Poor air quality nixes Korean finals again
For the second straight year, Korea’s track and field season will end without a district championship, with poor air quality to blame.
Saturday’s championship meet at Camp Humphreys was called off when the Air Quality Index at Camp Humphreys, host site of the meet, exceeded unsafe levels, meet organizers said.
The AQI index reached 286 at one point, according to meet organizers and Humphreys athletics director Tess Sterling. Anything exceeding 150 is considered unsafe and outdoor athletics activity must be curtailed or terminated at that point, according to U.S. Forces Korea guidelines.
“We got nothing in,” Sterling said. Field event competitors were warming up when Sterling said she rechecked the AQI, which had spiked from 186 to 275 between 5 and 9 a.m. – the meet’s scheduled start time.
“I couldn’t believe it. I went inside and checked my desktop just to be sure. I had others check, too. Got the same results,” she said.
Air quality is a chronic problem during spring in the northwest reaches of South Korea, due to excessive PM 2.5 dust emanating from China and Gobi Desert “yellow dust” blowing in from Mongolia.
“You could taste the dirt,” Seoul American coach Shawen Smith said, adding that one could see a light tan covering of dust on the ground or seats in the bleachers at Blackhawks Field “and run your fingers across it. It’s not good.”
The same thing occurred prior to last year’s district finals, which were also not rescheduled. Coaches and athletes expressed disappointment, for Saturday’s meet was the last opportunity to improve seeding for the Far East meet May 22-23 at Yokota.
“Coaches definitely wanted this meet to occur and were pushing, but with the (air) quality like this, it just wasn’t good and they knew that,” Seoul American senior distance specialist Chloe Byrd said. “No one was surprised, because this happened last year.”
Other athletes who did not qualify for Far East “wanted to take part in one last race, jump or throw,” Byrd said.
Byrd said she and several other athletes warmed up Saturday with anti-dust pollution masks on and said it was “an idea” during actual competition, but “I couldn’t do it, at least not in a race.”
Osan earlier this spring ordered and unboxed some dustproof masks intended for use during soccer matches. But the school, in consultation with the DODEA-Korea district, opted to not test them, DODEA-Pacific officials said.
Walker helps Kinnick baseball stun ASIJAt windy Yokosuka Naval Base, Japan, Kacey Walker starred on the mound and at the plate to help Nile C. Kinnick score a huge baseball upset of three-time defending Far East Division I Tournament champion American School In Japan.
Walker, a junior, struck out 10 and survived five wild pitches, while helping himself at bat with three hits in four at-bats, including a two-run game-deciding double in the sixth as the Red Devils rallied for a 5-4 win.
Kinnick improved to 10-11-1 on the season, while the Mustangs fell to 11-2, suffering their first loss to an American team this season.It was Kinnick's first victory over ASIJ since 2011.
In what was an otherwise rough weekend for Osan softball, the Cougars did get a stellar pitching performance by senior Aly Eitland, a no-hitter with seven strikeouts as Osan blanked Daegu 18-0.
Eitland drove in two runs, scored three times and stole three bases.