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YOKOTA AIR BASE, Japan – Their cross-country game of “Can You Top This?” has been played out mainly on stat sheets and report forms over the course of the season, one runner besting the other’s times seemingly every successive meet.

Now Yokota sophomore Daniel Galvin and Kadena senior Andrew Kilkenny, the latter the reigning champion, get to pit their skills against each other face-to-face at next week’s Far East Cross Country Meet at Camp Fuji and Naval Air Facility Atsugi, Japan.

“He’s going to be tough,” said Dan Galvin, Daniel’s father and Yokota coach, of Kilkenny, who has posted the second-fastest Pacific time and best among DODDS runners this season, 16 minutes, 8 seconds in a meet at Camp Foster’s Kishaba Housing Area.

The younger Galvin’s best is 16:27 in a DODDS meet at Misawa trails Kilkenny. John Aquino of Guam’s John F. Kennedy was timed in 15:54 this season. Playing out the times from a distance is one thing, doing it head-to-head is another, the elder Galvin said.

“He knows the competition will be stiffer,” Dan Galvin said. “Far East is a different ballgame. (Kilkenny is) a tough mountain to climb. But I think my guy’s got a chance.”

Kilkenny and senior teammate Ana Hernandez will defend their titles in the 3.1-mile individual boys and girls races Monday at 10:30 a.m. at Camp Fuji. Hernandez has the Pacific’s top time of 19:07 this season.

Next day is the 6.2-mile team relay, in which each school can enter as many as five pairs, one boy and one girl, starting at 7:30 a.m. at Atsugi’s Whispering Pines golf course.

Galvin’s father credited Daniel’s playing basketball last winter as a freshman, which helped his agility and worked muscles he wasn’t used to working, which made a big difference between cross country and track season.

Hernandez, some observers said, is a prohibitive favorite to repeat her 2012 gold. Teammate Wren Renquist is closest to Hernandez’s time, 39 seconds behind. The only overseas runner with a faster time than Hernandez was run by Kelly McCaskill of Ansbach, Germany, 19:04.7. McCaskill finished fifth in the European championships Saturday.

As for Kilkenny, coach Tom McKinney says dedication helped make him the runner he is. McKinney recalled a race in which Kilkenny was passed by a Kubasaki rival, and he told McKinney that would never happen again.

“This year, he’s had a great season. He’s worked really hard,” McKinney said.

That said, everything depends, coaches say, on which runners show up on race day. While Galvin calls Kadena “awfully tough,” anything can happen.

“Somebody falls down or steps on a rock or somebody who we least expect runs the race of their life,” Galvin said.

“If you have your game going, you’ll do well, but if you don’t, somebody’s going to overtake you,” McKinney said. “You only have 16 minutes to figure it out.”

ornauer.dave@stripes.com

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