One of the fastest-growing sports among international schools is track and field. Track and field is a spring sport that is played at many American schools and regarded as one of the most competitive sports in America. With the arrival of US garrisons in Korea, it was inevitable that track and field teams would eventually sneak onto the sports rosters. However, what many base schools were not expecting was the arrival of track and field at another international school: Yongsan International School of Seoul (YISS).
YISS founded its first track team as a club in 2016. In the beginning, it was introduced to students as a club activity. Members would practice during the small free block that they were given some days, and very rarely would there be after-school practice. It was a small group of students consisting of around 15 members. Having nearly none of the equipment that was needed for a track team, such as blocks and hurdles, the club was primarily for fun.
The year after the club was founded, a surplus of members joined, creating one of the largest sports teams that YISS had ever seen. With close to 30 people on the team, YISS set out for its first track and field meet at Morrison Academy, Taiwan, in 2017. The next year, it began competing at more army base schools, such as Humphreys, OHSAN, and Daegu. Although the team would not place nearly as high as it would have liked, it made its presence known to other international schools in Korea. YISS had a track team, and it was ready to compete. As time passed, more and more track and field teams appeared at different schools, such as Chadwick, Seoul International School, and Seoul Foreign School.
|[Athletes on the starting line at Humphreys. Photo Courtesy: YISSPN]|
The rise of track and field at YISS can be attributed to its head coach, Mrs. Amy Mooi. Mrs. Mooi is a former Olympian runner for the Guam national team at the 2014 London Olympics, and she currently holds its 800m national record. She says that one of the main reasons she coaches track and field is so that others can also benefit from the experiences running provides. “Track and field allows any student to forget about everything else completely, whether it be a 100m dash or 5km race, and fully immerse themselves in the feeling of running.” Her idea that track and field should be open to everyone allows for a diverse team with many members.
|[Team photo of the 2018-2019 YISS Track and Field Team. Photo Courtesy: Andy Noh]|
One of the biggest problems that many teams face every year is the loss of their senior students. Many seniors are pivotal team members, as they have the most experience and are usually among the best athletes. They are also usually the leaders of the team and responsible for motivating fellow athletes, and helping them bond with one another. When asked how Mrs. Mooi intended to address this issue, she was quick to point out that the absence of seniors was a problem that affected all schools, and added “Even though there is a loss of seniors, I believe that instead of being a problem, this just creates new opportunities for others to rise up.”
What may have been primarily a sport for US-based garrison schools, track and field has expanded into a sport that has influenced many student-athletes in Korea. Although it may have had a slow start, YISS’ track and field team has grown exponentially over the years, and I am excited to see what this upcoming season brings.
Yongsan International School of Seoul
Minjae Kim firstname.lastname@example.org
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