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Coronavirus concerns loomed over DODEA-Pacific sports in 2020

Kubasaki's baseball team didn't play in the spring due to concerns of spreading the coronavirus. But Kai Grubbs showed some love during the tennis season in the fall and won the Okinawa district singles title.

DAVE ORNAUER/STARS AND STRIPES

By DAVE ORNAUER | STARS AND STRIPES Published: December 27, 2020

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DODEA-Pacific’s basketball teams gathered in Korea and Okinawa in February to determine Far East champions.

But with the onslaught of the coronavirus, tournaments were canceled and teams were never crowned.

Humphreys’ boys were trying to win a third straight Far East title.

“When our season was cut short, I thought that going into this [school] year, there was no chance we would play any sports,” said center Collin Metcalf, now a senior.

Schools transitioned to remote learning in Korea the next Monday and in Japan and Okinawa in late March. And with it, no competitive sports took place in the spring, save for one day on Okinawa (March 18).

“One thing this whole experience has taught me is that learning to train by yourself is key to bettering your game,” Metcalf said.

Still, his worst fear wasn’t realized: Sports in DODEA-Pacific didn’t go away entirely due to the pandemic. Still, concerns over the spread of COVID-19 dominated DODEA-Pacific sports in 2020 – with some high-profile sports such as football kicked off the proverbial playing fields.

February was a sign of things to come for many.

Kadena’s Atiria Simms lost the last month of her senior year to a knee injury before it got even worse.

The girls hoop tournaments were canceled after one day.

“I was pretty torn up about my knee, no pun intended, especially the fact that I got injured trying to get better so I can help my team take home a banner [during] my senior year,” the Panthers point guard said.

“Even though we had a pretty good chance at winning, I just had to accept all of the events that happened as both bad luck and bad timing,” Simms said.

Still, after the traditional summer break – one of the few traditions to actually hold up – sports did eventually return in late fall.

DODEA-Pacific offered tennis, cross country and - for the first time outside Okinawa – golf.

Kadena and Kubasaki could play each other on Okinawa, while Daegu, Osan and Humphreys were allowed to play each other in Korea. Teams in Japan were not so fortunate.

No Far East tournaments of any kind were scheduled in any sport, save for cross country, which was run virtually by each school having its runners make 12½ circuits of their tracks, timed and videotaped with results sent to DODEA-Pacific. Results have not been announced.

During the cross country's regular season, Kubasaki senior Arthur Parra led DODEA-Pacific runners with a time of 16 minutes, 14 seconds. On the girls side, Reagan Cheramie of Yokota was fastest in 19:21.

DODEA’s Korea district put forth a plan to allow boys and girls volleyball to be played, but just between Osan, Daegu and Humphreys.

So Metcalf was able to play volleyball in the fall. And his Humphreys Gold team won the DODEA-Korea district title, as did the Gold girls.

On the Korea tennis courts, Daegu senior Michelle Yoo and Osan sophomore David Lee rebounded from opening losses to win their next six singles matches. But cold weather canceled the district finals.

On Okinawa, Kubasaki ruled the courts as seniors Kai Grubbs and Willow Lewis won the district singles titles. On the links, Kadena senior Beau Black and Kubasaki senior Kyla Golihugh each captured Okinawa district crowns, while Ethan Elliott stood tallest for the boys in Korea.

Due to travel restrictions, DODEA schools in Japan could only conduct intra-squad competitions in tennis and golf.

Some in Japan, like Matthew C. Perry senior tennis player Giovanni Cano, have done additional workouts with teammates and adults on Iwakuni Air Station. “It’s been very hard (but) we are trying to make the most out of it and keep our heads up,” Cano said.

ornauer.dave@stripes.com
Twitter: @daveornauer