Kadena’s Smith, Kubasaki’s Watson leave mark
They weren’t satisfied with just winning their respective events, their coaches said. They were on a mission, Kadena high-jumper Lotty Smith and Kubasaki sprinter A.J. Watson, to put their personal stamp on the Pacific’s track and field record book.
They succeeded, beating longstanding standards as well as leading their respective teams to success on the Far East track scene. For their efforts, Smith and Watson share Stars and Stripes track and field Athlete of the Year honors.
“Two phenomenal athletes there,” Kadena coach Sergio Mendoza said.
“Two fantastic guys,” outgoing Kubasaki coach Charles Burns said.
Watson, a junior, made his mark on the Pacific record book individually as well as part of a relay team.
During the season, he matched the 34-year-old record in the 200-meter dash, 21.4 seconds, set by Yokota’s Kenny Elder. He next edged by .01 of a second the 23-year-old 100 mark of 10.55, also set by a Yokotan, Timmy Gardner.
Then during the Okinawa Activities Council district meet, he anchored a Kubasaki relay unit that clocked a 43.34 in the 400 relay, beating the old Pacific mark of 43.7 set 14 years ago by American School In Japan.
Despite all that, one chapter in his record quest remained incomplete — Watson transferred to Beaufort, S.C., on May 21, just two days before the season-ending Far East meet. Kadena won the boys, girls and overall titles in that meet, with Kubasaki taking third.
“Mission more or less accomplished, but not quite,” Burns said. “The final exclamation point would have been Far East. Had he been here, I don’t think Kadena’s boys would be wearing the crown.”
Had all gone according to plan, Burns said, Watson could potentially have scored 30 points for Kubasaki, in the 100, 200 and 400 relay. But we’ll never know, Burns said. “We needed the right kind of closure.”
Closure is exactly what Smith gave the Far East meet on May 25, when he became the first Pacific jumper to top 2 meters, a mark he had been chasing with the hunger of a man awaiting his last meal, Mendoza said.
Smith had the high jump won already and kept beating height after height until the bar was set at 2.0066 meters, or 6 feet, 6.74 inches. He missed on his first two tries, then went over with at least an inch to spare, one meet official said.
“What he did was amazing, one of the finest coaching moments of my life,” Mendoza said. “This was purely inspirational, amazing beauty. To see him jump that day was poetic.”
Smith for three years had battled the likes of Kanto Plain co-record holder Shorai Ashida of Christian Academy Japan and Kubasaki’s Conor MacMannis, who had matched Smith’s then-Pacific record 1.98 on April 8 in the Oki Relays.
“He flew that afternoon,” Mendoza said of Smith’s finally topping 2 meters. “To see it end that way, was just amazing.”
All-Pacific track and field teamAthletes of the Year—Lotty Smith, Kadena; A.J. Watson, Kubasaki.
All-Pacific team (distances in meters)
Shot put—Gabriel Ahner, Kadena; Vallen Alleyne, Kubasaki.Discus—Victor Ellis, Kubasaki; Vallen Alleyne, Kubasaki.High jump—Lotty Smith, Kadena; Arrianna Guerra, Zion Christian Academy.Long jump—Thomas McDonald, Kadena; Asyria Daniels, Kadena.100—A.J. Watson, Kubasaki; Kelsey Scott, Yokota.100 hurdles—Te’Asia Snowden, Zama American.110 hurdles—Fred Gustafsson, Yokota.200—A.J. Watson, Kubasaki; Kelsey Scott, Yokota.300 hurdles—Fred Gustafsson, Yokota; Stefani Loisel, Guam High.400—Sam Callon, American School In Japan; Chinyere Turner, Kadena.800—Tomas Sanchez, Kadena; Siarria Ingram, Seoul American.1,500—Kelly Langley, St. Mary’s International; Siarria Ingram, Seoul American.3,000—Trevor Maggart, American School In Japan; Amanda Henderson, Seoul American.