Isaiah Aleksenko and Asaka Litulumar won the longest race in Saipan Swim Club’s Triple Crown Open Water Swim Series held last Saturday in the waters off the Civic Center beach in Oleai.
Aleksenko and Litulumar, both of Swimming Center Tsunami Saipan, topped the boys and girls division of the 1,500m open water swim with times of 18:23:1 and 21:23:9, respectively.
Aleksenko, an incoming sophomore at Marianas High School, felt relieved that he’s finally back in the water competing at a high level after more than a year of no meets due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It was different because I wasn’t swimming competitively for a long time. I’m pretty happy with my time. It was good considering [the long layoff]. I’m very happy that swimming is back and that means we can go back to swimming competitively and go to meets off-island,” the 15-year-old said.
Litulumar, for her part, seconded Aleksenko’s observation on their return to competitive swimming.
“It was a nice feeling because we never felt like this for a long time. It’s nice to be back again. I’m surprised I won and it’s nice to have my hard work pay off,” said the 13-year-old Hopwood Middle School student.
Tsunami Saipan’s Kean James Pajarilla and SSC’s Anthony Jacob Deleon Guerrero came in second and third after Aleksenko with times of 19:12:9 and 21:01.2, respectively, while it was all Tsunami Saipan among the girls as Julia Jinang and Ayumi Obligacion completed the Top 3 with times of 22:40:4 and 24:27:4, respectively.
Tsunami Saipan coach Hiro Kimura said he was happy with his wards’ return to competitive swimming, but admitted that some of them can still improve in their performance.
“We haven’t practiced in the ocean for over a year and half, so I was worried a little about their performance in the open water race. I think the ranking of results is right at my estimation. It was as expected, easy. I’m never satisfied about several Tsunami swimmers’ time, but this time I let them swim as test swimming, so this time only it’s OK,” he told Saipan Tribune.
As the organizer of the Triple Crown Open Water Swim Series, SSC coach Richard Sikkel couldn’t have hoped for a better turnout after more than a year sabbatical of competitive swimming.
“I was pleasantly surprised with the 90-plus swimmers that turned out for the ocean swim. I am hoping we go over 100 for the next race. We unfortunately had to turn a few people down because we only allowed online registration and no race day registration so we could keep the tight schedule we did and start and finish all the races on time,” he said.
As far as the performance of the swimmers, Sikkel said however they performed he’s just glad to see SSC and Tsunami Saipan swimmers sharing the beach again and swimming competitively.
“I am pleased with the performance of all the swimmers. First of all it is good to see the camaraderie and the support that the swimmers show each other regardless of their club affiliation. In the end, it is about promoting the sport of swimming while we have a little friendly competition. Pushing each other to train harder and swim faster.
Results of the 20m for beginners, 50m for intermediate, 100m for advanced, 500m open, 1,000m open, and the 1,000m World Championship qualifier will be published in the next issues of the Saipan Tribune.
The 1,000m World Championship qualifier will chose four swimmers (two men and two women) that will represent the CNMI in the 2021 FINA World Championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates this coming December.