Shuji Kuroda and Audrey Christley overcame the heat and humidity and the slalom-like conditions in the middle part to win the cross country category of Saipan International School’s Gecko 5000 held last Saturday in Marpi.
Kuroda won the 8-kilometer men’s cross country race after arriving at the finisher’s arch in Banzai Cliff in 33:57. Run Saipan president Edward Dela Cruz Jr. was nearly 5 minutes off the Grandvrio Saipan Food & Beverage assistant manager’s pace at 38:46, while Chong Nam Lee completed the Top 3 in 43:48.
Kuroda admitted that the cross country route almost got the better of him.
“I don’t want to run anymore. Maybe I need a vacation. With the cross country my muscles were already getting tired unlike the flat course,” said the 31-year-old from Tokyo who separated from the pack right at the beginning.
Christley, for her part, negotiated the 6-kilometer women’s cross country route in 28:10. She was followed by Run Saipan vice president Jenna Kong in 29:45, while Tanuja Edvalson finished third in 29:57.
Christley, who is originally from Alaska, said she was surprised to have come up on top.
“It was a really fun race. The trail was perfect. The weather was perfect. It was just a really fun run. It didn’t know my time at all. My watch stopped in the middle of the race. I don’t really compete. I just kind of run for myself,” she said.
Aside from being interviewed by media after the race, the 42-year-old said the hardest part of the race was when she had to literally summon the last ounces of her strength to finish the course.
“The toughest part of the race was right at the end of the trail. It really became humid. I was done and I wanted to stop. [Fortunately] I had a friend in front of me who took me to the finish line,” she said.
In the 5K fun run, Ivan Li won the men’s open division after crossing the finish line in 28:06. He was followed by Taiga Namai Scrogging in 29:18, while third place went to Peter White in 30:11.
In the women’s open 5K division, Šarka Glajchova came in first in 28:40, followed by Jay Anne Felipe at 30:14 with Elizabeth Church completing the Top 3 in 30:50.
SIS headmaster Ron Snyder congratulated all the winners of the open cross country and the open fun run. Including the elementary, middle school, and high school division, a total of 348 registered to take part in the Gecko 5000, which marks the first time it included a cross country component that also served as a qualifier for the Northern Marianas Athletics and Public School System cross country series. Snyder is the distance running coach of NMA.
“I have 240 people with times. There were some that came but didn’t go through the arch, just walked a shorter race or registered for the T-shirt only.”
Snyder was glad that after a year’s hiatus, SIS was finally able to host the Gecko 5000 but admitted that holding it during the COVID-19 pandemic presented challenges.
“Hosting any event during the pandemic adds an extra layer of complexity. We had masks for anyone who needed them and we only had water bottles at the end instead of water jugs. We also had to split apart the divisions to increase the distance between the vaccinated older population and the younger athletes who are not eligible yet. Cross country has the big advantage over many other sports in that the runners are spread out over large distances and we are outside in the sun where the virus has a harder time surviving,” he said.
Snyder also thanked the volunteers from the SIS faculty, SIS Rotary Interact Club, NMA, and Run Saipan and the event’s sponsors, namely Cafe Hei, MARPAC, Casa de Song, Spicy Thai, Chung A, Smile Marianas, Chalan Pial Supermarket, JP World Corp., Brothers Clinic, Twins Market, JWS, Mango Six, Himawari Restaurant, Eun Song and Bori, Fishing Tackle and Sporting Goods, Ginen Saipan, The Water Company, and The Athletes Foot.
Result of the elementary, middle school, and high school divisions of the Gecko 5000 will published in tomorrow’s issue of the Saipan Tribune