Shanghai American School-Pudong took gold in the girls team race, American School in Japan earned the boys gold, Seisen/St.Mary’s grabbed the relay gold and ASIJ edged the Seisen/St.Mary’s team for the overall championship, with Seoul Foreign School third. International School of Beijing was fourth,  John F. Kennedy fifth and Christian Academy in Japan sixth (tie broken with Yongsan International based on a stronger relay).

The tenth annual Asia Pacfic Invitational is in the books; barely.  Super Typhoon Francisco caused Friday’s races to be put off until Saturday, and forcing the 280 plus athletes to compete in two races on Saturday.

Saturday morning, host school JFK’s senior John Aquino (16:15.6) raced away from Seoul Foreign’s duo of George Dombach(16:30.9) and defending champion Henry Valentine-Ramsay (16:41.2) for the boy’s title.  Aquino and Dombach improved nearly a minute from 2012 on a course that has been made slightly more difficult.  Aquino has a personal best on the course of 15:54.

Senior Casey Sullivan of International School of Beijing (20:39.5) improved her 2012 3rd place finish by 15 seconds and took a 4 second victory over sophomore Tatiana Riordan of American School in Japan (20:43.9). They were followed closely by two from Seisen, junior Maku Itakura and senior Lisa Kwak. Riordan improved 85 seconds and Itakura and Kwak were 50 seconds faster than 2012.   Aquino led the boys race from the start, and Sullivan battled the group of 3 challengers throughout the race until taking charge after the midpoint.

The girls' times for the top 20 were 15 to 30 seconds faster than 2012. The boys front runners were 50 seconds faster, but by 20th place, 2013 closely paralleled 2012.

Seisen dropped the girls team title by one point (64-63) to Shanghai American Pudong.  The Phoenix were lucky to play the bridesmaid yet again; third place finisher senior Lisa Kwak sprained her ankle during the course tour on Thursday and would not have run if the competition had been held on Friday. Kanto champion ISSH was third with 77 and ASIJ was distant fourth.  Sullivan’s team from Beijing was fifth, followed by Seoul Foreign School and then host-and-Guam-champion JFK, in seventh. The second Guam team, George Washington, was 14th. Guam High’s Emma Martin was 18th, but neither the Guam boys nor the Guam girls were able to finish 5 runners for an official score.

The Mustang boys defended their team title by ten points (82-92) over ISBeijing. Seoul Foreign took the bronze (101) with JFK in fourth, and Concordia International (Shanghai) in fifth, ahead of St. Mary’s (194) and Southern High (203). Father Duenas and CAJ tied for 8th (269), but the tie breaker went to the Friars over the Knights, giving the island of Guam 3 teams in the top 8. Guam High’s top boy was Tyler Thorne, who finished 35th, in 19:10.6.

Nineteen schools fielded complete boys teams of 5 or more runners; the same number of teams competed in the girls race. Fifteen schools entered official teams of 5 pairs in the relay.

The St. Mary’s/Seisen relay squad had low score, edging Seoul Foreign’s inspired challenge by one point, 62-63 (scoring first 5 pairs).  SFS first 4 pairs put the Crusaders in the lead, but the Titan/Phoenix depth saved the day, the fifth pair finishing 8 places head of the Crusaders fifth pair. If it had come down to a tie, the St.M/Seisen team’s sixth pair would have won the tie breaker by 16 places.

ASIJ relay was a mere 3 points back for bronze, and JFK (94) finished 4th. ISBeijing (107), CAJ (177), Yongsan International (205) and Korea International (247), Okkodo (260) and Southern (270) rounded out the top 10.

Going into the afternoon relay, the point totals for the overall championship the standings were:  ASIJ (3), ISBeijing (5), St. Mary’s/Seisen (6), SFS (7), and JFK (9). ISBeijing saw its bid for overall silver taken away in strong performances by the 4 other teams; ISBeijing finished 5th in the relay.

ISSH does not count for overall points because it is not matched up with a boys school. The three schools from Shanghai, SAS-Pudong, SAS-Puxi and Concordia Shanghai, opted to quit the tournament and pursue tourist activities in the afternoon.  This decision produced much disappointment and some ill-will among the remaining teams. These 3 teams were not within striking distance for the overall trophy, but they would have made for much more drama.

A close look at the relay results suggests that no final change would have happened. Had these 3 schools participated, SFS would have been pushed back a bit and the Seisen/St. Mary’s margin of victory in the relay would have been increased; but probably ASIJ would not have been displaced enough to drop one relay place to force an overall tie (with tie breaker going to Seisen/St. Mary’s).

The course was muddy with many sharp turns, some 180 degrees around fences, but competition was run in rain-free and relatively cool conditions. This year, a four foot dirt mound had to be scrambled over three times in addition to negotiating a winding forest trail of about 500 meters three times.

This is the first time for APAC to take a team gold and for APAC to take two team medals. Three of the top 6 girls teams and 3 of the top 5 boys teams were from 4 APAC schools. The APAC schools have helped elevate this meet to the highest level high school cross country meet in the Pacific. API is also the biggest meet by far.

Both the individual and the relay races were held on the campus of J. K. Kennedy high school, using the same course for the open 5000 meter run and the male-female relays.  Due to the storm-caused rescheduling, the relay could not be conducted along Ypao beach and the overall distance was shortened for the health of the athletes.

In the morning girls race, Shanghai American girls and Seisen were tied for points through the fourth runner, with Shanghai picking up advantage and taking top honors in the fourth and fifth spots.  Seisen had the best 1-2-3 combination (Itakura, Kwak and Marie Kloeck 3-4-11). Beijing and SFS were held back by the weaker performance in the fourth and especially the fifth slots. Seisen and ISSH both had 6 runners ahead of the ISBeijing and SFS fourth.

The ASIJ Mustang boys produced the best score for the front 3, despite SFS’s 2-3 finish of Domback and Henry Valentine-Ramsay. The best 5th runner of the day was also a Mustang, sophomore Luke Rogan (33), and ISBeijing had the best 4th runner, senior Ben Fong (21).

The girls competion was marked by an unusually high number of high placing seniors.  SFS and ISBeijing lose most of their top 5 next year, but all but one of the Phoenix and Mustangs will be back.  That one Phoenix is non-other than the Kanto course record holder, 8th grader Brittani Shappell.

Eight of the top 11 boys are seniors, and the three that are not comprise the front three of ASIJ.  Sophomore Evan Yukavich, freshman Ryan Nishida, and junior Keiichiro Kinoshita will be the top returnees in 2014. SFS, St. Mary’s and Beijing will be hit hard by graduation.

Among schools whose presence was missed included Faith Academy, Brent, Hong Kong International and St. Maur.  We hope they return in the future.



Photo: 1st boy in John Aquino.(photo by Jesse Castro)


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