Ketola, Leugers top return of Turkey Trot


Participants of the 2022 Mt. Tapochao Turkey Trot Run pose for a group photo after the 6.754-kilometer run early yesterday morning.(MARK RABAGO)

Newcomers Keith Ketola and Kate Leugers were the fleetest afoot in the return of the Mt. Tapochao Turkey Trot Run early yesterday morning.

The run to Saipan’s highest peak—the 1,555-foot Mt. Tapochao—has been reduced to a virtual variety the past couple of years due to the COVID-19 pandemic, but came back with the bang in 2022 with an unofficial record of over 170 registrants.

And speaking of records, Ketola was aching to break it in his first try but reached the summit in 37:13. Eli Torgeson still holds the record in the men’s division when he ran the 6.754-kilometer course in 34:20 back in 2008.
Despite not resetting the Turkey Trot standard, the 26-year-old law clerk of CNMI Supreme Court Associate Justice John A. Manglona is still happy with his run.


“Almost a record but not quite. It’s a tough race. You really have to manage your energy the first 80% because the last couple of hills on Mt. Tapochao are really, really tough.”

Asked what was the hardest part of the Turkey Trot, Ketola said it definitely was the almost 90% incline on the paved road leading up to the summit.

“I was barely running at that point. I live around here so I run on these roads quite a bit. So I knew it was going to be hard, but I never thought it was going to be this hard.”


His roommate at St. Olaf College, Paul Timm, came in second with a time of 38:02, while Kagman Health Center physician’s assistant Keith Longuski completed the Top 3 in 39:07.

The Commonwealth Health Center’s own physician’s assistant, Kate Leugers, was the first among the women after crossing the finish line in 39:48.

The Turkey Trot was the 33-year-old from Utah’s first official race on Saipan.

“I’ve been wanting to participate in the races but I’ve been injured off and on and so finally I was healthy and able to compete.” 

Leugers said the Turkey Trot was one for the books and reminds her of the dirt paths she used to run in the Beehive State.

“I love this run. It’s the one big hill that we can climb up and all the other races tend to be flat. So this feels like you’re conquering something. I think I like this one the best.”

Pacific Mini Games steeplechase silver medalist Denise Myers came in second in the women’s division with a time of 45:09, while 12-year-old Aaddalee Taflinger came in third in 49:45.

All times are unofficial as Northern Marianas Athletics has yet to release the results of the Turkey Trot as of press time.

Aside from the usual suspects who were thrilled on the return of the face-to-face Turkey Trot, groups also came in full force to support the yearly tradition the morning before families gather around the table to celebrate Thanksgiving. 
Agape Christian School, Northern Mariana Islands Basketball Federation, Frank Camacho and his Get Fit CNMI team, NMA, and Run Saipan, among others, took part in the event.

NMA would also like to thank the following sponsors and partners: Joeten Enterprises, Marianas Pacific Distributors Inc.,  Latte Built Gym, Run Saipan, and the 442nd 100th BN Echo Company.

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

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