The 2008 Oceania Grand Prix kicked off without much fanfare Saturday at the Oleai Track and Field with a mixed bag of results due to redeye flights and jetlag affecting the region’s top athletes.
According to Oceania Athletics, many of the athletes still suffered from lack of sleep and the fields were not large, except in the 100m events, where 22 were entered in the men’s and a full field of eight in the women’s.
Papua New Guinea’s Mae Koime and Toea Wisil, as expected, finished 1-2 in the women’s 100m, clocking in at 11.70 and 11.90, respectively. Fiji’s Makelesi Tumalevu finished in third place with a time of 12.49.
Koime and Wisil are expected to shatter or at least come close to the Oceania record during the Championships set to unfold Thursday.
The CNMI’s Yvonne Bennett, her twin sister Yvette, and Jacq Wonenberg came in sixth, seventh, and eight (13.13, 13.51, and 13.70).
The men’s century dash, meanwhile, saw three heats with exciting finishes.
PNG’s Kupun Wisil (11.17) came in first among the 22 participants with the CNMI’s Tyrone Omar and the Solomon Islands’ Francis Manioru finishing second with identical times of 11.19. Solomon Islands’ Jack Iroga came in at 11.21, while Omar’s Micronesian Games rival, John Howard clocked in at 11.32.
Other CNMI sprinters that saw action in the 100m for men were Jesus Iguel (11.82), Luis Iguel (12.21), and Juan Iguel (12.51).
As the effects of travel disappear and more people enter the competition, the men’s 100m race is expected to produce a few sub-11 times, according to Oceania Athletics.
Favorite Aunese Curreen of Samoa, meanwhile, topped the men’s 1500m with a time of 3:59:51, but not before being challenged by Fiji’s Isireli Naikelekelevesi, who came in at 4:07:39. CNMI teenagers Champ Untalan and Matthew Manacao finished with times of 4:55:20 and 4:55:89.
Salome Dell of PNG was the only woman in the race and ran with the men. The experience only made her run faster as evidenced by the 4:37:14 it took for her to finish en route to a new national record.
Pacific Islands discus record holder, Tereapii Tapoki of Cook Islands was a clear winner with a throw of 50.37m. Followed by Tahiti’s Perle Buard (31:43m) and Guam’s Genie Gierardo (29.45).
New Caledonia’s Frederic Erin, for his part, was a convincing winner in the triple jump. He had a good series with four jumps over 15m, the best being 15.41m.
Second was Fiji’s Eugene Vollmer, who had only one jump of 14.51m before withdrawing injured. PNG’s Mong Tavol also finished injured but his 13.53 was good enough for third.
The CNMI’s Trevor Ogumoro and Jericho Cruz were good for fourth and fifth, with jumps of 11.51m and 11.39m, respectively.
The women’s triple jump was won by Wonenberg with 9.59m, followed by 14-year-old Liamwar Rangamar (8.40).
New Caledonia’s Daniel Kilama easily won the shot put with a throw of 16.67m. In second place was Fiji’s Leslie Copeland, a javelin specialist, who logged in a 13.36m.
The javelin contests were won by the host islands’ Nick Gross with 57.25m and Tahiti’s Perle Buard with 35.70m, respectively. Gross’ teammate, Dexter Dillay, threw a 40.20m.
The women’s shot put was won by Gierardo, with 9.47m, and the men’s high jump by PNG’s Sandy Katusele with a height of 1.85m. Ogumoro and Cruz of the CNMI, meanwhile, leapt to heights of 1.60m.
The winner of the men’s 5000m was Tahiti’s Teiva Izal in 16:49.29 after his opponent, Brendan Whelan of Australia, pulled out.
PNG teammates Mowen Boino (52.16) with Wala Gime (54.96) came in first and second in the men’s 400m hurdles, while compatriot Sharon Henry won the women’s race in 62.05. Ketson “Jack” Kabiriel and Clayton Kenty of the CNMI had times of 61.95 and 68.38, respectively.
The teams continued to arrive Saturday night and early Sunday morning—via Seoul and Hong Kong. Most of the Grand Prix athletes are on the ground, although some are a bit sleep-deprived.
Day 2 of the Oceania Grand Prix will have far more on-the-ground and wide-awake athletes competing, and the fields will be larger and more competitive.
Those that participated Saturday, however, have a good start in the points competition for overall Grand Prix prizes.
Unlike the 2008 Oceania Championships, the Grand Prix went straight to competition with athletes from the 21 member-nations of the Oceania Athletics Association—save for Australia and New Zealand—vying for valuable points that carryover to the Oceania Championships.