TAMA HILLS RECREATION CENTER, Japan — Amanda Henderson became the second straight Seoul American female to capture the Far East cross-country championship on Monday.
Making it all the sweeter for the Falcons junior was that her sister, freshman Pamela Henderson, crossed the line behind her to create a Far East siblings first — never before had DODDS sisters finished 1-2 in a Far East cross-country race.
“It’s awesome,” Amanda Henderson said after covering the rocky, hilly Tama course in 20 minutes, 12 seconds, 15 seconds ahead of her sister in perfect conditions, with cloudless skies and temperatures reaching the 60s.
“I was really nervous” entering the race, Amanda said, “but to finally be champion is like being on top of the world. It was amazing weather, beautiful, sunny, a nice breeze, just perfect weather.”
As Henderson negotiated a course that many a would-be contender slipped and fell on, she said, “I was zoned out the whole time. I had no idea where I was until the last 400 meters when coach (Steve Boyd) yelled that Pam was coming up on me and to get going.
“But I realized I was close enough to the finish line to win it. There was a lot of downhills which made it easy to travel on it.”
While Henderson followed in the footsteps of 2009 champion Siarria Ingram, the Falcons for the first time since 2007 failed to win the girls team title; 2007 champion Kadena placed runners in fifth through ninth place to claim that honor 26-29 over Seoul American.
The meet was the first to welcome back international schools. International schools were not invited to Far East meets starting in 2004; that decision was overturned last spring.
As expected, Kelly Langley of Tokyo’s St. Mary’s won the boys race in 16:38, 28 seconds faster than Kadena’s Jacob Bishop.
That came on the heels of Langley winning last month’s Asia-Pacific Invitational on Guam and the Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools meet, also at Tama Hills.
“Because we go longer than we usually do, it was hard to keep that mindset,” Langley said of his season stretching into November this year.
Christian Academy Japan placed four boys in the top 12 to upset favored St. Mary’s in the team standings, 27-36.
“That’s a nice surprise for us,” CAJ coach Craig Eby said. “The kids ran well. This was some good competition for us.”
At least two coaches were looking ahead to Tuesday’s relay, which likely would decide the overall school championship. Kadena won the girls team title and placed fourth in the boys standings, while Nile C. Kinnick finished third in each and also has a good chance at the overall crown.
“The girls ran like they were supposed to; the boys will rebound tomorrow and pick it up,” Kadena coach Tom McKinney said. “Now, they know what the course is like.”
Kinnick coach Philip Bailey said he wouldn’t have expected his team to be in this position a few weeks ago.
“This team turned around and got very competitive,” Bailey said. “All of a sudden, their minds went on, said we can race and we can do it. We’re definitely aiming that way.”