February vacation is a good time to escape the snow and freezing temperatures with a visit to a place that offers more sun.
For Hopkinton High School senior Amanda Hansen and junior Kayla McCann, a different opportunity presented itself: a visit to the Land of the Rising Sun.
Hansen and McCann were selected by the Boston Athletic Association to travel to Japan from Feb. 13-21 and participate in the Ohme-Hochi 10K, one of the country’s most popular road races, on Feb. 17. Their expenses are being covered by Ohme race organizers, who have partnered with the BAA for many years.
The Hillers were nominated by Jean Cann, who coached them both in cross country in the fall and was impressed by them.
“I knew they would both be good guests in Japan,” Cann said. “They’re both very polite and they both have experience with international travel as well as being strong runners.” Neither McCann, who lived in England for four years, nor Hansen, who has traveled to Europe, has been to Asia.
“I’m most looking forward to meeting new people and learning about their culture,” Hansen said. “There’s only so much you can read in a book, but immersing yourself in a culture brings that knowledge to a much higher level.”
Said McCann: “I am looking forward to experiencing a race through the streets of Tokyo and touring close cities and towns. It will be fascinating to see the different architecture, language and way of life of the Japanese while doing something I love to do, run.”
The students have been learning some basic phrases and will travel with a translator, Kay Horiuchi, who also gave them some race advice.
“Our translator said the most important thing is just to finish the race,” McCann said. “Obviously Amanda and I want to try our best, but as long as we finish, I think we will represent Hopkinton and the United States well.” Their coach also is ready with some advice, but she trusts the girls will figure things out.
“Try not to change too much,” Cann advised. “Take in the experience, but as far as race day and the days out there before the race, probably not try anything too exotic — food, especially. And try to get some decent sleep. But overall, enjoy the experience. It’s going to be as much a cultural exchange as anything. And I think they’ll enjoy the running part of it. I think they’re pretty well prepared.”