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American School In Japan sophomore Gwen Thornton runs the 100 hurdles during Saturday's Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools Track and Field Meet at Kinuta Park Sports Center, Tokyo. Thornton won in 15.4 seconds, a league record and one of 13 Japan-area season bests for 2007.

American School In Japan sophomore Gwen Thornton runs the 100 hurdles during Saturday's Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools Track and Field Meet at Kinuta Park Sports Center, Tokyo. Thornton won in 15.4 seconds, a league record and one of 13 Japan-area season bests for 2007. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

American School In Japan sophomore Gwen Thornton runs the 100 hurdles during Saturday's Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools Track and Field Meet at Kinuta Park Sports Center, Tokyo. Thornton won in 15.4 seconds, a league record and one of 13 Japan-area season bests for 2007.

American School In Japan sophomore Gwen Thornton runs the 100 hurdles during Saturday's Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools Track and Field Meet at Kinuta Park Sports Center, Tokyo. Thornton won in 15.4 seconds, a league record and one of 13 Japan-area season bests for 2007. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Lorien McKinney of Kadena charges around the curve in the girls 200.

Lorien McKinney of Kadena charges around the curve in the girls 200. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

Miguel Rodriguez of Zama American, Manny Duran of Kadena and Charles Vinson Jr. of Kubasaki charge to the tape in the 100 meter dash.

Miguel Rodriguez of Zama American, Manny Duran of Kadena and Charles Vinson Jr. of Kubasaki charge to the tape in the 100 meter dash. (Dave Ornauer / S&S)

TOKYO — A record-breaking day for Kadena senior sprinter Manuel Duran began with an unusual question — and compliment — from a rival coach.

“You know what I like best about you?” Kubasaki coach Charles Burns asked.

“What is it, coach?”

“You’re graduating,” Burns said, half-jokingly. “I won’t have to deal with you next year.”

Hours after that talk early Saturday, Duran spent his final day in a Panthers uniform rewriting the record book, as he has done so many times the past two years.

He broke the 21-year-old Japan long-jump mark and won three other gold medals, two of them region bests for the 2007 season, in the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools Invitational Track and Field Meet at Kinuta Park Sports Center.

“I wanted to jump out of the pit,” Duran said. “That was my goal. I’ll settle for this.”

Duran leaped 22 feet, 6 inches, breaking by 4 inches the mark set by William Allen of Yokota in 1986. It was only the second time a Japan-area jumper surpassed the 22-foot barrier.

Later, Duran ran the 400 in 50.45 seconds, just shy of his personal best of 50.11, which he ran last season.

“I wanted that PR,” he said. “But this is great. I’m ecstatic.”

Duran also was involved in the day’s biggest upset. Though he stumbled out of the blocks, Duran rallied to finish second in the 100 to Sungjun Son of Christian Academy In Japan, 11.3-11.5 — in a race in which Kubasaki senior Charles Vinson Jr. lost for the first time since the first Okinawa meet in March.

“It was my time,” Duran said. “I had to play catch-up. If only I hadn’t stumbled.”

“He’s done a lot for this program,” Kadena assistant coach Beth Polaski said. “He works hard, he’s very competitive and he has a lot of heart. He’s been an integral part of this program for the last two years.”

Duran’s performance headlined a day in which three Japan-area records fell and 13 time and distance season-bests were posted, on a Saturday that began rainy, turned sunny, then back to cloudy by the conclusion of the seven-hour meet.

Saturday’s meet was the first of all DODDS-sponsored programs in Japan, Japan international schools and the Seoul Track Club in a Kanto Plain setting, in which all teams could medal and score points. Previously, Kadena and Kubasaki entered as invited, non-scoring guests.

CAJ won the boys title with 99 points, with Kadena second (90). American School In Japan captured the girls crown with 154 points; Kubasaki was a distant second with 113.

Matching Duran’s effort on the girls side was ASIJ sophomore Gwen Thornton. She ran the 400 in 58.0, breaking the Japan record of 58.8 last matched by Yokota’s Charlotte Taylor in 2005. Thornton also won the 310 hurdles, 200 and 100 hurdles, the latter in region-best time.

“She’s an efficient runner. She’s fun to watch,” Burns said.

And CAJ’s Blake Bannister claimed the Japan record in the boys 800, clocking a 1:58.9, bettering by .02 seconds the 12-year-old mark set by Kinnick's Mohammed Salahud-Din.

Among other region top performances, Zama American sophomore Andrew Quallio capped an unbeaten season in the 2-mile run, clocking a 10:04. He had lost a mile race the previous week in the Kanto Plain championship, and he said it “definitely” motivated him.

“I had to come back at those guys,” Quallio said.

“Quallio’s a beast,” Kubasaki sophomore and reigning Far East cross-country champion Matt Coon said.

The two later hooked up in a memorable mile battle, trading the lead throughout the race until Coon nipped Quallio at the tape, 4:39.34-4:39.51.

“You love the guys you run against,” Coon said. “They’re always there to push you.”

“I love races like that,” Quallio said. “That was so much fun. He’s an awesome runner. There’s nobody I’d rather race more than him.”

Each of the four relays resulted in a season-best time. Kadena swept the 400s, Kadena’s boys took the 1,600 relay and Kubasaki won the girls’ mile relay.

The latter saw the final performances in Dragons uniform by senior Kyera Tennyson and freshman Julie Monti and sophomore Lia Monti, who will transfer to Virginia this summer. “They wanted to leave an impression,” Burns said. joked coach Kevin Madden of something that happened Friday on the train from Narita International Airport to Yokota.

Saturday’s record rundown

Japan area records and 2007 Japan region bests set in Saturday’s Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools Invitational Track and Field Meet at Kinuta Park Sports Center:

Japan area records

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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