(List of nominees and previous winners at end of story.)

Where leadership was concerned, Seoul American junior Scott Tunis and Kadena senior Katie LaGrave served as strong, silent types for their teams.

They made the most noise in the win column — Tunis in football, wrestling and soccer and LaGrave on the volleyball and basketball courts and soccer field.

Together, they share Stars and Stripes Pacific High School Athlete of the Year honors for the 2003-04 school year:

¶ Tunis, who was playing organized football for the first time, led the Falcons (4-0) to a league title last fall in the inaugural campaign for Department of Defense Dependents Schools-Korea.

On the mat, he was unbeaten and won the 180-pound individual freestyle weight class as Seoul American became the first school outside Japan to win a Far East wrestling team title with its dual meet crown.

Tunis’ defensive play made a difference as the Falcons posted the third-best record in South Korea (15-7-2) and finished fourth in the Class AA Far East Soccer Tournament.

“He is one of those guys who any coach would be lucky to have on their team,” said Julian Harden, for whom Tunis was football and wrestling captain.

“He’s a leader in every sense of the word. He leads by example. He believes that if anybody on the team is going to do something, he needs to do it first. He’s the first in the room, the last to leave, and he’s accountable.”

“When it’s time for him to focus, his concentration and preparation kick in,” Seoul American soccer coach Jeff Furner said. “He accomplishes the mission in a singular manner, motivating and encouraging others to follow his lead.”

¶ LaGrave began the school year by notching 89 spike kills in 171 attempts, serving 94.1 percent, and racking up 54½ block points and 61 defensive digs to guide the Lady Panthers to third place in the Class AA Volleyball Tournament — the best finish in school history.

She then complemented reigning MVP and senior guard Theresa Gittens on the basketball court, where Kadena took fourth in Class AA basketball.

On the pitch, LaGrave had 17 goals and nine assists, which blended nicely with Gittens’ 18 shutouts in net and Dianne Abel’s region-high 34 goals and 19 assists, as Kadena went 21-0 to capture the school’s third Class AA soccer tournament crown.

“She’s completely coachable, one of the best natural leaders I’ve ever coached,” said her volleyball mentor, Rachelle Smith. “She’s as modest as she is talented. You can always count on her.”

Tunis and LaGrave share the Melody K. Halloran Memorial Award, emblematic of Stars and Stripes’ athletes of the year, named in honor of the Zama American High School sophomore three-sport standout who died in an automobile accident on Feb. 28, 1991, at Camp Zama, Japan.

Tunis nosed out a trio of three-sport stars — seniors Brenden Lynce of Nile C. Kinnick and Eric Shimoda of St. Mary’s International and Kadena junior Cole Maxey. LaGrave edged out Nile C. Kinnick senior Carol Tully — who distinguished herself in volleyball, basketball and soccer — and junior Brienna Carroll, a cross country runner, basketball player and high-scoring striker at Pusan American who was last year’s co-winner.

Here’s the rest of the 2003-04 Stars and Stripes Pacific high school sports awards:

¶ Coach of the year: Harden’s Falcons might have been expected to win the DODDS-Korea football, wrestling and softball league titles. The thunderbolt out of a clear sky was the wrestling team’s dual-meet crown: Never in the tournament’s almost 30 years had a team from outside Japan or Okinawa won a championship.

¶ Team of the year: Thought to be rebuilding, the Yokota Panthers — fueled by the arrival of Japan Football League record-setter Roy Roach (1,891 yards) — ran their Pacific record-tying winning streak to 39 games, five JFL and Kanto Plain Association of Secondary Schools titles and four straight Rising Sun Bowl victories.

¶ Programs of the year: Seoul American, with league titles in girls volleyball, basketball, tennis, cross country, softball and soccer; boys football, basketball, wrestling and baseball and Far East championships in wrestling and boys basketball. St. Mary’s International of Tokyo captured 13 league or Far East banners, in addition to the 12 it won last year.

¶ Most improved teams/program: Guam High football and girls basketball, which languished in the league basement most of their first seven years, broke out in a big way. The Panthers went 4-3 in football, finished third in the regular season and made it to the semifinals before falling 23-14 to Father Duenas Memorial. In basketball, Guam finished 9-4, third in the league, and reached the quarterfinals before fading 54-43 against Simon Sanchez.

¶ James Brown award/Performance of the year: For the hardest-working team in the Pacific. Matthew C. Perry’s boys basketball team brought five players to the Class A tournament at Osan Air Base, South Korea. They placed eighth out of nine teams but in one memorable contest, a 52-49 comeback win over International Christian-Seoul, “the few, the proud, the Samurai” got 33 points from Nate Albia — 20 in the fourth quarter — including four straight NBA-length three-pointers in rallying from a 39-32 third-quarter deficit.

¶ Best new event: The Class AA girls basketball tournament on Okinawa featured not only the first post-championship All-Star game in its 28-year history but a pair of “showcase” games during the week against local Japanese teams.

¶ Best comeback: Just before that All-Star game, host Kubasaki trailed Guam’s John F. Kennedy 24-16 at halftime, before coach Bob Driggs — back on the bench after a 13-year hiatus — packed his defenders inside, cutting off the baselines and daring the Lady Islanders to beat them from the perimeter. Kubasaki outscored JFK 15-5 in the third quarter and went on to a 46-41 triumph that secured the school’s ninth championship.

