KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa — Good news might be just around the corner for Far East high school tennis players.

When Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Pacific’s Far East Activities Council meets next week on Okinawa, FEAC Director Don Hobbs said the agenda will include discussion about making the season-ending Far East tennis tournament an annual event.

“It’s on the table,” Hobbs said Wednesday, the first day of the 2003 Far East tennis tournament. “No promises, though.”

The event is now held in odd-numbered years, alternating with Far East cross-country meets. Basketball, wrestling, volleyball and soccer stage Far East tournaments every year.

“All the other sports get a Far East annually,” said Jonathan Ruiz of E.J. King in Japan. “I’d like to see this become an annual event.”

Since most tours at Sasebo last three years, Ruiz said “we only get one Far East.”

“It’s not fair to the kids to have one year on and one year off,” said Rick Kendall, a five-year FEAC committee member and E.J. King’s tennis coach.

“This is a lifelong sport” with “one of the highest participation in Far East events,” he said. “If you want to build a program, you build with a season-ending Far East tournament every year.”

“Some schools like Kadena and Kubasaki only play each other,” Ruiz said. “The only time they get to play other schools is at Far East.”

Osan American junior Priscilla Umemoto now contemplates a senior year without a Far East tournament. “It’ll be an empty feeling,” she said, having “a whole year to improve” with no Far East tournament to cap her high school tennis career.

Yokota coach Paul Mariuzza, in his second Far East tennis tournament, said: “What are you saying when volleyball, soccer and basketball can do it every year and tennis can’t? Kids are out there trying and working hard all season. This is part of DODDS promoting lifelong sports. One of DODDS’ goals is to get 100 percent participation.”

Hobbs said one impediment to making tennis an annual Far East event is financial. Another obstacle is continued region-wide concerns about missed classroom time.

Holding invitationals for DODDS-Pacific schools during non-Far East tournament years might be an alternative, said tournament director Roger Larson, who’s coached tennis in DODDS in Europe and the Pacific since 1970.

With many international schools participating in Far East tournaments, “we are often outclassed” by those teams, he said. “I’ve long advocated holding such a tournament to give DODDS players in the off-year an event in which they can compete against players at their own level.”

Former Osan teammates enjoy reunion

The last time Theresa Gittens, Alicia Davis and Umemoto were together was in the Far East tournament two years ago.

The former Osan American classmates said they were thrilled to spend some time together at the Risner Tennis Complex. Davis, who transfered this summer to Seoul American, played tennis beside Umemoto and basketball with Gittens, who transferred to Kadena High three years ago.

“We were pretty good friends,” Davis said.

“A lot of long bus rides,” Gittens recalled.

It should be their last such get-together, however: The three are scheduled to graduate in June.

“Every two years, but now, there’s no more two years,” Gittens said.

Kadena girl works OT to reach quarters

Lori Kanikkeberg managed to reach the round of 16 in the 2001 Far East tournament. Wednesday, she survived a two-hour match — the opening day’s longest — edging Carol Lee of Seoul International 2-6, 7-6, 7-3 to reach Thursday’s singles quarterfinals.

Trailing 2-6 in the second set with Lee serving for the match, “I was really scared,” said Kanikkeberg, a Kadena Panthers senior who won the next three games. “I just wanted it really badly. She played so good. She was consistent.”

With five matches in the round of 16 left to complete Thursday, Kanikkeberg was one of nine DODDS-Pacific players remaining in the girls singles draw.

On the boys’ side, only one DODDS-Pacific player advanced to the quarterfinals: Anthony Soroka of Kadena, who eliminated Korea singles leader Andrew Shin of Seoul American in the second round. Soroka’s brother Andrew, considered a contender, also fell in the second round.

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.

Sign Up for Daily Headlines

Sign up to receive a daily email of today's top military news stories from Stars and Stripes and top news outlets from around the world.

Sign Up Now