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Pacific edition, Thursday, May 17, 2007

CAMP FOSTER, Okinawa

Soon after the doors close on this school year next month at Kubasaki High School, the Monti chapter in Dragons girls sports lore will end as well.

But before leaving this summer for their father’s new assignment to Joint Forces Command at Suffolk, Va., freshman distance runner Julie Monti and sophomore twin sisters Lia, a sprinter, and striker Natalie hope to take care of some unfinished business starting Saturday in the first Kanto Plain Invitational track and field meet at Tokyo’s Kinuta Park:

n Julie plans to strike gold in the 2-mile, mile and 800-meter runs.

n Lia is taking similar aim in the 200, 400, and mile and 400-meter relays.

n Natalie would like to end her time with the Dragons by helping Kubasaki capture its first Class AA soccer title since 2003.

“I’m excited,” Natalie said.

“Kanto, here we come,” Julie added.

“Our goal was to stay unbeaten at district,” Lia said of a Kubasaki girls track team that won everything in sight, including the team title, in last month’s Alva W. “Mike” Petty Memorial meet. “Our hopes are high for Kanto.”

Such a trifecta would be the high point in the careers of the Dragons’ athletic “first ladies,” who Julie says have been playing sports “as soon as we could walk.”

The daughters of Kathy and Marine Col. Medio Monti, assigned to Marine Air Control Group 18 at Marine Corps Air Station Futenma, didn’t fall far from the athletic tree. He played college football and she played college basketball in Pennsylvania.

The twins were born in California and Julie in Virginia. They each took turns at a variety of sports, including youth soccer, teeball, running and volleyball.

“We each tried all those sports to see what they could be like, then we found where our skills would work best,” Julie said.

For this school year, their third on Okinawa, that meant volleyball for Lia and cross country for Natalie and Julie.

The Dragons captured the Okinawa Activities Council volleyball regular-season title and just missed the top eight in the Class AA tournament.

“She’s a tough, hard-nosed player who comes to work every day,” coach Chris Kelly said of Lia, a weakside hitter and backup setter.

That work ethic is “built into her,” track coach Charles Burns said of Lia, who ran for Kubasaki’s 800- and 1,600-meter gold-medal relay units and took bronzes in the 200 and 400. “You don’t have to tell her how much to work.”

Julie and Natalie spent the fall running cross country, with Julie capturing the island championship with the region’s fastest time last season, 19:38. Natalie took ninth in 21:59 in the All-Island meet on Oct. 26 on Camp Foster.

Their competitive nature serves them each well on the track and pitch, Burns and Kubasaki soccer coach Terry Chumley said.

“Julie just goes,” Burns said of the island’s 3,200-, 1,600- and 800-meter champion. “I don’t think she understands the meaning of the words ‘out of breath’ or ‘pain’ yet.”

Julie said she became competitive as a runner in the eighth grade: “I started feeling passionate for it, started to live for it.”

Natalie doesn’t score in bunches as do her teammates Jessica Osborne (9 goals) or Kara Koeneke (8), but it’s her defensive grit and playmaking that make her a solid soccer contributor, Chumley said.

“She’s improved tremendously,” Chumley said of Natalie’s passing ability on the left wing and getting back to mark opposing strikers on defense. “She’s quick.”

Being tight as a team in an individual discipline such as track serves to fuel Kubasaki’s desire to work harder, Lia said.

“Just having that support, knowing your teammates are there, cheering for you,” she said.

So what’s in store this weekend in Tokyo?

Lia didn’t want to predict, but she did say: “If you want it badly enough, you can get it.”

Natalie’s soccer teammates still have last year’s semifinal 2-1 shootout loss to American School In Japan as a motivator.

“We’re playing perfectly together right now. We’ll peak at Far East,” Natalie said. “I have a good feeling. After last year, I think everybody wants it.”

author picture
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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