Agape extends reign in island relay


Agape Christian School A runners do the celebratory jump to the finish line after topping last Saturday’s Northern Marianas Athletics Annual Christmas Island Relay. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

For the sixth straight year, Agape Christian School runners emerged as the top finishers in the Northern Marianas Athletics Annual Christmas Island Relay.

Captain Simon Shan, lead runner Ray Qi, Eason Tang, Peter Hu and Samuel He of Agape Team A completed the 13.7-mile race from Pacific Islands Club in San Antonio to the Last Command Post in Marpi in 1:25:38, finishing ahead of more than 20 teams that participated in NMA’s season-ending event last Saturday morning.

Agape A took the open division title, reaching the finish line nearly six minutes faster than Crackers and Jack, which had Jack “Ketson” Kabiriel, Keith Longuski, Travis Spaeth, and father-and-son Tom and Miles Linden as members. The runner-up squad timed in at 1:31:21. Rounding out the Top 3 in the division was another Agape quintet—Peter Shen, Antonio Li, Timothy Yu, Jim Qui, and Alice Yang. Agape B checked in at 1:32:54.

Crackers and Jack runners head to the finish line at the Last Command Post. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

Agape A’s time in this year’s race from the southern to the northern part of the island is the third fastest in the Torchebearers’ six-year reign in the competition. The best record was made in 2018 with Willian Chen, Kobe Yang, Peter Wang, Jonathan Xiong, and Arthur Liang submitting 1:23:35. Last year, Agape posted 1:25:27, while coach Kok Pang’s top runners registered 1:26:30 in 2017, 1:27:42 in 2016, and 1:29:42 in 2015. The event’s all-time record was under 1:20:00.

“Every year, our goal is to break our school record. We fell short this year, but we will try again next year,” said Pang.

With Agape on a roll in the island relay, Pang acknowledged that every team wants to end their domination and that is an added challenge to their runners.

“We accept the challenge. It pushes our runners to keep working hard and persevere even though they may be exhausted from doing how many races before competing in the island relay,” Pang added.

Agape just completed the four-series interscholastic cross country season that concluded early this month, while some of its runners also joined virtual races.

Pang hopes that Agape’s dominance in the island relay in the past several years will also serve as a challenge to other runners.

“Competition is good because it keeps you motivated. I hope other runners/teams will remain motivated in beating our runners and continue raising the race standard on island,” the Agape coach added.

Meanwhile, Agape also had two teams placing in the Top 3 in the youth division.

Agape C’s Allen Luo, Jason Cao, Abraham Zhu, Caleb Dai, and Eunice Xu took the first place honors in the group after recording 1:30:50. Hudson Tan, David Zhao, Eric Chen, Alex Liang, and Emma Pang of Agape D clocked in at 1:33:34 to rank second, while Team Santa completed the Top 3. Cross country champion Kaithlynn Chavez and soccer players Kohtaro Goto, Markus Toves, Jerald Aquino, and Akira Kadokura are the members of Team Santa and completed the race in 1:33:36.

Meanwhile, though last Saturday’s event was a team competition, there were a couple of runners who ran the course solo, including barefoot runner Chang Whan Jang and former NMI national team member Tania Tan (both competed the course under the two-hour mark).

NMA would like to thank all the participants and sponsors of the island relay and the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force for allowing the event to take place and ensuring everyone’s safety. NMA had runners leaving the starting line in Pacific Islands Club in San Antonio in two batches to avoid overcrowding.

“Thank you all for making this year ACIR 2020 another success. Despite the ongoing challenges with the global pandemic, we are fortunate to be able to put on our last event for the season. On behalf of NMA and its leadership, I would like to say special thank you to the Governor’s COVID-19 Task Force and all the first responders and front-liners for keeping our community safe and healthy,” NMA secretary general and race director Robin Sapong said.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.
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