Kouki, Maria make it 2-for-2 in 1,000m

Posted on Jul 29 2021
Saipan swim club

From left, Jessica Ma, Sari Barman, Maria Batallones, Andrew Nunez, Joseph Zhang, and Kouki Watanabe pose for a group photo after the 1,000m open of Saipan Swim Club’s Triple Crown Open Water Swim Series last Saturday in the waters off the Civic Center Beach in Susupe. (Mark Rabago)

It was like Groundhog Day in the 1,000m open of Saipan Swim Club’s Triple Crown Open Water Swim Series last Saturday morning in the waters off the Civic Center Beach in Susupe.

This, after Swimming Center Tsunami Saipan’s Kouki Watanabe and Maria Batallones again emerged victorious in the event after dominating the first staging of the open water swim two weeks ago.

Watanabe topped the men’s division with a time of 11:02.04, which was a vast improvement on the 14:31.9 he submitted in the first race last July 10. His time was more remarkable considering that large swells made swimmers work double time in last Saturday’s event.

“The weather was pretty rough that day. The waves were bouncing me around and made me feel a little dizzy, but I did my very best until the end and got first place! I am really thankful for coach and the people who helped me reach this far. I wouldn’t have been first place without them.”

Joseph Zhang came out of nowhere to finish second behind Watanabe with a time of 12:04.78. It was extra special for the recent high school graduate as it was sort of a going-away present for himself before he heads off to college.

“Last Saturday’s race was exciting! There was so much going on—safety concerns, weather, waves, and it was, ultimately, my last race, so tensions were high. It was very heartwarming to be able to lead the cheer with my team one last time, and it definitely gave me a boost in energy. I wanted to win and have that competitive spirit, so I kept my pace and got a silver medal. I completed the event with no regrets and happy to have so much support around me.”

Andrew Nunez, runner-up to Watanabe two weeks ago, settled for third place this time after touching the flag in 12:06.03, which was still a definite improvement on his July 10 time of 15:08.5.

“The open water race last Saturday was undoubtedly an unforgettable event. Though the harsh weather was perceived as unfortunate by many, the frigid and rough waves is what inspired me to push harder and improve my race time. I am looking forward to the next open water race and hopefully many more to come!”

Batallones, for her part, improved on her 14:47.7 time in the last race by finishing first among the women with a time of 11:09.87 last Saturday.

“Doing last Saturday’s ocean swim was a little bit tough to do. The waves were big but I was glad our team were stronger than the waves. It was a fun event to do. It is nice to be competing and see each other race and win. Seeing how supportive our team gets when it’s race days gets me motivated and happy, I look forward to having more!” she said.
Like Zhang, Sari Barman was a surprise runner-up to Batallones in the women’s 1,000m with a time of 13:17.64.

“The event I did on Saturday was 1,000 meters. I thought it would be harder than I thought, but it was easy for me, but that day was rainy and had a lot of waves and I choked many times. It was a fun experience overall,” she said.

Jessica Ma came in third with a time of 13:27.08, which also was markedly better than the 17:28.1 she swam in the last open water swim.
“I felt really proud of myself cause I made my speed faster than last July 10’s ocean swim. But I can’t be too proud, I know that I can go faster. But there’s always next time right? So I’m definitely gonna do better!”

Triple Crown Open Water Swim Series was sanctioned by the Northern Mariana Islands Swimming Federation and is the second of three events, which main purpose is to choose four swimmers (top two men and top two women) that will represent the CNMI in the 2021 FINA World Championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates this coming December.

Results of the 20m for beginners, 50m for intermediate, 100m for advanced, and 500m open will be published in the next issues of the Saipan Tribune.

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at Mark_Rabago@saipantribune.com
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