When Northern Marianas Sports Association president Michael White read the group’s top athlete-awardees in the last decade during last week’s 2018 NMSA/Tan Annual Sports Banquet at the Hibiscus Hall of the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan, tennis players were mentioned in the honor roll each year.
“We did pretty well in that span,” said Northern Mariana Islands Tennis Association official and many-time national team coach Jeff Race when asked about the sport’s accomplishment.
“It says a lot about our program and we will strive to keep it that way—have a strong tennis program, especially for our youth,” Race added.
Robbie Schorr made it a decade-long dominance for tennis when he took the 2018 NMSA/TSL Foundation Male Student Athlete of the Year award last week. In that 10-year stretch, the 16-year-old Schorr won three Male Student Athlete of the Year award trophy, getting his first in 2014 and the second in 2016.
Former CNMI No. 1 junior player Ji Hoon Heo started tennis’ surge in the annual awards banquet when he claimed the Male Athlete of the Year award in 2009. The following year, Christian Miller was given the Male Student Athlete of the Year, while the same recognition went to Rafael Jones in 2011.
In 2012, tennis went home with two top athletes awards with Micronesian Games gold medalist Todd Montgomery getting the Male Athlete of the Year trophy and junior player Mikayla Lopez winning the Female Studfent Athlete of the Year plum.
Then in 2013, Carol Lee got one of her four Female Athlete of the Year. Her three other trophies were won in 2015, 2016, and 2017. For two consecutive years, tennis swept the award for student-athletes with Lee and Schorr winning in 2016 and the former doing in again with Jimin Woo in 2017.
“Every year, our players are motivated to do better and the recognitions they are getting are added boost to their morale,” said Race, who himself won multiple awards in NMASA’s annual banquet.
Race was the Coach of the Year in 2007, 2012, and 2017, making him one of the only three coaches (the two other were Race’s fellow CNMI Hall of Famer Tony Rogolifoi and Elias Rangamar) to have received the recognition more than once since NMSA started giving the award in 2004.
In the team division, Race’s CNMI Junior National Squad is the only group to have earned the Team of the Year honors twice, bagging the prestigious award in 2013 and 2017.
“Credits go to all our hard-working players. They go out there to play their best and continue to train to improve their games. Our program also remains strong because of the support we are getting from the players’ parents and other sponsors/supporters here in and off-island,” Race said.