Edward Dela Cruz Jr. won his debut, while Kaithyn Chavez recorded her best time, as Northern Marianas Athletics went ahead with the 36th Mt. Tapochao Turkey Trot Run, but did it virtually.
Dela Cruz took on the 4.2-mile course with a group of friends and other regulars of Saipan’s traditional trek from Lower Base to the highest peak on the island on Thanksgiving and timed in at 46:47 to notch the top honors in the men’s division.
Chavez had the fastest time this year—with her 45:11—to earn the first place finish in the women’s division and break her previous best mark of 59:15 when she ruled the girls U12 category in 2018. The 13-year-old logged 59:40 last year.
Though she beat her time when she ran the Turkey Trot course despite the pouring rain last Saturday, Chavez said she prefers racing with competitors just like what she did in 2018 and 2019. This year’s Turkey Trot was done virtually due to the COVID-19 pandemic with NMA allowing runners to complete the course (single run) on their own pace and selected day (between Nov. 25 and Nov. 28).
“It’s better to have an actual race with a lot of runners because you will have more motivation to push yourself harder,” the Mt. Carmel School student said.
Dela Cruz also looks forward to the actual race next year, as he acknowledged how tough the course is.
“Right after clearing the Capitol Hill slope all I could think was how did Keith Longuski (five-time winner, including last year) ran that fast up this course every year. The entire course was brutal,” Dela Cruz said.
“Anyone that says otherwise is obviously not pushing themselves to their breaking point limit in this race. There is literally no rest until maybe the parking before Mt. Tapochao road but even that, it was merciless,” the firefighter added.
Dela Cruz ran the Turkey Trot course after getting an invite from his friend, Joe Villacrusis, and is thankful for the opportunity to be part of the island’s tradition every Thanksgiving.
“This year was a good fun run to find my base line. I’m going to use this as my baseline to work my way up to Keith’s level for the years to come,” Dela Cruz said.
Meanwhile, Leith Poole and Jeff Race joined Dela Cruz in the Top 3 of the men’s division. Poole also debuted in the Turkey Trot and timed in at 50:25, while Race extended his appearance in the event to 30-plus after submitting 52:02 in last Thursday’s run.
In the women’s division, Denis Myers came in at second place with her 54:55, while Lydia Tan did her third Turkey Trot and also finished third in this year’s event after checking in at 58:58.
NMA secretary general Robin Sapong said more than 30 runners registered for the event, while several others also ran the course, unofficially.