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Girls from several schools begin the cross country race at Vilseck, Germany, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019.

Girls from several schools begin the cross country race at Vilseck, Germany, Saturday, Sept. 7, 2019. (Martin Egnash/Stars and Stripes)

There will be no defending champions to block the path at Saturday’s DODEA-Europe cross country championships.

DODEA-Europe athletic director Kathlene Clemmons confirmed this week that St. John’s, a Belgium-based international school that has participated in - and largely dominated, at least on the girls side - the event in recent seasons will not be in attendance Saturday at Baumholder, Germany.

St. John’s did not appear in the handful of regular-season DODEA-Europe meets for which it was scheduled due to what school athletic director Anthony Hennelly referred to last month as “calendar clashes.” Under DODEA-Europe rules, that disqualified the school’s runners from Saturday’s final.

“Since St. John’s was not able to compete in any of the DODEA-Europe cross country events, they will have no runners at the European championships,” Clemmons said.

That decision removes St. John’s runner and 2018 individual girls champion Abby Michalec from the girls field. Michalec’s win last year followed a three-year reign by former St. John’s teammate Kayla Smith.

The boys race is also in search of a new champion after the graduation of 2018 champion Dashiell Rogers of Ramstein.

The Stuttgart Panthers are targeting a win in both races.

Panther junior McKinley Fielding has absolutely dominated this fall. Her winning time of 19 minutes, 12 seconds Saturday was a full two and a half minutes ahead of the runner-up. Naples’ Ariana Coats, Bahrain’s Emily Rice, Ramstein’s Nadia Rahman, SHAPE’s Greta Di Dio and Brussels’ Shoshana Goldfein are among her primary challengers.

Stuttgart sophomore Landon McMinimy has emerged as a boys frontrunner, winning last weekend’s regular-season finale with a blistering time of 17 minutes, 45 seconds. He’ll battle Kaiserslautern’s Griffen Parsells, Ramstein’s Conner Mackie, Lakenheath’s Matt Cavanaugh, SHAPE’s Sam Dowdall, Bahrain’s Alex Blakely and AOSR’s William Davis, among others, for the title.

Stuttgart is also a top contender to claim the Division I team titles. Panther runners claimed six of the top seven spots in Saturday’s race, an event that also included major large-school rivals Ramstein and Wiesbaden. The Panther girls took six of the top nine spots in their race. Twitter: @broomestripes

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