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Junior Karise Johnson, winner of last year's Far East Division I girls virtual meet, returns to headline Kadena's cross country lineup.
Junior Karise Johnson, winner of last year's Far East Division I girls virtual meet, returns to headline Kadena's cross country lineup. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

KADENA AIR BASE, Okinawa – For a second straight fall season, thanks to the coronavirus pandemic, DODEA-Okinawa cross country runners will compete in a Far East meet virtually.

Kadena and Kubasaki will only run against each other. Their season ends with the Far East virtual meet scheduled for the last weekend of October.

“I think the challenge will be keeping them focused on, we still have a Far East meet, we have the race and we still have to prepare for it,” said Abe Summers, coach of defending Far East Division I champion Kadena.

Senior Cullen Oglesbee, right, who took third in last year's Far East Division I boys virtual meet, says doing Far East viirtually again is "better than nothing," but "we do wish it was the real thing."
Senior Cullen Oglesbee, right, who took third in last year's Far East Division I boys virtual meet, says doing Far East viirtually again is "better than nothing," but "we do wish it was the real thing." (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

“It’s like we’re half-back,” he said. “We have one foot in the door. We do what we can with what we’ve got.”

While he has plenty of talent returning from a season ago, Summers will be missing one key component – Joe Renquist, a senior this year, decided not to run for the Panthers, Summers said.

Kadena still has reigning Far East girls D-I champion Karise Johnson, a junior, returning, along with senior Sara Corrado and sophomore Jolyn Botes on the girls side, and senior Cullen Oglesbee, junior Nathan Rowberry and sophomore Tuck Renquist, Joe’s brother, back for the boys.

“It’s definitely better than nothing,” Oglesbee said of the in-district season and virtual Far East. “We do wish it was the real thing.”

Kubasaki welcomes its second coach in the last two seasons, Travis James. The Dragons will have sophomore Makayla Saeteurn back and seniors Payton Passage, Brandon Ward and Mateo Mendoza on the boys side.

The season begins Friday with a 3.12-mile run at Kadena’s McDonald Stadium course.

Junior Sophia Grubbs returns from the 2019 season and is Kubasaki's prime volleyball hitter.
Junior Sophia Grubbs returns from the 2019 season and is Kubasaki's prime volleyball hitter. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Volleyball

The Dragons were in good position a year ago to capture their fifth Far East D-I title in seven years, but the 2020 season was lost to COVID-19. Eight players from 2019 either graduated or transferred.

Still, coach Kent Grubbs says the prospects look good.

“I’m excited to be on the court,” he said. “It’s not a full season, but we’re making the best of it.”

His daughter, Sophia, a junior, is the Dragons’ top hitter and has senior Alyssa Alvarado setting for her.

Kadena has David Weiland as its new head coach, with defensive specialists Sarina Garcia and Kaya Castle returning along with senior outside hitter Kyleigh Wright from the 2019 season.

Kadena hosts the first regular-season match on Friday.

Noemi Ung is one of five returning sophomores from last season to Kubasaki's tennis lineup.
Noemi Ung is one of five returning sophomores from last season to Kubasaki's tennis lineup. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Tennis

Ed Thompson returns to coach the Panthers after a six-year absence. Eight players return from the 2020 in-district season, led by seniors Jason Saveedra and Mayann Rivera. Juniors Evan Davis, Iain Stanley, Nathan Asato, Mary Tracy, Christine Ryan and Maddie Small also return.

Many young faces dot the Kubasaki lineup, including sophomores Jaden Oshana, Owen Ruksc, Lillian Law, Noemi Ung and Faith Reilly, along with juniors Cael Perry and Liana Manuel.

Jaden Oshana is one of five returning sophomores from last season to Kubasaki's tennis lineup.
Jaden Oshana is one of five returning sophomores from last season to Kubasaki's tennis lineup. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

The schools play five regular-season meets starting next Wednesday at Kadena, with the district finals scheduled for Oct. 20-21.

Senior Chett Huff is one of two starters returning to Kubasaki's golf lineup.
Senior Chett Huff is one of two starters returning to Kubasaki's golf lineup. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

Golf

Both schools’ lineups took some graduation and transfer hits. Senior Chett Huff and sophomore Julizka Aguirre are the only returnees to Kubasaki’s lineup.

Senior Will Richardson takes over as boys team captain and junior Carter Johnson will also step in to fill a void left by six departing Kadena boys players. Juniors Caroline Trowbridge and Teiya Sheperd-Savage and senior Claire Jordan return for the Panthers.

Sophomore Julizka Aguirre is one of two starters returning to Kubasaki's golf llineup.
Sophomore Julizka Aguirre is one of two starters returning to Kubasaki's golf llineup. (Dave Ornauer/Stars and Stripes)

The regular season began with Thursday’s scramble event at Taiyo Golf Club in Gushikawa, considered Kubasaki’s home course.

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