Pacific XC preview: Runners are expecting the unexpected in ’07
YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — Expect the unexpected.
That’s the attitude that coaches, runners and teams appear to be taking entering the Pacific high school cross-country season.
Be it a regular-season meet, a league championship or the biggest prize of all, the Far East meet Nov. 5-6 on Okinawa, one can never be sure who will win despite what’s on paper, competitors say.
“Everything depends on what happens on race day,” said coach Tom McKinney of defending Far East team champion Kadena of Okinawa.
He can speak objectively on the subject. In the 2005 Far East meet at Misawa Air Base, he fielded the top team on paper, but when a runner fell down, “we lost everything.”
“You can go in with a No. 1 team, but the weather might get hot, somebody might get sick, somebody who’s run well might have a bad day,” McKinney said. “It all depends on what you bring on race day.”
Climate can make a big difference, said coach Itza Baker of 2005 team champion Seoul American. “For us, when we go to Okinawa, it’s nearly winter here in Seoul, and we go to 80 or 90 degree weather. The climate difference is a key.”
Kadena’s Brant Casteel and Julie Monti of Kubasaki seemed to be the runners to beat in last year’s Far East meet at Camp Hansen. But unexpectedly, a pair of sophomores pulled shockers in the 3.1-mile individual races, Kubasaki’s Matt Coon and Nadine Mulvany of Nile C. Kinnick.
“I’ve never been able to predict the first-place guy,” said senior Kevin Blackburn of Zama American, who will run in his fourth Far East two months from now. “It’s usually somebody you’re not expecting.”
A number of possibilities loom as prospects to win the individual runs on Nov. 5.
Casteel returns, as does Blackburn, David Heitstuman of E.J. King and John Lohr of Seoul American, each of whom are capable of times under 16 minutes, 30 seconds.
They’re joined by newcomers Andrew Quallio, a Zama junior who finished ninth in last November’s Florida Class 4-A championships, and Robert Fry, a Guam High senior who ran the first race of the island season in under 16 minutes.
How would a possible 1-2 finish by Quallio and Blackburn sound?
“Awesome,” Quallio said.
“It would help get us recognition for the school and cross-country,” Blackburn said.
Guam High also looks solid on the girls’ side, with Fry’s sister Auriaunna, a junior, leading a strong group of returners on what may be coach Joseph Taitano’s best team since winning Far East in 2000 at the helm of Guam’s John F. Kennedy Islanders.
Aside from Mulvany, Stephanie Gamboa returns for Kubasaki, Lauryn Thomas for Yokota and Kiersten Blyzniuk for Seoul American to form a competitive girls field.
“It’s pretty scary, having everyone wanting to beat me and try to outdo me,” Mulvany said. “It makes me want to push myself harder and prove I can still do it.”
“She’s just challenged to take it up and defend it,” Kinnick coach Philip Bailey said. “That’s her goal.”
Mulvany won’t surprise anybody this year. Nor will Kadena, which came into Far East last year as an underdog but captured enough points in the team relay to steal the team championship.
“This year, they know they have to work,” McKinney said. “We’re not going to sneak up on anybody.”
[/BOXHEADER]Guam High Panthers, Nimitz Hill
Coach-Joseph Taitano, third season.
Key performers-Boys, Robert Fry, Sr.; Leonen Chavez, Sr.; Delbert Smith, Sr.; Michael Tougher, So.; Trevor Cheatham, Fr. Girls, Auriaunna Fry, Jr.; Johanna Jorgensen, Sr. (10th in Far East last year); Sarah Jagodzinski, Sr. (eighth in Far East last year); Brittany Albe, Jr.
Overview-Contending. Robert Fry ran a 15:41 in just the first meet of the season, best in the region since 2000. Taitano won a Far East team championship for his old school, John F. Kennedy, in 2000; this could be the year Guam High earns its first Far East team championship in any sport since 1998.
Matthew C. Perry, Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni
Coach-Chris Anderson, first season.
Key performers-Boys, Cole Miller, So.; Nick Knight and Robert Meyer, Fr. Girls, Carissa Strauss, Lizzy Dover, Jane Curtis.
Overview-Reloading-contending. Boys squad looking especially strong, could have some say in DODDS-Japan championship conversation as well as Far East.
E.J. King, Sasebo Naval Base.
Coach-Tom Heitstuman, fourth season.
Key performers-David Heitstuman, Sr. (sixth in Far East last year); Dominique Johnson, Sr.
Overview-Rebuilding. Other than Johnson and Heitstuman, no outstanding prospects or recruits; Cobras hoping for middle-of-the-pack DODDS-Japan finish.
Robert D. Edgren, Misawa Air Base.
Coach-Andre Thibert, fifth season.
Key performers-Boys, Parry Draper, So.; Anthony Fike, Jr.; Trent Kurek, So.; David Blevins, Jr.; Rye Sperl, So (transfer from Montana). Girls, Angel Lemen, Jr.; Nicole McNabb, Jr.; Jennifer Stryd, Sr.
