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Seoul American has become the first DODEA Korea high school to form a track and field team, and will compete at next month’s Mike Petty Memorial Meet and the first Far East meet in May on Okinawa, DODEA Pacific officials announced on Monday.

“As of today, it’s done,” DODEA Pacific’s Far East athletics coordinator Don Hobbs said.

David Abbott, who had been assisting the boys soccer team, will coach the Falcons track team, composed of remnants of the Seoul Track Club, which competed in meets such as Petty and the Kanto Invitational.

The decision came after hard lobbying for a high school team at Seoul American by STC coach and founder Kevin Madden. His son Thomas Kim won the Far East Cross Country championship last fall and is considered a contender in Far East meet distance events.

“I’m ecstatic,” said Madden, whose stated purpose of forming STC was to put track and field “on the high school map in Korea. We now have track at Seoul American and we’ll have it for years to come.”

When DODEA Pacific added track and field, along with baseball and softball, as a Far East sport two months ago, one of the conditions was that teams could only participate if their school sponsored them; at that time, Seoul American did not have a track team.

Now it will compete as a high school entity at the two-day Mike Petty Memorial Meet April 9-10 at Kubasaki High School on Okinawa. Two STC members each will represent Osan American and Seoul Foreign at Petty.

Asked if Osan and Daegu American would be afforded the same chance as Seoul American for the Far East meet May 24-25, also at Kubasaki, Hobbs said: “Not this year.” Recruiting athletes and finding a coach would mean each could not start practice until April, he said.

“The situation is different at Seoul American; they already had numerous athletes,” Hobbs said, referring to STC. “We’ll put that [Osan and Daegu] on the back burner” and look at it next year, Hobbs said.

Athletics officials at Osan and Daegu declined to comment. Attempts to contact Seoul American were referred to DODEA Pacific officials.

The decision spells the end of STC, but Madden says since the lack of high school track and field “gap” has been eliminated, “I couldn’t be happier. That was our focus.”

Madden pointed to the efforts of Kubasaki coach Charles Burns and his founding the Petty meet in 2003 as “the first step” toward including track as a Far East high school sport.

Burns, in turn, praised Madden and said Monday’s announcement might be a “catalyst” for track to catch on at all Korea high schools, and for eight-lane tracks to “fall down from heaven” onto Korea military bases.

Seoul Track Club “blazed the trail,” Burns said. “They laid the foundation for this stuff. Somewhere down the line, some kid will benefit from it.”

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