Ketola wins 1,500m on borrowed gear

Posted on Jan 10 2022

Keith Ketola in action during the 1,500m race of the local 2021 Oceania Virtual Championships held by Northern Marianas Athletics last Dec. 20 at the Oleai track and field. (Lao Zhang)

Keith Ketola won the 1,500m race of the local 2021 Oceania Virtual Championships held by Northern Marianas Athletics last Dec. 20 at the Oleai track and field.

The 25-year-old law clerk of CNMI Supreme Court Associate Justice John A. Manglona topped a three-person field in a time of 4:48.9 to beat Sildrey Veloria (5:28.7) and Tiana Cabrera (5:56)

Not bad for someone who didn’t even plan to race that day as he only went to the Oleai Sports Complex to encourage friends who were competing.

“I felt okay about the race. It wasn’t my best time! I didn’t even expect to be competing that day when I showed up, as I was just there to watch,” he said.

Ketola said he was persuaded by Run Saipan president Edward Dela Cruz Jr. to join the race last minute because the 1,500 event wouldn’t be official unless there were three runners.

“Ed Dela Cruz talked me into it since the times for the others wouldn’t count unless we had three participants. I didn’t even bring running gear to the track and I had to borrow some.”

While running completely unprepared eventually worked out alright, Ketola said the time he registered was a full minute slower than his best time.

“My favorite event is the 1,500m and my personal best is 3:52 from college. I don’t expect that I will ever beat that time again.”

A former NCAA Division III runner from St. Olaf College, Ketola recently was hailed the king of the local 1-mile race after winning the 1 Mile Road Race last Dec. 31.

He ran that in 4:45, still a far off from his best mile run of 4:12.

Ketola said since arriving last September he has really been embraced by the island’s very active running community.

“Everyone I’ve met through running has been awesome. It’s been great with them putting on these meets and races. It’s not east to host these events but everything has been fantastic. Shout out to Ed from Run Saipan.”

He added that he’ll certainly try to take part in all of the running events of Run Saipan and NMA.

“I’m looking forward to better times in future meets but I’m also only running once or twice a week now since I also train jiujitsu at Trench Tech.”

Last October, Oceania Athletics announced it will be conducting its regional championships online through the 2021 Oceania Athletics Virtual Championships.

“With the world, and especially the Pacific feeling the effects of the global COVID-19 pandemic, it has meant that it is now, over two years, since we have been able to gather as an Oceania Athletics family in person,” said Oceania Athletics.

It said the 2021 Oceania Athletics Virtual Championships would allow athletes of all ages and abilities to compete, albeit virtually, for medals and to be crowned Oceania Virtual Champion.

The 2021 Oceania Athletics Virtual Championships was held in partnership with Oceania Masters Athletics Association and saw champions crowned and medals awarded across multiple age groups, from under 14 to 80 years of age.

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