Support our mission
 
Naples' Claire Elliott, 15, keeps a commanding lead in a victory in the 800-meter race during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy on Saturday, April 29, 2017.
Naples' Claire Elliott, 15, keeps a commanding lead in a victory in the 800-meter race during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy on Saturday, April 29, 2017. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Naples' Claire Elliott, 15, keeps a commanding lead in a victory in the 800-meter race during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy on Saturday, April 29, 2017.
Naples' Claire Elliott, 15, keeps a commanding lead in a victory in the 800-meter race during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy on Saturday, April 29, 2017. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Aviano's Austin Groves, 18, runs the 800-meter anchor on the sprint medley, helping his team win during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy on Saturday, April 29, 2017.
Aviano's Austin Groves, 18, runs the 800-meter anchor on the sprint medley, helping his team win during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy on Saturday, April 29, 2017. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Vicenza's Brandy James, 16, wins the 200 meter-race during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy on Saturday, April 29, 2017. James won all four races she entered.
Vicenza's Brandy James, 16, wins the 200 meter-race during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy on Saturday, April 29, 2017. James won all four races she entered. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
AOSR's Carson Basnight, right, edges past Vicenza's Christian Gonzales-Vega for second place during a Saturday, April 29, 2017 track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy.
AOSR's Carson Basnight, right, edges past Vicenza's Christian Gonzales-Vega for second place during a Saturday, April 29, 2017 track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Naples' Daniel Aleksandersen, 16, fights to hold off teammate Tim Smith in the final stretch of the 800-meter race Saturday, April 30, 2017 during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy. Aleksandersen won this race and the mile.
Naples' Daniel Aleksandersen, 16, fights to hold off teammate Tim Smith in the final stretch of the 800-meter race Saturday, April 30, 2017 during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy. Aleksandersen won this race and the mile. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Aviano's Natalia Rodriguez pulls ahead in the final yards of the mile to win on Saturday, April 29, 2017 during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy.
Aviano's Natalia Rodriguez pulls ahead in the final yards of the mile to win on Saturday, April 29, 2017 during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Vincenza Cougar Jackson Medlin, 15, hurls the shot put 37 feet to take first place at a Saturday, April 29, 2017, track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy.
Vincenza Cougar Jackson Medlin, 15, hurls the shot put 37 feet to take first place at a Saturday, April 29, 2017, track meet at the Navy Support Site in Gricignano, Italy. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)
Wildcat Ashton Jeanty, 13, leaps 19 feet, 2 inches for a second- place finish in the long jump Saturday, April 29, 2017 during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Grigicnano di Aversa, Italy.
Wildcat Ashton Jeanty, 13, leaps 19 feet, 2 inches for a second- place finish in the long jump Saturday, April 29, 2017 during a track meet at the Navy Support Site in Grigicnano di Aversa, Italy. (Scott Wyland/Stars and Stripes)

GRICIGNANO DI AVERSA – Saturday’s track meet south of the Alps was a duel mostly between the Naples Wildcats and Vicenza Cougars, though the Aviano Saints pulled out some strong wins.

Both Vicenza’s and Naples’ coaches say the contest is more with the clock and measuring tape than with other teams right now. Athletes must meet certain thresholds to qualify for the DODEA European Track and Field Championship in Kaiserslautern, Germany, in late May.

“We’re midseason, we have a young team with a lot of people who haven’t run before,” Naples coach Isaac Harjo said.

His runners are constantly improving and many set new personal records every week, but most still fall short of the European qualifying times, Harjo said, adding that making the cut is the real goal of these track meets.

Vicenza coach Charlton Bruton pointed to two of his runners whom he felt would be tough to beat in any contest: Brandy James, 16, and John Silbaugh, 18. Indeed, both won multiple events Saturday.

James crossed the finish line first in every race she entered – the 100- and 200-meter dashes, the 100 hurdles and the 400 relay. She ran anchor in the relay and bolted from behind to overtake an Aviano rival at the finish line in one of the day’s most dramatic moments.

“I just ran it, and in the last 20 (meters) gave it my all,” James said.

The most formidable distance runner was Naples’ Daniel Aleksandersen, 16, who blew away the field in the mile with a time of 4 minutes, 41 seconds. He later won the 800, his fatigue from the mile visible as he jockeyed with teammate Tim Smith for much of the race before pulling out a narrow one-second victory and 2:09 finish.

“It was really hard,” Aleksandersen said.

His strength is longer distances, particularly the 2-mile, he added.

Naples’ Claire Elliott, 15, took a commanding lead in the 800 and never relinquished it for a 2:41 time.

“I feel good about it,” she said. “The conditions were ideal. It’s not too windy, just windy enough.”

A number of middle-schoolers participated. Their results don’t count, making it an exhibition for them and good practice, track officials said. A few held their own against older teens.

Wildcats’ ElaMaree Cooley, an eighth grader, led the pack for most of the mile race before Aviano’s Natalia Rodriguez passed her in the final 50 meters.

Ashton Jeanty, 13, posted the second best long jump with a leap of 19 feet, 2 inches. He lost by only 2 inches. He also came in fourth in the 200.

Jeanty won’t be eligible to participate in high school events for two more years. By then, his family might transfer to a different country, Harjo said, noting that retention is a challenge for DOD sports programs.

“We’ve only brought five girls back from last year and eight guys, so it’s a whole new team,” he said.

Wyland.scott@stripes.com

Migrated

stars and stripes videos


around the web


Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign-up to receive a daily email of today’s top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign up