Excitement was high for Guam Adventist Academy’s middle school girls and boys cross country teams as they gathered to compete in their first ever All-Island cross country meet on Thursday, November 10th. The All-Island is the culminating race of the season, and each participating school sends its top 14 runners to this final race. Despite this being GAA’s first appearance at the middle school competition, both the girls’ team and the boys’ team went home as All-Island champions!
This is GAA’s first year having middle school teams to compete in the sport. Last year, GAA debuted their high school boys team and they plan to add a high school girls team to the mix in the future. The current three teams practiced together throughout the season under the careful mentorship of coaches Thomas Hayes, Isaias Santos, and Yumiko Imazu.
Athletes arrived at John F. Kennedy High School on the day of the meet and warmed up, encouraging each other for the race ahead. Sportsmanship and team-spiritedness have been a focus for GAA, and this was on display at All-Island. Each runner recognized his/her value to the team as well as that of their teammates, and each one aimed to contribute to team morale.
Offering moral support was GAA’s own cheering section in the bleachers. Parents and family members were able to gather to cheer on their runners. Despite being an outdoor sport, spectator numbers have been limited throughout the season due to COVID-19, so onlookers treated their attendance as a privilege. GAA spectators cheered not only for GAA runners, but any participant that needed encouragement.
Scoring for cross country works in two ways. As individuals, runners place according to the order that they finish in. Schools then add up the placement numbers for their top five runners, and the school with the lowest total wins. While every runner desires to finish first, it is not necessarily the first place finish that wins the team competition; it is to the school’s advantage to have several placements in the top ten.
At All-Island, runners gathered behind the starting line, grouped by school. The course took them across the football field, the track, and then out onto the baseball field. Several extra loops were added to lengthen the course, and runners rounded twice to finish the required one-and-a-half mile distance.
Cross country meets typically only have two events: a boys race, and a girls race. As each event started, runners started in a tight pack but quickly fanned out across the field. Runners pushed themselves to achieve their personal best regardless of where they were in the pack, and nearly every runner came in with a personal best time. Some of the runners persevered despite injuries, and even then, shaved several minutes off their previous personal best times. Each one went home knowing they had truly done their best.
During the awards ceremony, there was a sea of GAA jerseys representing the Top 10 finishing spots. Charlotte Oh, 8th grade, took first place in the girls’ competition. Also in the Top 10 for girls were Camellia Storey, 8th grade, 4th place; Jordyn Crisostomo, 8th grade, 5th place; and Sarah Miyagi, 8th grade, 9th place. GAA boys in the Top 10 were Joshua Robinson, 8th grade, 2nd place; and Anthony Lee, 8th grade, 5th place. Both the boys and girls teams went on to place first in the team competition based on their combined scores. GAA received trophies for both teams, which will soon be on proud display at the school.
With this being GAA’s first year to compete in middle school cross country, there was much discussion about how this brand-new team caught everybody by surprise to take top honors. While it can’t be said for sure that it was for one reason or another, there are likely many factors that went into GAA’s success.
GAA has a mission statement that students recite, and it becomes part of everything they do:
Glorify God in our daily lives, achieve academic excellence with social responsibility, and apply diligently the principles of healthful living.
This was lived out in full during the cross country season.
To glorify God, athletes memorized a team scripture verse, and all practices as well as meets started and ended with prayer. Because GAA competed among Guam’s public schools, these were opportunities to be a testimony. When GAA’s athletic director, Gina Oh, requested that the association reschedule the All-Island event from a Friday in order to observe Sabbath, her solicited prayers from parents increased their own faith when the association agreed.
To achieve academic excellence, a high standard of grades was maintained throughout the quarter. To develop social responsibility, students encouraged each other to do their best and fostered a spirit of good sportsmanship. It was evident as they high-fived and cheered on the runners from the opposing teams.
To apply diligently the principles of healthful living, practices were consistent and intentional during the season. Even though many of the practices were optional for students, they all attended faithfully, rain or shine. Students were able to benefit from healthful principles such as fresh air, lots of water, sunshine, exercise, and fellowship, with both old and new friends.
A poignant moment and a great display of sportsmanship was at the end of the race. GAA runner Anthony Lee waited patiently at the finish line and cheered encouragingly as the last runner of the race crossed. This is the type of demonstration that helps set GAA apart.
The debut season of middle school cross country was a wonderful experience for all who participated. Looking forward, students will have new sports to try out through the remainder of the school year. It will be exciting to see what else these kids can accomplish.
Photos by: Dennis Tkalec
(Story corrects number of GAA cross country teams to three from four)