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Weekday competition will be limited. And night games are out of the conversation. But DODDS Japan’s spring sports schedule picks back up Saturday with a “Sports Day” jamboree at Yokota High School and will resume in earnest the weekend of April 22-23, a week after spring break ends.

“We’re slowly moving ahead. We had to see how things played out,” DODDS Japan district superintendent Clayton Fujie said Thursday following a meeeting at Zama American High School at which DODDS Japan Kanto Plain-area athletics directors hammered out a revised spring season schedule.

Sports in Japan were sidelined until the end of March due to the relief effort for northeastern Japan, devastated by the March 11 Tohoku-Kanto quake that killed thousands, left even more homeless and destroyed cities and towns. Tokyo-area electrical power has been reduced by about 25 percent due to the ongoing situation at Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant.

Games that otherwise would start at 5:30 or 7 p.m. would have to start earlier and be finished before dark, DODDS officials said. Commanding officers have forbidden on-base stadium lights to be used for sports, out of respect to the local population. On the other hand, most referees are active-duty military and aren’t available until after normal duty hours.

As a result, several April weekday games in various sports have been canceled. “There’s a lot of pressure coming from different directions,” Yokota athletics director Tim Pujol said. “We put together the most comprehensive schedule we could with those factors in mind.”

“No one predicted this, and that it would be so devastating,” Fujie said. “But I know that sports are part of the picture of being well-rounded students. This is part of high school life. We’re trying to provide the opportunity, a shortened version, but an opportunity nonetheless.”

Coaches and athletes expressed relief at the news.

“We wanted to start last week,” said assistant coach Eris Pitts of Zama American’s girls soccer team. “We’re excited for the girls to get back in the groove and routine. Some of our players wait the whole year for soccer, especially our daughter (Hime) who’s a senior and this is her sport.”

Some 200 student-athletes from Zama American, Yokota and Nile C. Kinnick will gather Saturday for soccer, softball and track and field at Yokota High and baseball at Yokota Park at a “Sports Day,” starting at 10 a.m., Pujol said.

Track and field will follow the standard Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools meet order. Soccer teams will play 25-minute halves and, if necessary, teams might borrow players from other teams to field full sides. Baseball and softball games will last a full seven innings or 90 minutes.

On April 22-23, the week after spring break, all DODDS Japan soccer teams will play at Matthew C. Perry, baseball at Robert D. Edgren and softball at E.J. King. A track meet will be held at Yokota, featuring DODDS and Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools international-school teams.

That will be followed April 30 by one-day tournaments in softball and girls soccer at Zama and baseball and boys soccer at Kinnick. The KPASSP track and field finals are slated that day for Yokota.

No long-haul travel is permitted, officials said, the weekends of April 30, May 7 and 14 due to the two-week Advanced Placement testing period. E.J. King and Matthew C. Perry may play each other, while Edgren might be limited to playing local Japanese teams.

On May 7, DODDS and international schools will face each other in soccer and baseball. That’s also the Kanto finals track rain makeup date; if it’s not needed, a tri-meet involving Yokota, Zama and Kinnick will be held at Zama.

Other competition involving international schools is yet to be determined, officials said.

The Kanto Invitational, an all-comers Pacific-wide track and field meet, is still scheduled for May 14 at Tokyo’s Oi Pier Ground near Haneda Airport. The Kanto Invitational baseball tournament the same day is still up in the air, officials said.

No Far East tournaments scheduled for late May have been called off to this point. A final decision on their fates will be made April 8, DODDS Pacific Far East athletics coordinator Don Hobbs said.

ornauerd@pstripes.osd.mil

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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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