Top 10 Pacific military sports stories of 2008
Heroes of many kinds emerged during a competitive 2008 for interservice athletics.
The year gave rise to many first-time achievements as well as new standards that have come to be expected out of many a veteran performer.
Aging softball warhorse Elmer Mason paced Army to a repeat All-Armed Forces title in the same year that Okinawa-based Joshua Slay paced the Marines to their first All-Armed Forces volleyball tournament title, ever.
While guard Ryan McLellan of Okinawa was busy helming Team USA to a rare CISM basketball gold medal, Navy held sway in the Army-Navy flag football series for the first time in six years, taking three of four games.
Long thought to be a bastion of smashmouth football, Misawa took to the skies to dethrone a two-time U.S. Forces-Japan football champion.
And five other types of heroes, basketball players/corpsmen and medics of all service affiliations, came to the aid of a stricken referee, John Zivic, who suffered a heart attack during a Pacificwide basketball tournament. Their quick actions were credited with saving Zivic’s life.
All of that scratches the surface of what stands as a memorable 2008. Here are the top 10 Pacific military sports stories of the year:
1. Referee saved after heart attackJohn Zivic, a longtime Okinawa Athletic Officials Association referee, suffers a heart attack Jan. 20 during the 14th Martin Luther King Invitational basketball tournament at the Camp Foster Field House. Five medics/corpsmen — Army Staff Sgt. Jackie Kershaw and Pfc. LaShawna Ervin, Petty Officer 3rd Class Erik Campos, Air Force Tech Sgt. Issomi Garnigan and Marine Staff Sgt. Kwan Cochran — are credited with saving his life. Kershaw’s Area I team from South Korea wins the women’s title and Camp Humphreys wins the men’s. Jamil Barney of Kadena High School is selected men’s MVP, the first time a prep player was so honored in a Pacific interservice tournament.
2. Marine Corps wins All-Armed Forces volleyball championshipLed by Okinawa-based Joshua Slay, the Marine Corps captures its first All-Armed Forces men’s volleyball tournament gold medal June 7. The Leathernecks go 6-0 in the six-day, double round-robin event and beat Air Force in straight sets on the final day at the Marine Dome, Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, N.C.
3. McLellan leads Team USA to CISM hoops crownWith Okinawa-based Marine Ryan McLellan at guard, Team USA captures its first International Military Sports Council men’s basketball championship in 10 years, beating longtime nemesis Lithuania 84-74 on April 23 at the Chaparral Fitness Center on Lackland Air Force Base, Texas.
4. Yongsan’s Mason leads Army to softball repeatElmer Mason of Yongsan Garrison leads the tournament in hitting for the second straight year and Army repeats its All-Armed Forces men’s softball tournament title on Sept. 18, going 7-2 at Naval Air Station Pensacola, Fla. Meanwhile, Osan Air Base, South Korea, puts its stamp on the All-Armed Forces Women’s Softball Tournament, as Air Force repeats its title behind nine-time All-Armed Forces pitcher Laurie Doughty, five-time All-Armed Forces outfielder Candace Dugo and All-Armed Forces rookie Lindsey Ciullo. The title makes nine-time All-American shortstop Cheryl Trapnell two-for-two as Air Force coach in All-Armed Forces tournaments.
5. Navy tops in flag footballFor the first time in six years, Navy wins the day during the annual Army-Navy flag-football game series on Dec. 6, played hours before the annual Army-Navy service academy game in Philadelphia. Navy wins three of the four flag games played: 38-6 on Guam, 16-14 in South Korea and 14-13 in Japan. Only on Okinawa do the soldiers prevail, 40-35, in the third-highest-scoring game in the 19-year series.
6. 3rd MLG repeats in Marine soccerLed by two-time tournament MVP Victor Aguayo’s 14 goals, 3rd Marine Logistics Group’s soccer team beats Marine Corps Base Camp S.D. Butler for the second straight year in the Marine Forces Far East Regional soccer tournament, 4-2 at Foster Field 1 on Dec. 11.
7. Wing repeatsAfter going 0-for-4 in its previous finals appearances, Okinawa’s 1st Marine Aircraft Wing wins back-to-back Far East Regional men’s basketball tournament titles. Wing, led by MVP Floyd Spears, outguns 3rd Marine Logistics Group 94-80 on Feb. 16 at Kinser Fitness & Sports Center in a rematch of the 2007 title game, won by Wing 90-77.
8. Guzzlers win fifth straight Pacificwide Open softball titleVeteran pitcher Billy Laxton leads the International Guzzlers to their fifth straight title May 26 in the Pacificwide Open Interservice Softball Tournament. For the second straight year, the Lady Guzzlers, made up almost entirely of Armed Forces veterans, suffer a heartbreaking championship loss to Sang Ji University, 15-14 and 12-7.
9. Fireworks in Firecracker ShootoutThe Firecracker Shootout softball tournament returns to the diamond July 6 after a four-year absence due to budget cuts and lack of teams. Area I women of South Korea rally from a 7-0 first-inning deficit to rout Okinawa Yard Busters 27-16 behind All-Armed Forces infielder Lauren Shaw and MVP Jihrleah Showman. Osan Air Base’s men come from the loser’s bracket behind the bat of Doug Guerrette, who is 8-for-9 with a homer and five RBIs as the Defenders double-up American Legion of Okinawa 15-14, 15-11.
10. J-E-T-S! Jets! Jets! Jets! Misawa dethrones Yokosuka in USFJ-AFLThe Misawa Jets go airborne behind the arm of Darone Frierson, who passes for a touchdown and sets up another with four completions, as Misawa dethrones two-time defending U.S. Forces Japan-American Football League champion Yokosuka 12-6 at Misawa’s Hillside Stadium in the Sept. 13 Torii Bowl.