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If Osan American wins its first Far East Class A Cross Country Meet team title, the warning shot will likely be credited to the fleet feet of junior Josh Hanks.

Hanks surprised the field last Saturday at International Christian School-Uijongbu, winning the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference 3.1-miler, the first Osan runner to do so. Osan’s boys and girls each finished third, also school bests.

Can they continue the momentum in next week’s Far East meet at Misawa Air Base, Japan?

"Osan has an opportunity," coach Steve Boyd of defending Class AA champ Seoul American said. "Osan on the boys and girls side is going to be very strong at small schools. I don’t see anybody who will challenge them."

Besides Hanks, Osan will have in tow Travis Wyatt and Brian Raab on the boys side, and returning All-Far East runner Kim Boucher and Seoul American transfer Nicole Solomonson for the girls. A team title for them would be a "feather in these guys’ caps," Osan first-year coach David Hemmer said.

"They’ve worked hard for it. They’ve come a long way."

Osan, Seoul and 10 other DODDS-Pacific schools will compete for the titles during the two-day Far East meet on the links of Gosser Memorial Golf Course. Monday’s slate features the 3.1-mile individual race, followed on Tuesday by the team relay.

Hemmer’s Cougars feel their biggest challenge will come from host and defending Class A champion Robert D. Edgren, with athletic Ashley Hawkins headlining a group of young, quick runners.

"We’ve been working hard on putting a mentality that anybody who’s wearing green and white, we have to be in front," Hemmer said of Edgren’s colors.

At the Class AA level, Boyd brings back a strong squad including three All-Far East runners in KAIAC runner-up Thomas Kim, Dorothy Krebill and Kubasaki transfer Amanda Henderson, bolstered by a flood of newcomers, including KAIAC champion Siarria Ingram.

The Falcons ran the table at KAIAC the past two years until last Saturday’s league boys finals, won by Seoul Foreign.

"Seoul American has a very strong team, a lot of depth," Hemmer said.

The Falcons girls, especially, will be the "team to beat," Kadena coach Tom McKinney said. "They’ll be a challenge."

But the boys have made progress this season, Boyd said, crediting assistant coach Michael Schorer.

"He knows what he’s doing," Boyd said. "He prepares them for Far East. Everything we do each week is to get them stronger and stronger. It happened last year and it’s happening this year. Everybody’s bought into the system and gotten progressively better."

McKinney believes that while strong, Kim, Ingram and Henderson will see their strongest challenges of the season from Kadena’s league champions, Tomas Sanchez and two-time Far East runner-up Chasity Cordova, along with Kubasaki sophomore Jessica Powell.

A handful of coaches also point to DODDS-Japan champs Jimmy Niescier and Keleka Mobley of Yokota, along with top-10 runners Jesse Arnold and David Bailey of Nile C. Kinnick, as threats.

"It’s shaping up as a barnburner. I don’t see a weak sister in the bunch," Hemmer said.

Compared to last year’s hilly course, the 2009 course is relatively flat, which works to everybody’s benefit, McKinney said.

"Now, it becomes a footrace. You’re going to have faster times. It’s who wants to finish first. It’s who wants it in the end," he said.

The rundown ...Dates: Nov. 9-10, 2009.

Site: Gosser Memorial Golf Course, Misawa Air Base, Japan.

Host school: Robert D. Edgren High School, Misawa Air Base.

Format: 3.1-mile individual race on Monday. Top four Class AA school finishers score points for their teams; top three Class A school finishers score points for their teams. Ties to be broken in favor of team with fifth-place Class AA and fourth-place Class A runner who finish with best time. Top 15 overall finishers selected to All-Far East team. Races will then be segregated by large and small schools, with individual and team champions crowned in each. Team relay on Tuesday. Teams run in pairs, with one boy and one girl running two 2.5-kilometer legs each, total of 10 kilometers or 6.2 miles per pair. Ties to be broken in favor of team with fifth Class AA pair and fourth Class A pair that finish with best time. Overall scoring determined by combined placement in boys and girls 3.1-mile individual races and team relay. Ties broken in favor of school that places highest in team relay.

Schedule: Opening ceremony 6 p.m. Sunday at Robert D. Edgren High School cafeteria. Boys individual race 10 a.m., girls individual race 9:30 a.m. Monday. Team relay 9:15 a.m. Tuesday. Awards ceremony 1:30 p.m. Tuesday, officers’ club ballroom.

Participating schools: Class AA, Kadena, Kubasaki, Okinawa; Yokota, Zama American, Nile C. Kinnick, Japan; Seoul American; Guam High. Class A, E.J. King, Matthew C. Perry, Robert D. Edgren, Japan; Osan American, Daegu American, South Korea.

Awards: All-Far East medals to top 15 finishers in 3.1-mile individual races, regardless of classification. Class AA and Class A team trophies and individual medals to top three teams in 3.1-mile individual races and team relay. Plaque to boys, girls and overall Class AA and Class A team champions.

Returning top-15 All-Far East runners:

Boys: Thomas Kim, Seoul American; Jacob Bishop, Kadena; Jesse Arnold, David Bailey, Nile C. Kinnick; Cole Miller, Matthew C. Perry (2007).

Girls: Chasity Cordova, Kadena (two-time runner-up); Amanda Henderson, Seoul American (transferred from Kubasaki); Susan Smith, Guam High (2007 and 2008); Andrea Grade, Kadena (2007 and 2008); Dorothy Krebill, Seoul American (2007 and 2008); Kimberly Boucher, Osan American; Nicole Solomonson, Osan American (transferred from Seoul American).

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Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.
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