Pacific X-C Pusan American runner takes aim at elusive Far East title
Brieanna Carroll is racing against time, literally and figuratively.
After three years of prep athletics dotted with frustrations, near-misses and almosts, the Pusan American Panthers’ three-sport star hopes she can begin her senior year with a Far East High School Cross Country Meet gold medal.
“I’m a lot more prepared. My mind is a lot more prepared,” Carroll said. “I’ve been training in my mind to get ready for it. My father ran cross country in high school, he knows so much about it, he’s put me on a training schedule. It’s pretty intense. It’s whipped me into shape.”
Carroll got off to a solid start in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference season, running a 3.1-mile race Saturday in 20 minutes, 16 seconds, more than three minutes ahead of her nearest challenger.
It wasn’t quite her fastest time. Carroll posted a 19:37 in the KAIAC championship last Nov. 1 — and finished second, a familiar position during her Pusan years.
For two straight springs, her Panthers girls soccer team finished second in Far East Class A tournaments. Even when she captured top individual honors, such as MVP of the Class A basketball tournament last February, her team finished seventh.
She also finished ninth in the 2002 Far East cross country meet at Nimitz Hill Golf Course on Guam as a sophomore.
Carroll and her coach, Gary Canner, think she has a chance at the individual gold. Also, Pusan American boasts an experienced girls lineup that has an outside chance at a team banner — which would be a first in school history.
“We have five really solid girls, and they keep improving,” Carroll said. Included in that group is her sister, Cassie, a freshman.
“We’ll just see,” said Canner, in his fourth year as the Panthers’ coach. “We have a number of returning runners with experience, and we have high hopes for our girls team.”
Pusan American faces challenges:
¶ Defending team champion Kadena of Okinawa — the only DODDS team champion in the Far East meet’s 26-year history — lost 2002 individual girls champion Kim Lyle and defending Okinawa Activities Council boys champion Cliff Johnson. But returning is 2003 All-Island girls champion Niki Kauzlarich and a squad rich in experience. “The team is excited. It will be an exciting year,” said coach Tom McKinney, who also returns Jon Turner, Devon Copeland, Aaron Zendejas and sisters Dianne and Jennifer Abel, each top-10 All-Island meet finishers. “I have strong girls, and the boys will be all right. You can dream big.”
¶ Kadena’s island-rival Kubasaki bolstered its ranks with the addition of junior twins Crystal and Candace Sandness, who each finished in the top 10 of last year’s Utah state championships in less than 21 minutes.
¶ Seoul Foreign, with defending KAIAC girls champion Alanna Bennett and a boys team led by KAIAC record-setter Kazuki Guzman, expects to enter Far East. Bennett finished last year’s KAIAC championship meet seven seconds faster than Carroll.
¶ St. Mary’s International’s boys of Tokyo have their own challenger for the boys individual crown: J.M. Kwak, the defending Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools champion.
Kwak might get a stern challenge from the flagship runner of the Far East meet’s host school.
Junior Daniel Sanchez of Robert D. Edgren had been expected to transfer after last school year, to Minot Air Force Base, N.D., but is sticking around for a couple of months, and might possibly finish his years in the Pacific by running at Far East.
Sanchez won his first five races last season, becoming the top DODDS runner in Japan, before finishing behind Kwak twice. He lost to Kwak 15:46-16:10 on Oct. 18 and again 15:45-16:01 on Oct. 25, both at Tama Hills Recreation Center west of Tokyo.
What of his chances of taking a Far East gold on his home course?
“I’m not going to let it get to me too much, not get all caught up in the competition,” Sanchez said. “I want to win, trust me. But we’ll see.”
Many eyes likely will be on Carroll, as she tries to turn the first third of her senior year into “that championship season.”
“She has a chance,” Canner said. “She’s a worker, she’s been training and she has as good a chance as anybody.”
Pacific cross country runners, teams to watch
¶ Brieanna Carroll, senior, Pusan American, South Korea. Finished ninth in DODDS-Pacific Far East Meet individual 3.1-mile girls race in 2002 on Guam in 23 minutes, 17 seconds. Shaved almost four minutes off that time in placing second in Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference meet last November.
¶ Cathryn Furner, sophomore, Seoul American. Led girls team with a third-place KAIAC championship meet finish, in 19:50.
¶ Crystal and Candace Sandness, juniors, Kubasaki, Okinawa. Transferred to Kubasaki last spring from West Jordan High in Utah, where they finished in the top 10 in the 2003 state championship, with sub-21-minute times. Crystal rewrote every distance record in the Okinawa Activities Council track and field book last spring.
¶ Jon Turner and Devon Copeland, seniors; Dianne Abel, Niki Kauzlarich, Madison Harter, Aaron Zendejas, juniors; and Jennifer Abel, sophomore, Kadena, Okinawa. Solid core of returners from 2003 Okinawa All-Island champion team, 2002 Far East champion team. Kauzlarich took first in All-Island girls race; Zendejas finished second in boys race.
¶ Daniel Sanchez, junior, Robert D. Edgren. About to transfer to Minot Air Force Base, N.D., Sanchez hopes to go out with Far East boys individual 3.1-mile gold medal after placing first in five DODDS-Japan meets and second in two other meets last fall.
¶ Scott Macri, senior, and Nicole Allison, junior, E.J. King, Japan. Returning runners from Cobras program that finished second-best among DODDS-Japan schools in the Kanto Plain invitational last Oct. 25 at Tama Hills Recreation Center, west of Tokyo.
¶ Chris Cerrillo, senior, Zama American, Japan. Finished fourth in Kanto invitational, in 16:09, eight seconds behind Sanchez, and third overall in the league standings a year ago. Might be Trojans’ best boys runner since James Harris in the late 1980s.