Kadena and Kubasaki teams will be seeing a lot of each other this fall
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.
“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.
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.
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.
The schools play five regular-season meets starting next Wednesday at Kadena, with the district finals scheduled for Oct. 20-21.
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.
The regular season began with Thursday’s scramble event at Taiyo Golf Club in Gushikawa, considered Kubasaki’s home course.