he would try to keep practice going and find local teams to help “keep my boys sharp and hope that Far East isn’t canceled.”

Asked if there’s a possibility that the events of the last week might affect the Far East tournaments in softball, soccer, track and field and baseball, Hobbs said: “Hopefully, we’ll be able to come to some decision before spring break,” which begins April 8.

They’ll evaluate the fuel and transportation situation, if they can get Japan-based teams to and from the tournaments, weigh the pros and cons of holding the tournaments “and go from there,” Hobbs said.

“Our job is to not disappoint the teams, players and coaches, but we have to put things into the bigger picture,” Hobbs said. “We’ll make the best and wisest choice, considering everything.”

Meanwhile, Fujie said Robert D. Edgren soccer coaches Justin Edmonds and Ben Ayres and baseball coach Brett Lehner, the last holdovers stranded at Yokota by the earthquake and its aftermath, left for Misawa Air Base on an Air Mobility Command C-12 on Tuesday evening.

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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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