Overview-Boys rebuilding, girls reloading. Eagles must overcome loss of Chris Tobiere (Europe), Devin Nelson, Tony Angellela and Randy Haltli (graduation), while girls must cope with losing former DODDS-Japan champion Jade Thrasher (Europe). Hoping to be competitive in league and Far East.
Nile C. Kinnick, Yokosuka Naval Base
Coach-Philip Bailey, third season.
Key performers-Boys, William Traufler, So. Girls, Nadine Mulvany, Jr. (defending Far East champion); Carl’Meisha Wourman, Sr.
Overview-Rebuilding-reloading. Top-heavy with experience, but young runners populate the rest of the roster. Could make some noise in the individual DODDS-Japan, Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools and Far East races.
Zama American, Camp Zama
Coach-Mitchell Moellendick, fifth season.
Key performers-Boys, Andrew Quallio, Jr. (transfer from Florida); Kevin Blackburn, Sr. (fourth at Far East last year); Andrew Cavalier, Fr.; Luke Barrett, Jr.; Anthony Domier, Jr.; David Hernandez, Fr.
Overview-Boys contending; girls rebuilding. At last, Moellendick fields a full boys team which can make noise in DODDS-Japan, Kanto Plain and Far East. Quallio took ninth last November in the Florida Class 4-A championships with a 16:24. Girls’ numbers are thin and inexperienced.
Yokota, Yokota Air Base
Coach-Vincent Szilagyi, second season.
Key performers-Boys, Tre Sauls, Jr.; Jimmy Niescier, So. (transfer from Patch, Germany). Girls, Lauryn Thomas, Jr.
Overview-Rebuilding. Thomas still recovering from soccer ankle injury. Thin, inexperienced across the board.
Taegu American, Camp George
Coach-Larry Knierim, second season.
Key performers-Boys, Anthony Owens, Sr. Girls, Aileen Kim, Sr.; Linda Boshans and Kiana Roberts, So.
Overview-Rebuilding. Most of Knierim’s 26 runners are eighth graders, which bodes well for the future, but not so much for Warriors’ chances within Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference, nor at Far East.
Osan American, Osan Air Base
Coach-Johnny Windhom, fourth season.
Key performers-Boys, Ernest Altvater, Jr.; Patrick Cassidy, Sr.; Joseph Shin, So. (transfer from Seoul American); Darrick Becker, Jr. (transfer from Pennsylvania). Girls, Emily Albonetti, Sr.; Samantha Scotti, Sr.
Overview-Reloading. Plenty of transfer material in both the boys and girls lineups, many of them underclassmen, boding well for the future as well as this season.
Seoul American, Yongsan Garrison
Coach-Itza Baker, second season.
Key performers-Boys, John Lohr, Sr. (seventh at Far East last year); Eric Min, Sr.; Sean Kincaid, Jr. Girls, Kiersten Pak Blyzniuk, Sr.; Hannah Boeman, Sr.; Olivia Wenzel, Sr.
Overview-Contending. Lohr, who’s capable of sub-17-minute times, and Blyzniuk headline the team’s most-balanced lineup in years. They could well spearhead the Falcons’ effort to return to the top of the Far East meet team heap for the second time in three years, and will challenge Seoul Foreign for league regular-season supremacy.
[/BOXHEADER]Kubasaki, Camp Foster
Coach-Paul Campbell, fifth season.
Key performers-Boys, David Krievs (ninth in Far East last year) and Jacob Hess, Jr. Girls, Stephanie Gamboa, Sr.
Overview-Rebuilding. Campbell and Dragons must overcome the transfers of island champion Julie Monti and Far East champion Matt Coon, but have the makings for a good team in future seasons.
Kadena, Kadena Air Base
Coach-Tom McKinney, fourth season.
Key performers-Boys, Brant Casteel, Jr. (defending island champion, second in Far East last year). Girls, Cassie McDonald, Jr. (fifth in Far East last year); Andrea Grade, Fr.
Overview-Rebuilding-reloading. Young team with solid leadership up front, hoping to gun for seventh island championship and a top-three Far East finish.
Significant dates this season
Thursday, Oct. 11: Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam All-Island Championship, site TBD.
Saturday, Oct. 20: Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools championship meet, St. Maur International, Yokota, International School of the Sacred Heart, Christian Academy In Japan, Zama American, Yokohama International, American School In Japan, St. Mary’s International, Seisen International and Nile C. Kinnick at Tama Hills Recreation Center, 9 a.m.; Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference championship meet, International Christian-Uijongbu, 10 a.m.
Friday, Oct. 26-Saturday, Oct. 27: Asia-Pacific Invitational Cross-Country Meet, site TBD, Guam
Monday, Nov. 5-Tuesday, Nov. 6: DODDS-Pacific Far East High School Meet, Kadena Air Base, Okinawa.