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TAMA HILLS RECREATION CENTER, Japan – Freshmen played key roles in the fortunes of the Far East High School Cross-Country Meet team champions.

Ana Hernandez, paired with senior Tomas Sanchez, finished fourth in Tuesday’s team relay and Kadena put its five pairs in the top 14 to place second in the relay’s Division I team standings, and with it, the Panthers’ fourth overall Division I school championship since 2004.

“It worked out well for us,” said coach Tom McKinney of Kadena, which nosed out two-time defending champion Seoul American by two points in the overall standings, 6-8.

Nile C. Kinnick of Japan also had eight points, but finished third behind Seoul by virtue of the Falcons’ first-place finish in the relay team standings.

Hernandez had run pedestrian times during the regular season until one meet near the end of the Okinawa season and “all of a sudden, she was in the top five,” McKinney recalled.

“The light just went on and she said, ‘Oh, I can run and I can run fast,’” McKinney recalled.

Sanchez and Hernandez were timed in 34 minutes, 32 seconds in their 6.2-mile leg. In the team relay, girl runners started and boys runners finished for each pair.

Seoul American’s pairs, anchored by Hyeon Kim and John Graham, finished 1-2 in 33:47 and 34:06. Kinnick’s team, anchored by Marcus Boehler, was third in 34:13.

Meanwhile, newcomer Hana Kawada struck the right note for St. Maur International, which won the Division II team relay and overall school championships, ending a 25-year Far East title drought for the Yokohama-based school.

“It feels excellent,” said St. Maur’s first-year head coach Craig Wehrle, who had served as an assistant for five years under Rich Ringling, now at Nile C. Kinnick.

“The team deserved this, the school deserved this. It’s really satisfying for me as a coach that they came together.”

St. Maur had not won a Far East tournament of any kind since the Cougars captured the girls volleyball crown in 1985 on Okinawa. The Cougars edged second-place Osan American 4-6, with Robert D. Edgren third with 10 points.

TennisKADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – Thought to be outclassed by its more experienced international-schools counterparts here for the first time since 2003, DODDS-Pacific instead has filled seven of eight Far East Tennis Tournament singles semifinal berths.

“That’s incredible,” Kubasaki coach Stephanie Davis said upon learning that her senior Tammi Ragan, Kadena’s Erika Youngdahl, Yokota’s Erika Ettl, Guam High’s Amber Gadsden, Seoul American’s Chong Lee and Russell Midomaru and Kadena’s Arlo Taylor would play in Wednesday’s semifinals.

Volleyball Volleyball title contenders have hands full with rivals Though Nile C. Kinnick swept pre-tournament favorite and Girls Division I Volleyball Tournament host Seoul American on Tuesday in straight sets in division play, coach Al Garrido said the 25-23, 25-16 verdict at Camp Humphreys’ Super Gym was much closer than it looked.

“The first set was tooth and nail; the second set, don’t be fooled. We had to work for every single point,” Garrido said after what many had called a possible championship match preview.

At Misawa Air Base, Japan, defending Division II tournament champion Daegu American split its pool-play match with three-time runner-up Morrison Christian Academy, losing 25-23 and winning 25-20.

“They are phenomenal,” Daegu coach Joanna Wyche said of Morrison. “They come here to do what teams should come here to do, play volleyball. They’re willing to work for it. They have my greatest respect.”

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