Pacific athlete of the year selections all-Korea, all-Class A
June 11, 2006
Sometimes, an athlete’s ability to lead a team, to encourage it when it’s down or to pick it up and carry it to a title means far more than the statistics he or she accumulates.
Such was the difference made by Osan American junior Carlos Albaladejo and Taegu American senior Lynnette Grant, who led their teams to DODDS-Pacific Class A titles, Osan in football and Taegu in volleyball and basketball.
For their efforts, Albaladejo and Grant share the Stars and Stripes Pacific high school Athlete of the Year award for 2005-06.
“His play on the field is of one who isn’t a glory seeker, but looking to help make the team better, and it showed,” said Albaladejo’s football and soccer coach, Tony Alvarado.
Albaladejo contributed wherever he was needed. At fullback, he blocked for freshman tailback Will Rapoza, who gained a team-leading 543 yards on 85 carries with six touchdowns.
Albaladejo saw time at linebacker and safety (17 tackles, 12 unassisted) and averaged 41.4 yards per punt. But his contribution made the difference in Osan’s 16-14 comeback victory over Robert D. Edgren in the Class A football title game, when he kicked a 34-yard field goal, made a key fourth-down defensive stop and recovered a fumble to squelch a late Edgren drive.
He then tried wrestling for the first time, placing fifth at 158 pounds in the Far East tournament, but “he quickly became the team leader and rallied his teammates,” Alvarado said, to the school’s best finish since the 2000 season.
On the soccer field, Albaladejo earned Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference all-league and all-tournament honors, was MVP runner-up and was selected for the All-Tournament team after pacing Osan to a runner-up finish in the Class A soccer tournament.
He could have had more than his eight goals, but chose to play center-midfield “to benefit the team,” Alvarado said. “We were in need of an unselfish player to help distribute the ball and assist other players into scoring. His play was the main reason for our success.”
Grant’s achievements included MVP honors as Taegu American won its first Class A volleyball title. Her 251 spike kills, 46 aces and 83 block points boosted Taegu to school-first season sweeps of Seoul American and Seoul Foreign.
On the basketball court, Grant averaged 22 points, 11 rebounds and eight steals and single-handedly led the Warriors to a come-from-behind 38-28 triumph over Faith Academy in the Class A title game.
With Taegu in need of a center fielder because of injuries, she came out for the team after the season had begun and batted .290 with 11 stolen bases as the Warriors beat Seoul American for the first time and won the league title.
“She was always motivated and self-directed and led the team by example,” Taegu basketball coach and athletic director Michelle Chandler said. “When Lynnette stepped up, so did the team. She lifted the play of those around her in all sports.”
The rest of the 2005-06 Stars and Stripes school year awards:
Coach of the year: Terry Chumley of Kubasaki took rebuilding squads to Far East tournament Final Four finishes in girls volleyball, wrestling and girls soccer, with the Dragons coming within a whisker of capturing their Pacific-record 21st wrestling team crown.
Team of the year: Yokota boys basketball won its first Far East Class AA tournament title in 30 years, going 33-0 and capping the season with a 30-game winning streak.
Programs of the year: Seoul American, Osan American and Taegu American’s girls led the way as the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference enjoyed a banner year — Seoul American took the Far East cross-country and tennis tournament team titles and the Class AA girls basketball title, while the Falcons boys finished second. Taegu American won the Class A girls volleyball and basketball crowns. Osan American’s girls repeated as Class A soccer champions, while the Cougars boys won the Class A football title and placed second in the Class A soccer tournament.
Most improved team: Though not yet a Far East tournament power, Guam High’s wrestling team accomplished three school firsts in the winter, dethroning 11-time island champion John F. Kennedy, going 7-0 in the regular season and capturing the team title in the Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam championship.
Most improved program: Taegu American’s girls, who also won their first DODDS-Korea girls softball league title. Special mention to Zama American’s girls, who won DODDS-Japan tournament titles in basketball, volleyball, tennis and softball.
Best scholar/athlete: Anthony Soroka of Kadena reached the Far East tennis tournament semifinals, was chosen for the All-Far East Class AA basketball tournament team and scored two goals in the title match to boost the Panthers’ soccer team to its third Class AA title in four years. Soroka, a 4.0 student, will attend Princeton next year.
Lifetime achievement award: Kadena’s Dianne Abel graduates this week having earned three Class AA soccer tournament MVP awards, pacing the Panthers to championships in 2004, 2005 and 2006. She also helped Kadena win the 2004 Far East cross-country team award and the 2003 Class AA basketball tournament title.
