PELLA — The distance between Central College and Yukosoka, Japan is just over 6,000 miles, but Jerry Lotz (senior, Yukosoka, Japan, Nile C. Kinnick HS) logged even more miles on the way to joining Central’s cross country squad.
Born in Seattle, Washington to an American father originally from Iowa and a Japanese mother, Lotz lived in Washington, Iowa, Louisiana and Virginia before settling in Yukosoka, Japan in the fifth grade. After his junior year of high school, Lotz and his family visited family in Iowa and added a stop at Central.
“I came down to see campus and met Coach (Joe) Dunham on a summer visit,” Lotz said. “He kept in really good contact after that and sent me at least 20 e-mails. He set me up with pen pal Mark Fairley (a 2018 graduate and team member at the time), and we emailed back and forth probably 100 times.”
It was a new experience for Central’s cross country coach Joe Dunham as well.
“It wasn’t like he could just come do a visit on the weekend,” Dunham said. “We did a lot of communication via Skype. I felt connected with Jerry very early in the recruiting process and was elated he chose Central.”
Lotz’s parents met in Japan during his dad’s tenure as a Naval musician at the United States Fleet Activities base in Yukosuka just outside of Tokyo. The family returned to the city where both parents work in the school system on base.
“The base is like its only little, tiny America,” Lotz said. “We’ve got our own Chilis and McDonalds. Everyone speaks English and we even have high school football games on Friday nights.”
The cross country meets in Japan did look a little different than in Iowa.
“There’s no trails or anything so it’s all road running,” Lotz said. “I never wore cross country spikes before coming here. For our state meet, we called it Far East. We had military teams from Guam and Korea come compete against us. It was the same for track season.”
The extreme travel distance Lotz has to cover to return home to Japan results in some brutal travel logistics.
“Whenever I fly out of Tokyo, whatever time it is there, I land at that time in Des Moines,” Lotz said. “It’s fun to sit in airplane for 14 hours and not lose any time. The worst time was flying from Des Moines to Chicago to San Francisco and then having an overnight layover before flying to Tokyo. My girlfriend was not happy for her first international flight to include sitting in the San Francisco airport from 7 p.m. to 4 a.m.”
A three-time varsity letterwinner on the cross country and track and field teams, Lotz is glad to be a part of Central’s distance running group.
“Just being on the team has been great,” Lotz said. “It was a group of 30 guys that were your best friends right when you get on campus. It’s been a lot of fun here.”
Lotz has gained the respect of his teammates over his four years.
“He was voted by his peers as a team captain,” Dunham said. “He’s been an incredible leader and friend to everyone he is associated with.”
With graduation approaching in May, the social science major is keeping his options open for where his next home will be. He could return to Japan, stay in Iowa or perhaps add another location to his long list of places of residence.
“There’s nothing set in stone,” Lotz said. “I’m not trying to close any doors. I’ll find a job and go wherever it takes me.”