Jorde, Quallio run to Far East titles
KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Gee Mi Jorde, of Nile C. Kinnick, didn’t think she stood much of a chance. She trailed Kadena’s unbeaten Chasity Cordova by about 10 meters with 300 to run in Monday’s Far East High School Cross Country Meet individual race at Banyan Tree Golf Course.
But on the next-to-last turn, Cordova ran outside a course boundary flag and had to retrace a few steps. That threw the door open for Jorde, a freshman, who beat Cordova, a sophomore, in a sprint to the tape to claim first place.
“She gave me a run for my money,” said Jorde, who’d gone unbeaten in three Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Japan races this season. “She pushed me. She did really well.”
The difference between the runners amounted to less than a half-second, 19:56.99-19:57.43. It was a simple mistake but a costly one for Cordova, also unbeaten in seven Okinawa Activities Council meets this season.
“I just didn’t see the flag,” she said. “I was concentrating on the finish. I just missed it.”
Close finishes were hardly a bother in the boys’ race, which featured a school first for Zama American of Japan.
Junior Andrew Quallio led from the start and won Monday’s race by nearly a minute, covering the course in 16:43.99. OAC champion Brant Casteel finished second in 17:43.77.
“He’s a good runner,” Casteel said of Quallio. “He’s very fast.”
Quallio set a blistering pace from the start, running the first mile in 5:04 and leading Casteel by more than 30 seconds.
He confessed to worrying that he might burn himself out in the mid-70s temperatures with high humidity.
“I started to feel it a little” going into the second mile, when he drifted back toward the pack, Quallio said. “That gave the adrenaline boost I needed.”
It was the first cross-country gold medal in Zama American history, and Zama’s first in any sport since David Burnett won the Far East wresting heavyweight title in 2005.
“It’s nice to have,” coach Mitch Moellendick said. “That’s impressive. He’s worked hard all year. I can’t say enough about him.”
Quallio and senior teammate Kevin Blackburn, who finished fourth, will compete in the USA Track and Field Junior Olympics next month at Lawrence, Kansas, Quallio and Moellendick said.
While Monday’s boys race was devoid of drama, the girls race packed plenty.
Yokota’s Courtney Richards set the early pace but aggravated a knee injury and dropped back as Cordova and Jorde took over from the second mile on.
Jorde stayed close as Cordova reached the final turn and ran to the left of the boundary flag, instead of the right. Spectators pointed and shouted, “Flag! Flag!” and Cordova retraced her steps.
“When she missed that turn, I’m thinking, ‘Here’s my chance,’” Jorde said.
Even then, Cordova said, she was still confident she could win.
“I still felt I had a shot,” she said. “I was right with her.”
Jorde beat Cordova by a step to give Kinnick back-to-back titles after Nadine Mulvany won last year’s race.
“I’m proud of her,” said Mulvany, who placed third on Monday. “She deserves it. She’s pushed herself from Day 1.”
Though Kadena was relegated to runner-up honors in the individual races, the defending team champions got off to a flying start, placing first in both the boys and girls team standings after the first day.
Kadena’s boys outscored Zama 38-41, and the girls outdistanced Seoul American 24-52.
“Not bad at all,” Kadena coach Tom McKinney said. “Individuals win medals, but it takes a team to keep that championship alive.”
See the scoreboard page for race summaries.