Best new event: Bar none, the Far East Class AA and Class A football playoffs, which had the region talking and produced great games. Certainly, Seoul American’s 13-10 semifinal upset of Yokota, with its 36-game winning streak, leveled the playing field and gave the region what Yokota had long stripped away from it: hope.
Best strategy: Having lost starting sweeper Alex Mierzejewski to a facial injury in the Class AA soccer semifinals last month at Yokota, coach Michael Callahan moved his best playmaker, senior Nathan LaGrave, to sweeper, sacrificing offense for more defense. The result: LaGrave and junior Dean Harkum shut down Kubasaki’s leading scorer Chris Monroy and LaGrave notched a penalty-kick goal in Kadena’s 3-0 title-match triumph.
Game of the year: Doug Bloom’s basket with 3 seconds left capped Yokota’s rally from a 6-point deficit with 40 seconds left for a 56-55 stunner against Nile C. Kinnick in the DODDS-Japan boys basketball tournament semifinal at Yokota. Three steals and three baskets in bang-bang fashion helped propel Yokota to the tournament final.
Play of the year: Kubasaki sophomore Michael Bennett likely has a career as a stock broker, politician or NFL general manager ahead of him, the way he “sold” the game-turning play in the Dragons’ 34-14 victory over Seoul American in the Class AA football championship. The Falcons had just cut the gap to 14-8 when Bennett took the ensuing kickoff at the Dragons’ 16, faked a reverse handoff to Tim Gardner, concealed the ball behind his thigh, peeked over his shoulder as if to monitor Gardner’s progress … then ran untouched 84 yards for a touchdown.
Stars and Stripes 2005-06 Athletes of the Year nominees
x-Matt Evans, senior, cross country, soccer, Guam High
x-Victoria Lyle, sophomore, cross country, basketball, soccer, Kadena, Okinawa
x-Kristia Suriben, sophomore, tennis, basketball, softball, E.J. King, Japan
x-Allen Chin, senior, tennis, basketball, soccer, Seoul American
x-Lynnette Grant, senior, volleyball, basketball, softball, Taegu American
x-Kelsey Hardeman, senior, volleyball, basketball, Christian Academy In Japan
x-Cameron Cooper, senior, football, basketball, Yokota, Japan
x-Steve Courtney, junior, wrestling, Kubasaki, Okinawa
x-Kirk Long, junior, basketball, Faith Academy, Philippines
x-Margaret Nurse, senior, volleyball, basketball, soccer, Seoul American
x-Alyssa Rodrigues, freshman, soccer, Robert D. Edgren, Japan
x-David Hyun, senior, soccer, International Christian-Seoul
x-Aaron Zendejas, senior, cross country, soccer, Kadena, Okinawa
x-Dianne Abel, senior, cross country, basketball, soccer, Kadena, Okinawa
x-Nathan LaGrave, senior, soccer, Kadena, Okinawa
x-Jennifer Abel, junior, cross country, basketball, soccer, Kadena, Okinawa
x-Carlos Albaladejo, junior, football, wrestling, soccer, Osan American, South Korea
Darlene Black, senior, volleyball, basketball, soccer, International Christian-Uijongbu
Anthony Soroka, senior, tennis, basketball, soccer, Kadena, Okinawa
Ted Awana, senior, football, wrestling, soccer, Kadena, Okinawa
David Motu, junior, football, soccer, Kubasaki, Okinawa
Kyera Tennyson, junior, basketball, track and field, Kadena, Okinawa
Kristi McNair, senior, volleyball, basketball, soccer, Kubasaki, Okinawa
Cristina Sindac, junior, volleyball, basketball, Matthew C. Perry, Japan
Travis Ekmark, senior, basketball, track and field, Nile C. Kinnick, Japan
Ashley Melin, senior, basketball, soccer, Nile C. Kinnick, Japan
James Edwards, senior, tennis, basketball, Pusan American, South Korea
Brandon Green, senior, cross country, soccer, Robert D. Edgren, Japan
Sarah Yance, junior, cross country, swimming, Seoul American
Duri Balat, senior, volleyball, basketball, baseball, Taegu American, South Korea
Jim Scott, senior, football, wrestling, soccer, Yokota, Japan
Cristina Eustaquio, junior, tennis, basketball, softball, Zama American, Japan
x-Automatically nominated as MVP or champion of a DODDS-Pacific Far East tournament, or as Athlete of the Quarter during school year.