Agape Christian School’s Team 1 overcame a slight confusion on the race course and a cool morning weather (73ºF) to rule the Open division and complete an upset in the 34th Christmas Island Relay held last Saturday.
ACS fielded two teams in its debut in the annual relay running event with its squads made up of youth runners that competed in the All Schools Cross Country Race and have an average age of 16 years old. Its Team 1 eventually bested the 22 other squads that joined the race, including favored teams built around CNMI national athletes Beo Ngirchongor and Seiya Eda.
With reigning Cross Country boys U18 champion Caleb Wang as the lead runner, ACS Team 1 completed the 13.7-mile (22 kilometers) in 1:29:42—a good 1:23 ahead of Get Fit CNMI “Darkhorse” (1:31:05) which had veteran long distance runner Jack Kabiriel as one of its members.
Team Force Awaken—which had Mike Mancao, Dino Manning, and Robin Sapong teaming up with Eda and Ngirchongor—came in third at 1:37:50.
ACS Team 1 was comfortably ahead against two other teams and even widened the gap after its runner passed by I Love Saipan. Chen Bai Ling, however, made a wrong turn to Smiling Cove Marina and took the road near the Army Reserve, allowing the two teams behind ACS Team 1 to overtake the eventual winners. The error cost Chen and company three minutes and the lead.
Northern Marianas Athletics officials chased Chen to inform him of his mistake.
“Good thing Chen recovered and caught up with the two teams. When Caleb took his turn, he managed to widen the gap again,” ACS principal Jimeian Pang told Saipan Tribune.
“This kids train almost every day, they ran uphill. They run five times back and forth from ACS going up to Navy Hill and in the final descent they head towards American Memorial Park,” added Pang.
Chen Haoyu, Jasong Wang Shengen, and Samuel Hu En Ze are the other members of ACS Team 1.
ACS Team 2, which had Bobby Zhang, Leo Li Yisheng, Henry Hu En Jie, Jonah Chen Du Yang, and Jonathan Xiong Lue as members—placed third in the youth division (1:41:48) behind Saipan Swim Club (1:31:20) and Rinty FC (1:39:19).
Meanwhile, Taro Goto (1:40:37), Sakiko Eda (1:40:50), Tami Nishikido (1:52:15), Jerry Jaraplasan (1:45:55), and Rommel Buenaflor (1:52:31) were the solo runners in that race that started at the south parking lot of Pacific Islands Club in San Antonio and ended at the Last Command Post in Marpi.