¶ Game of the year: In the school year’s very first game, Roach, who transferred from Virginia to Yokota on Aug. 24, took a pitchout 42 yards on a broken play with 4:18 left to secure the Panthers’ rally from deficits of 8-0, 11-8 and 17-16. They beat Zama American 22-17 at Camp Zama.

¶ Play of the year: Yokota head coach Tim Pujol calls it “Open Field Special,” a version of the old-school Swinging Gate formation. Five weeks after that season opener with Zama, faced with third-and-43 on their opening drive, the Panthers tried the set, with Shawn Novak hitting Roach’s younger brother, Chris, in stride behind the Trojans’ secondary for a 90-yard touchdown strike. Yokota won going away 41-8.

Stars and Stripes Athlete of the Year nominees

xy-Nathan LaGrave, Kadena, Okinawa, sophomore, boys soccer

xy-Dianne Abel, Kadena, Okinawa, sophomore, cross country, girls basketball, girls soccer

xy-Jocelyn Pardilla, John F. Kennedy, Guam, senior, cross country, girls basketball

xy-Jake Abramowitz, Seoul American, South Korea, senior, boys basketball

xy-Roy Roach, Yokota, Japan, senior, football, wrestling

x-Katie LaGrave, Kadena, Okinawa, senior, girls volleyball, girls basketball, girls soccer

y-Brieanna Carroll, Pusan American, South Korea, junior, cross country, girls basketball, girls soccer

y-Teri Tan, Morrison Christian Academy, Taiwan, senior, girls volleyball, girls basketball

y-Jessica Nelson, Faith Academy, Philippines, senior, girls volleyball, girls basketball

y-Tami Burke, Faith Academy, Philippines, senior, girls soccer, girls basketball, girls volleyball

y-Zolboo Enkhbayar, Brent International, Philippines, junior, wrestling

y-Andrew Borja, St. Paul Christian, Guam, senior, boys basketball

y-Draonne Johnson, E.J. King, Japan, junior, boys basketball

y-Takashi Yoshii, American School In Japan, junior, tennis

y-Aska Dvorjak, Seisen International, Japan, senior, tennis

y-Aika Young, Academy of Our Lady, Guam, senior, girls volleyball, girls basketball

Sarah Freel, International Christian-Uijongbu, senior, girls basketball, girls soccer

Cole Maxey, Kadena, Okinawa, junior, football, wrestling, boys soccer

Zac Zendejas, Kadena, Okinawa, senior, cross country, boys soccer

Aaron Zendejas, Kadena, Okinawa, sophomore, cross country, boys soccer

Devon Copeland, Kadena, Okinawa, junior, cross country, wrestling, boys soccer

Theresa Gittens, Kadena, Okinawa, senior, girls basketball, girls soccer

Erin Foote, Kubasaki, Okinawa, junior, girls volleyball, girls basketball, girls soccer

Brenden Lynce, Nile C. Kinnick, Japan, senior, football, boys basketball, track and field

Leonard Lynce, Nile C. Kinnick, Japan, junior, football, boys basketball, track and field

Carol Tully, Nile C. Kinnick, Japan, senior, girls volleyball, girls basketball, girls soccer

Steve Davis, Osan American, South Korea, senior, cross country, boys basketball, baseball

Sarah Gates, Osan American, South Korea, senior, cross country, girls basketball, girls soccer

Van Hauter, Osan American, South Korea, senior, boys basketball, boys soccer

Eric Shimoda, St. Mary’s International, Japan, senior, tennis, boys soccer, track and field

Scott Tunis, Seoul American, South Korea, senior, football, wrestling, boys soccer

Paul Rader, Seoul Foreign, senior, boys volleyball, boys basketball, boys soccer

Shawn Novak, Yokota, Japan, junior, football, boys basketball, baseball

David Burnett, Zama American, Japan, junior, football, wrestling, boys soccer

x-automatically nominated as previous Athlete of the Quarter.

y-automatically nominated as Most Valuable or Most Outstanding Player of a Far East tournament or Rising Sun Bowl or singles champion in the Far East tennis tournament.

Previous winners

1987 — Kevin Maxwell, Zama American School

1988 — Carol Williams, American School In Japan

1989 — Elbert Bailey, Kubasaki High School, Okinawa

1990 — James Carson, Yokota High School

1991 — Robert Weeks, Kadena High School; Sumi Pyo, Seoul International School

1992 — Katherine Greig, American School In Japan

1993 — Jamel Smith, Kubasaki High School

1994 — Melissa Calkins, Trinity Christian School, Guam

1995 — Meleesa Meno, Kubasaki High School, Okinawa

1996 — David Page, Seoul American High School; Han Ripley, Seoul American High School

1997, 1998 — Julie Stauffer, Faith Academy, Manila

1999 — Josh Whitney, Kadena High School, Okinawa, Japan; Yuki Basso, Seisen International School, Tokyo

2000 — Justin McCloskey, Matthew C. Perry High School, Japan; Olivia Anglade, Seoul American High School

2001 — Ray Lamb, Seoul American High School; Kirsten Nelson, Christian Academy In Japan

2002 — Mike Chamberlain, Yokota High School, Japan; Olivia Anglade, Seoul American High School

2003 — Mike Chamberlain, Yokota High School, Japan; Brieanna Carroll, Pusan American School, South Korea; Theresa Gittens, Kadena High School, Okinawa.

author picture
Dave Ornauer has been employed by or assigned to Stars and Stripes Pacific almost continuously since March 5, 1981. He covers interservice and high school sports at DODEA-Pacific schools and manages the Pacific Storm Tracker.

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