James’ gold trifecta lifts Kinnick to historic Kanto meet title
TOKYO – First, Valerie James won the 200 on Saturday by the skin of her teeth. Then, she won the 400 by a similar margin. But on the third leg of the girls 1,600-meter relay, the Nile C. Kinnick freshman turned more than a few heads – and helped the Red Devils make history.
James blew past virtually the entire field to give Kinnick the lead for good en route to a 4-minute, 17-second clocking, beating Seoul American by 6.2 seconds. This after James edged Zion Christian Academy’s Sarah Wilson in the 400 and Yokota’s Kelsey Scott in the 200.
But more than that, the leading gold medalist of the day helped the Red Devils to a combined team score of 235 1/3 points to 160¾ for American School In Japan and Kinnick’s first combined Kanto Invitational Track and Field Meet team title.
"I’m really glad that we won," coach Al Garrido said, adding that his athletes are quick to credit each other for their success. "The character of this entire team is so good, we could have finished last and still had a great season. Great bunch of kids, without a doubt."
Shining brightest on Saturday was James, one of three freshmen on the 1,600 relay unit. "She’s just a girl who hates to lose races," Garrido said. "She wants to go out there and just run as hard as she can."
While the Red Devils celebrated, other parties at the meet came away visibly dissatisfied with their performances – even Seoul American freshman Siarria Ingram, who broke her own Pacific 1,500 record with a 4:58.74 clocking.
"I wanted to go 4:50," she said after running the event for just the second time this season, each in record time.
Blame part of her frustration on Seoul American not having a track, where she can get her pacing down, assistant coach Mike Schroer said.
"We were hoping for a little faster," Schroer said. "But she’s a talented young lady. She’s got a lot of upside."
Christian Academy Japan senior Shorai Ashida just missed in three attempts to break the Pacific high-jump mark of 1.97 meters; he settled for tying the 17-year-old Kanto mark of 1.95.
"I wanted to jump 1.98, but … I’m satisfied. I did my best," he said."He’s an exceptional athlete. He has a lot of gifts," CAJ coach Craig Eby said of Ashida, who did offseason training to strengthen his legs, which resulted in a 5- to 10-centimeter improvement in his jumps.
Just missing his attempt to match the Kanto record of 6.71 in the long jump was Kinnick’s Chaun Lynn; he managed a 6.70 on three tries.
Lynn said that would serve as motivation for him to do better at Far East, slated for May 24-25 at Kubasaki. "It’s going down," he said, adding that his target is 6.8 or better. "That’s what I’m going to get next week."
Also disappointed were the "fastest athletes in the Pacific," Seoul’s Kristy Taylor and Kubasaki’s A.J. Watson, who each won their respective 100 dashes, but in far from what they considered acceptable times.
"Train harder this week, come out to Far East and go get it," Watson said. "Come Far East, win all events," Taylor added.
Kinnick’s first-year thrower Shannon Jackson, who has put the shot 10.06 this season, settled for a 9.41 and called that "nowhere close to my potential. It wasn’t as good as it could have been."
St. Mary’s rallies past top seed Yokota, wins Kanto baseball titleYOKOSUKA NAVAL BASE, Japan – Yokota, the No. 1 seed entering the Kanto Invitational Baseball Tournament at Berkey Field, watched St. Mary’s International rally from a 7-0 deficit for nine runs in the seventh to lose 9-7 in Saturday’s semifinals.
St. Mary’s went on to win the tournament title, topping American School In Japan 7-6 in the championship. ASIJ edged host Kinnick 7-6 in eight innings in the other semifinal.