Donivan Mendiola represented the CNMI in the Athletics New Zealand and Oceania Cross-Country Championships held last Saturday at the Minogue Park in Te Rapa, Hamilton, New Zealand.
Northern Marianas Athletics nominated Mendiola for the men's 12K event. He earned a fourth place finish over a field of over 50 runners after timing in at 43:19. However, according to the Athletics New Zealand website, he was listed in the 19A men's 8,000-meter event and had the same time. There may be a discrepancy in the online results, as he was listed last in the field of 38; the men's open 12K results were not listed on the website.
Notably, the 19A men's 8000m winner finished in just over 26 minutes, so it was likely that Mendiola's time did after all include an extra 4000m.
“I know what event I ran in and I am very happy with my first off-island performance,” said Mendiola in an interview yesterday.
“I was a little nervous coming into the competition, but actually the scariest part of the trip was simply traveling alone because I have never been there before. Luckily, I was with my friend Chris Magtoto of Guam, but everything was still very unfamiliar and I was nervous because I didn't want to get lost. I was only there for the weekend and wish I have had more time for some sightseeing, but all in all it was a great experience,” he added.
The 18-year-old Mendiola took the opportunity on only a two-week notice.
He found his talent in competitive running after being introduced to the sport just two years ago. He won the U19 division of last year's Saipan Marathon and was hoping to join team CNMI in the Oceania Championships, but his passport expired just days before the cutoff date.
The Saipan-born athlete attended a couple of semesters at Eisenhower High School in Houston, Texas where he participated in a 5K and 10K runs for its cross-country team before returning home where he recently earned his diploma at Marianas High School. During his stint stateside he also played on the Eisenhower football team, which advanced to the state finals that same season.
He is considering suiting up for the Commonwealth Football League's team that will be appearing in a three-game series against some squads from the Philippines and Guam this winter.
Mendiola also studies mixed martial arts under Trench Tech Purebred's Cuki Alvarez, who sponsored the young runner's trip to New Zealand.
The four-year MMA practitioner plans on competing in Trench Tech's Art Of War 7 No-Gi Grappling & Submissions Challenge this Saturday and wants to make his MMA debut in one of Trench Warz or Rites Of Passage events this year as well.
Mendiola also enjoys mountain biking and would like to try competing in triathlon some time in the future.
After the Art of War, the busy beaver will also be joining in a mountain bike race this Sunday.