Just hours after the war in Iraq began, its ripple effects already were being felt in Pacific high school sports.
School officials in Korea announced Thursday that this weekend’s Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference soccer tournaments — boys at Seoul American and girls at Pusan American — were canceled, as was a swim meet at Seoul American and a three-team baseball series at Taegu American.
KAIAC president J.P. Rader, Seoul Foreign’s athletic director, notified the league’s 10 schools by e-mail that the soccer tournaments were being called off.
Triggering the decision to scratch the Korea weekend sports slate was a 7:30 p.m.-5 a.m. curfew imposed Wednesday by U.S. Forces Korea, Dennis Rozzi, Department of Defense Education Activity-Korea assistant district superintendent, said in a phone interview.
“The safety of the kids was our No. 1 concern, but the curfew was the main reason for making the decision,” Rozzi said, noting that teams would have been traveling during curfew hours to reach the tournament sites.
“When they imposed the curfew, we decided to reschedule” the events, “if they can be rescheduled,” Rozzi said. That might not be feasible, because there’s little room on the schedule the rest of the season, which ends April 26.
A KAIAC league meeting is scheduled for Monday at International Christian School-Pyongtaek, near Camp Humphreys, Rader said. “We will discuss our next move concerning the rescheduling of the KAIAC tournaments,” he said.
Seoul American principal Keith Henson said the decision to cancel was “probably being overcautious, but we’d rather err on the side of safety.”
“We were afraid that we’d get the kids here, or the kids would be on their way here, and what if security levels change?” Henson said. “There were too many variables.”
It was not immediately known how soon the regular-season schedule would resume, Rozzi said. “At this point, we’re monitoring force-protection levels.”
It was essentially business as usual elsewhere in the Pacific.
A full schedule of soccer, track and field, baseball and girls softball was on tap Friday and Saturday at bases throughout Japan.
“We’re trying to keep things as normal as possible,” said DODEA-Japan spokesman Peter Grenier. “To my knowledge, we’ve not canceled anything.”
The only school opting not to travel was Sasebo Naval Base’s E.J. King, which declined to put its soccer and softball teams on commercial jetliners to the Tokyo area for Japan League weekend action.
“We’re disappointed that King can’t come, but we understand the concern about putting them on a plane,” Yokota principal Gary Gerstner said.
DODEA officials on Okinawa said there were no plans to call off a track meet Friday at Kubasaki or weekend soccer matches at both Kubasaki and Kadena high schools.
“We have not canceled any activities,” DODEA-Okinawa spokesman Henry Meyer said. “We plan to continue until the bases tell us we can’t.”
No major military sports events have been postponed yet.