A year ago, Josh Ecker was sent home from the Far East Cross Country Meet on Okinawa for an unspecified code of conduct violation.
On Tuesday, exactly a year to the date, Ecker, a junior, redeemed himself and helped Seoul American rise from the ashes of a stormy 2007 season with a Far East championship banner.
Ecker and teammate Allie McCormick took second in the team relay, a day after Ecker placed seventh in the 3.1-mile individual race. The Falcons won the relay team points race and edged two-time defending champion Kadena for their second overall Far East team crown in three years.
"It feels great," Ecker said. "What happened last year was a lot of my motivation. I made a mistake. My goal was to make up for what happened."
Ecker did, resoundingly, first-year coach Steve Boyd said.
"He’s done everything we’ve asked him to do, and he’s been a model citizen," Boyd said. "Kids make mistakes. But we as adults must give them the chance to learn from their mistakes and move on, and that’s exactly what Josh did."
At Misawa Air Base’s Gosser Memorial Golf Course, Ecker and McCormick were the first of five pairs of Falcons to finish in the top 10 in the 6.2-mile team relay. "I’m ecstatic," Boyd said. "I’m happy for the kids. I’m happy for the school."
The first Class A team title, meanwhile, went to the host school, Robert D. Edgren, which won the team points chase in every event.
"This was nice," coach Andre Thibert said, adding that his Eagles talked about winning the title "since last May. I’ve worked hard the last six years to get this program where it is so we can compete. I’m really proud of them."
Seoul’s triumph came a year after a season fraught with controversy. Aside from Ecker’s misstep, the coaching staff resigned two weeks before Far East after the school reversed the coaches’ decision to discipline a runner over a team bus incident following a regular-season meet. A handful of runners quit the team in protest.
"Every school goes through adversity," Boyd said, adding that the team "worked extremely hard" to get in position to redeem itself.
The Falcons boys went 19-0 in the regular season and at Far East, while the girls’ only defeat came on Monday in the 3.1-mile individual race team standings.
"I know the girls were disappointed yesterday, but we came back strong and blew away the competition," Boyd said. "I’m extremely proud of the way they came back."
For Boyd, the title was his fourth in Far East competition, but his first outside of basketball. And it came at Misawa, where he taught and coached at Edgren for nearly 10 years.
"The overall title means the most," he said, crediting his runners and a coaching staff featuring Kevin Madden of the Seoul Track Club. "The kids were in very good hands from Day 1," he said.
For his part, coach Tom McKinney of vanquished Kadena feels his Panthers have "something to shoot for. I see some things we need to work on," he said. "You can’t stay on top forever."
Osan spikers sweep Morrison in Class A final rematch
Defending champion Osan American survived a tight second set and went on to sweep the team it vanquished in last year’s Far East Girls Class A Volleyball Tournament final, Morrison Christian Academy of Taiwan.
"We were on the money, wide awake, looked sharp," Cougars coach Cari Pease said after the 25-21, 28-26, 25-16 victory. "We stuck with the game plan and the game plan worked. It felt really good."
Osan completed its sweep of Pool B round-robin matches later Tuesday with a sweep of Global Visions Christian School.
Tennis tournament resumes under warm, sunny skies
Making up for lost time Tuesday, 70 Far East Tennis Tournament matches were completed a day after heavy downpours washed out all but four matches at Kadena Air Base’s Risner Tennis Complex.
Only the singles semifinals and championships and doubles quarterfinals, semis and finals remained after Tuesday’s play, and organizers, coaches and players all breathed a sigh of relief.
"This is great," Daegu American coach Ed Thompson said. "Today’s been great, everything’s been going like clockwork."
Volleyball coach would like to see change in pool format
If it were up to Greg Rosenberger, the first three days of Far East Girls Class AA Volleyball Tournament round-robin matches would be like a tournament within a tournament.
Kadena’s second-year coach suggested that the DODDS-Pacific teams be grouped into one or two pools and the international schools into one or two other pools, play just each other and then be seeded into the three-day single-elimination tournament.
It would permit all the DODDS schools to play each other and "we could see who the cream of the crop in DODDS is," Rosenberger said. "With a little tweaking, we could serve the interests of each group and provide the same result."