CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa – Since the qualifying deadline for the Far East track and field meet was established six years ago, the Okinawa season-ending meet has usually come afterwards and not meant much.

Not so this season. The district finals were moved ahead a week, to Saturday at Koza City Stadium just outside Kadena Air Base’s Gate 5, and will now serve to provide a Far East qualifying boost as well as district pride, coaches said.

“Absolutely, positively, that’s the way it should be,” said Kubasaki’s third-year head coach Kenneth Gipson. “Why have a district meet and have it count for nothing?”

“It gives the kids an opportunity to not just push for island goals, but for Far East, because you can qualify, and that makes all the difference,” Kadena coach Maureen Taylor said.

The meet includes Okinawa Christian and the host school, Zion Christian and begins at 9 a.m. Saturday.

The Panthers have six individual athletes, Taylor said, who stand a chance at qualifying for the Far East meet scheduled for May 22-23 at Yokota for the sixth straight year. Meanwhile, five Dragons, Gipson said, are vying for places on their Far East team.

“This could put them over the top,” Gipson said, adding, as did Taylor, that he won’t say who they are. “To me, that’s a jinx,” he said with a hint of a smile.

With Advanced Placement tests starting Monday, this weekend is the last featuring long-haul journeys for teams in the regular season, particularly in Japan, with its lengthy bus trips and plane rides.

Robert D. Edgren hosts Zama and E.J. King in softball and baseball and Nile C. Kinnick in soccer. The Red Devils head to Matthew C. Perry for diamond sports, while Perry heads to King for soccer.

Yokota hosts St. Mary’s in a Saturday baseball twin bill, while Daegu hosts regular-season baseball and softball for the final time this season.

Regular-season meets in track and field also take place at Camp Humphreys in Korea and Yokota in Japan, preceding Korea’s district meet May 6 and the Kanto Plain finals on May 13.

And Korea’s Blue Division holds its soccer championship tournament finals, the boys featuring Seoul Foreign at Seoul American, while the Crusaders take on Osan in the girls tournament final at Camp Humphreys. Each of the finals begin at 2:15 p.m.

Twitter: @ornauer_stripes

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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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