Geckos nearly sweep 2021 cross country championships

MHS surprises SIS in boys HS division
Posted on Oct 11 2021

Runners in the high school division gallop at the start of the 2021 PSS/NMA Cross Country Championships a last Saturday at the old Saipan Country Club golf course behind Saipan Vegas. (Mark Rabago)

Saipan International School almost completed a sweep of the 2021 PSS/NMA Cross Country Championships after winning the boys and girls elementary and middle school divisions as well as gaining a perfect score in the girls high school category last Saturday at the old Saipan Country Club golf course behind Saipan Vegas.

The Lady Geckos won the girls elementary division with 26 points followed by Saipan Community School’s 47 points. Completing the Top 3 was Gregorio T. Camacho Elementary School with 59 points.

The Geckos followed the girls’ example by also dominating the boys elementary division with 27 points. Tinian Elementary School was second with 24 points followed by third place Brilliant Star School with 69 points.

In middle school, SIS again lorded it over in the girls division with 27 points with Grace Christian Academy and Mt. Carmel School finishing second and third with 39 points and 45 points, respectively.

SIS also proved the team to beat in the boys division with a near perfect 16 points. Saipan Community School gave them a good fight with 24 points for second place, while third place went to Mt. Carmel School with their 41 points.

It was literally a Perfect 10 for SIS’ high school girls team as they got first place with 10 points. MHS came in second with 35 points with Saipan Southern High School bringing in the rear with 52 points.

The only fly in the ointment for the Geckos was the powerful Marianas High School team in the high school division. The Dolphins powered their way to an also near perfect 14 points to beat SIS and SSHS which wound up with 36 points and 57 points, respectively.

SIS middle school and high school coach Ron Snyder said he couldn’t be prouder of all SIS teams that took part in last Saturday’s cross country championships.

“I am really overwhelmed by the success of our teams this year. Our high school boys team really put their all into the race with some amazing finishes and we would all like to send our congratulations to MHS for their victory. Our middle school boys team has been plagued with injuries this season but everything came together in the championships to lead us into first place past our season’s rivals GCA,” he said.

Snyder said SIS’ girls teams have been extremely strong since the first meet and they didn’t disappoint when the stakes were the highest in the cross country championships.

“Our middle school girls team had a very solid finish with some strong competition from Saipan Community School and I am glad they had discipline to hold it all together. This is a really young team with three of the runners being in sixth grade. I look forward to seeing them develop. Our high school girls team was simply stunning! Not only did they win each of the meets this season, they took the championships with a perfect score of 10, finishing in the first six places of their division,” he said.

MHS coach Gabi Race said she’s simply ecstatic that the Dolphins high school boys team was able to prevent an SIS sweep.

“It was really exciting to win the high school boys division, especially because SIS won every other category. I knew the MHS boys had a good chance to win individual and team awards because so many of the runners are great multi-sport athletes. My main job was just to coordinate and make sure everyone showed up on time! I’m also super proud of our girls because several of them had never run cross country before and they improved their times from the qualifiers,” she said.

Asked what was the secret of SIS’ elementary team sweeping the boys and girls division, coach Kathy Pagapular Ruszala said it all comes down to the commitment of the students.

“I did the easy part. The kids came to weekly practices, challenged themselves to surpass their initial times, and woke up early every Saturday to get to the race. They are such a great group to coach. They find joy in everything we do. I am so proud of them and the growing love they spread for the sport. Our cross country team continues to grow every year because of it.”

Their training involved actual practice sessions at the CPA Airport Field.

“We secured the CPA field the past couple of months to train. We go through some basic running skills, play a lot of running games like tag and last man sprints. Then we end our practice with a mile run, using the old cross country course. I’ve given them all a personal challenge…to beat their first practice time, at least three times this season for a special prize. They use it as an incentive.”

Aside from the contributions of her student-athletes, Ruszala also credited the SIS administration and the parents in the teams’ success during this year’s cross country season.

“Much love and thanks to the parents and families for their tremendous support, to Dr. Ron [Snyder] for his unwavering commitment and to the organizers and volunteers for making it happen! It’s been another successful season!”

Results of the individual races in the elementary, middle school, and high school division will be published in the next issues of Saipan Tribune.


Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at
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