Stars and Stripes' Pacific athletes of the quarter: Kadena’s Mason, Zama’s Spencer honored
December 13, 2009
Elissa Mason’s second straight singles and doubles titles marked the pinnacle of a stellar four-year run for Kadena tennis. Michael Spencer’s performance at fullback and linebacker marked Zama American football’s zenith and the biggest turnaround in school history.
Mason and Spencer share Stars and Stripes Athlete of the Quarter honors for the Pacific high school fall sports season.
Mason teamed with her twin brother, Elliot, and three-time singles champion Kyle Sprow to close the most successful stretch for any DODDS-Pacific tennis program. The three combined for five Far East singles and three doubles titles, and Kadena won or shared two team titles.
"They’ve been outstanding citizens. They have been great teammates. They have been a great help to our younger players," said coach Robert Bliss, whose Kadena team outscored Seoul American 56-50 for the title.
Mason went unbeaten in Okinawa Activities Council regular-season play for the third straight year, and completed her run to a second straight Far East singles gold medal by outlasting 2007 champion Kennedy Allen of Seoul American 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 in a nearly two-hour match on Nov. 12.
"Elissa is without a doubt the epitome of the best that a student-athlete can be," said Kadena girls volleyball coach Greg Rosenberger of Mason, who carries a 4.14 weighted grade-point average and is a National Honor Society member.
Spencer set DODDS-Pacific Far East game rushing records for carries (45), yards (312) and touchdowns (4) in Zama’s 46-38 come-from-behind Class A title game victory at Daegu American on Nov. 7.
Spencer didn’t come off the field, playing offense, defense and special teams, except when he missed a game with a knee injury in September.
He finished with a school-record 1,154 yards and 12 TDs on 172 carries as Zama went from 0-7 in 2008 to 7-2 in 2009 and won Class A and DODDS-Japan titles — the first such championships in Zama history and the first Far East boys team title of any kind since 1979.
"When watching film, I have heard our players say he ‘teleports’ himself to be in on the play," coach Steven Merrell said. He calls Spencer the "epitome" of unselfishness, pointing to when he practiced with the offensive line in case he was needed due to depth issues.
"If anybody has a ‘right’ to boast about his accomplishments, it’s Michael — yet, he doesn’t," Merrell said. "He is a very humble player; he just lets his actions on the field do the talking."
Spencer nosed out a tight field of four finalists, including Seoul American senior cross-country champion Thomas Kim, Christian Academy In Japan senior tennis titan Miles Peterson and Kadena junior running back Shariff Coleman. Mason edged out Daegu American junior volleyball star Kristina Bergman and CAJ volleyball senior spiker Erika Mine.
Coach/Team of the Quarter: For the first time, Stripes honors an assistant coach, Mike Schroer of Seoul American’s two-time Far East championship cross-country team. Though Steve Boyd was the head coach, Schroer did most of the hands-on coaching, Boyd said, helping Kim to the boys individual gold and freshman Siarria Ingram to the girls individual title.
Program of the Quarter: Besides tennis, Kadena football went 8-0 and outscored opponents 349-25, boosted by the junior running-back tandem of Coleman (18 touchdowns, 105 carries, Okinawa league-record 1,049 yards) and Thomas McDonald (590 yards, 14 TDs, 56 carries). Kadena’s cheerleaders also ended Nile C. Kinnick’s three-year Class AA team title run.
Most Improved Team: Zama football (see above).
Most Improved Program: Guam High football finished second in the regular season, girls volleyball reached the island playoff finals and the girls cross-country team won the island championship for the first time in school history.
Volleyball Players of the Quarter: Bergman earned MVP honors in pacing Daegu American to its second Far East Class A Tournament title in four years, and a school-best second place in the Korean-American Interscholastic Activities Conference regular season and tournament. Mine paced CAJ’s surprise dash to victory in the Class AA Tournament on Guam, after placing seventh in divisional play — the lowest seed ever to win the title.
Tennis Players of the Quarter: Besides Sprow and Elissa Mason, Peterson and ASIJ’s Kelsey Leon each won Asia-Pacific Invitational tournament gold medals. Peterson in three years at CAJ didn’t drop a set; the only blemish on his record was defaulting in the Kanto Plain finals in October with an injury.
Cross Country Runners of the Quarter: Besides Kim and Ingram, ASIJ’s Sam Krauth will graduate holding every significant school cross country and track and field mark. Hong Kong International freshman Madeline Strandemo won the Asia-Pacific Invitational gold along with Krauth on Guam in October.
Football Players of the Quarter: Besides Spencer and Coleman, brothers Hayden (46-for-91, 1,048 yards, 14 touchdowns) and Thomas Jardine (473 yards, 25 catches, 6 touchdowns) and Alex Busam (1,021 all-purpose yards, 16 touchdowns) powered ASIJ football to its finest season ever. The Mustangs were 7-0 on the field, winning their first Kanto title since 1983; the only two losses on their record were forfeits due to swine flu.
Noteworthy firsts: Nile C. Kinnick volleyball went 27-0 in the Japan season, best in school history, along with the first Kanto Plain league title in school history. Seoul American became the first DODDS-Pacific team to earn the No. 1 Class AA Tournament playoff seed in 21 years. And Yokota freshman Erika Youngdahl became the first DODDS-Japan player to win a Kanto Plain Tennis Tournament singles title, ever.
The nomineesx-Sam Krauth, senior, cross country, American School In Japanx-Kelsey Leon, junior, tennis, American School In Japanx-Miles Peterson, senior, tennis, Christian Academy In Japanx-Erika Mine, senior, girls volleyball, Christian Academy In Japanx-Kristina Bergman, junior, girls volleyball, Daegu Americanx-Madeline Strandemo, freshman, cross country, Hong Kong Internationalx-Kyle Sprow, senior, tennis, Kadenax-Elissa Mason, senior, tennis, Kadenax-Thomas Kim, senior, cross country, Seoul Americanx-Siarria Ingram, freshman, cross country, Seoul AmericanAlex Busam, senior, football, American School In JapanMichael Mentzer, junior, tennis, Christian Academy In JapanAntoine Feagin, senior, football, Daegu AmericanSusan Smith, junior, cross country, Guam HighShariff Coleman, junior, football, KadenaStanley Schrock, senior, football, KadenaThomas McDonald, junior, football, KadenaTyler Broome, senior, football, KadenaAaron Ahner, junior, football, KadenaGabby Falco, senior, girls volleyball, KubasakiMary Niemeyer, senior, girls volleyball, Nile C. KinnickJosh Hanks, junior, cross country, Osan AmericanJessica Bergman, senior, girls volleyball, Robert D. EdgrenDemetrius Johnson, senior, football, Seoul AmericanHan Yoo, sophomore, football, Seoul AmericanLiz Gleaves, junior, girls volleyball, Seoul AmericanDestinee Harrison, junior, girls volleyball, Seoul AmericanClayton Baker, senior, boys volleyball, Seoul ForeignJustine Makki, senior, girls volleyball, Seoul ForeignMichael Spencer, junior, football, Zama American
x-accorded automatic nominee status for earning MVP honors in a team or gold-medal honors in an individual discipline in a DODEA Pacific Far East, Asia-Pacific Activites Conference or Asia-Pacific Invitational tournament.