Top 10 Pacific H.S. sports stories of 2008
They gave it their all on the courts and fields of interscholastic athletic endeavor, reaching heights once thought to be unreachable and setting higher standards for those who follow.
The year in high school sports 2008 was one that gave rise to new faces and power programs, while other, more familiar ones came to do what’s long been expected.
As Andrew Quallio of Zama drew raves, set track and cross-country records and achieved All-America honors, Emily Albonetti of Osan shattered glass ceilings on the wrestling mat.
While Kadena dominated that same mat, and while Seoul American ruled the Class AA gridiron, Osan American’s girls volleyball program achieved a Far East tournament first.
Edgren’s football team earned a seminal victory over Yokota and its wrestling team scored landmark victories in the same year that Matthew C. Perry sported one lone wrestler, 122-pounder Craig Bell, who was worth his weight in gold.
They came, they competed and they made memories not soon to be forgotten. Here are the top 10 Pacific high school sports stories of the year:
1. Two days of redemptionAfter a down 2007, Nile C. Kinnick senior Nadine Mulvany regains her 2006 glory, winning the 3.1-mile individual race in the Far East cross country meet on Nov. 3-4. Seoul American rises up and captures the overall team championship. And the segregating of Class AA and Class A titles by school enrollment works to host Robert D. Edgren’s advantage — the Eagles take the first overall Class A team title. Meanwhile, Zama American running superstar Andrew Quallio builds his resume all fall. In the USA Track and Field junior Olympic cross-country meet at Mechanicsville, Va., on Dec. 13, Quallio records a personal-best 16:05, finishing ninth. The top 25 finishers make the All-America team. Quallio’s triumph caps a year in which he won his second straight Far East meet title and on Oct. 18 broke the 22-year-old Tama Hills Recreation Center 2.9-mile course record with a 14:29.
2. Soggy soccer tournamentFor the first time in 11 years of DODDS-Pacific Far East soccer tournaments, a full day of play is scratched due to rain in the Girls Class AA event May 20-23 at Yokota. Class A tournament play continues despite heavy rain at Marine Corps Air Station Iwakuni’s Penny Lake Field; Yongsan International-Seoul prevails in the boys tournament, while Faith Academy wins its second girls crown.
The boys Class AA tournament is an overtime thriller for a championship match, as Colton and Cody Sadler hook up for a "golden goal" in the second sudden-death session and Kubasaki dethrones defending champion Christian Academy In Japan 1-0. The girls title leaves Okinawa for the first time, as Ivie Myntti’s goal breaks a 58th-minute tie and lifts American School In Japan past Kubasaki 1-0 for its first championship.
3. Class AA classicSome football games, such as the Nov. 8 Class AA title clash, Kadena at Seoul American, become instant classics. Willie Brown scores on an interception return and sets up the game-winning score with a fumble recovery, and Trinadai Stansel stops a Kadena two-point conversion try in the closing seconds as the Falcons win their second Class AA title in three years 22-21 over the Panthers.
4. Cougar girls repeatCeline Baldevia, Nicole Sparks, Laura Vega and Osan American become the first DODDS-Pacific team to win back-to-back Far East volleyball tournament titles, as the Cougars survive a two-match championship Nov. 8 against Morrison Christian Academy. The Class AA championship goes to American School In Japan for the second time in two years; senior Gwen Thornton joins her sister Catherine as Class AA tournament MVPs.
5. Edgren excels on gridironIn an eight-day span (Oct. 24-Nov. 1), Robert D. Edgren football captures its third straight Class A title and earns a landmark victory over Yokota, a 20-18 home triumph that snaps nine years of futility against the Panthers. In the Class A title game, senior Johnell Alexander and the Eagles throttle Osan American 35-7.
6. Panthers maul competitionKadena captures three individual gold medals to outdistance Kubasaki 68-48 for the Feb. 15-16 Far East wrestling tournament individual freestyle team title, the tournament’s biggest runaway in 17 years. In the dual-meet portion, Kadena rallies from a 13-4 deficit to upend Kubasaki 34-24 to sweep the titles. Craig Bell, Matthew C. Perry’s lone wrestler, wins at 122 pounds and Kinnick senior Cameron Butts earns Outstanding Wrestler honors. Meanwhile, Osan American senior Emily Albonetti becomes the first girl to earn points for a team in Far East history, taking fifth place at 108 pounds.
7. Host teams rule AA hoopsIn the Feb. 22-23 Far East Class AA basketball tournaments, MVP Willie Brown and Shawn Grandy power Seoul American over Kadena 64-60 for the boys title, the 12th time the host team has won since 1982. Kadena’s girls, paced by guard Monica Hayes, edge Seoul 59-53, the seventh straight time the host team has won.
8. Petty cacheIn the Mike Petty Memorial track and field meet on April 4-5, Seoul Track Club junior Mark Lieberg crushes the shot put record; Zama American’s Andrew Quallio shatters the mile and two-mile marks; Blake Bannister of Christian Academy In Japan is involved in two record breakers; and Nako Nakatsuka of International School of the Sacred Heart sets a girls mile standard. Pacific season bests and Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools record-breakers rule the day in the May 17 Kanto Invitational track and field meet. Leading the pack is American School In Japan: Rebekah Siebach breaks the 28-year-old girls 100 record; the 1,600 relay team snaps a seven-year standard and junior Gwen Thornton ties her 310 hurdles mark. Kadena’s boys and Seisen International’s girls run Pacific-best 400 relay times; Zama American junior Andrew Quallio breaks the 4:30 mark in the mile; and Kinnick’s Gee Mi Jorde hands Nako Nakatsuka of International School of the Sacred Heart her first mile loss of the season.
9. Kadena, Edgren wrestlers travel well, tame the ‘Beast’The two teams that traveled the farthest gain the biggest hardware and make history during the revival of the Nile C. Kinnick Invitational "Beast of the Far East" wrestling tournament Jan. 12. Kadena, which placed second to Shonan Military High School in the last "Beast" tournament in 2006, avenges that defeat 35-27 in the dual-meet championship final. The Panthers travel nearly 1,000 miles from Okinawa to Yokosuka Naval Base for the event. Meanwhile, Robert D. Edgren travels 360 miles from Misawa Air Base to finish a school-best third. The Eagles also take school-first dual-meet victories over American School In Japan and St. Mary’s International, with their combined 10 Far East tournament titles.
10. Win some, lose someOne defending champion repeats; the other doesn’t. Kadena juniors Kyle Sprow and Elissa Mason rule the singles championships of the Nov. 5-6 Far East tennis tournament. Sprow repeats his boys title by downing teammate Eliott Mason 6-2, 6-2. Elissa Mason avenges a semifinal loss last year to upset Seoul American defending champion Kennedy Allen 6-4, 6-2. Allen and Melissa Bruhnke win the girls doubles, Sprow and Mason take the boys doubles and Laura Konecne and Dustin Caranci of Osan American the mixed doubles. Kadena and Seoul, the two previous overall champions, share the team title.