The Northern Marianas Sports Association hailed five athletes and two teams for their outstanding athletic performance in July and August. Awardees are eligible to be named athletes/team of the year and will be recognized at the annual NMSA Awards Banquet.
Swimming Center Tsunami Saipan’s Maria Batallones was named July female student-athlete of the month after she topped the 1,000m race in the Saipan Swim Club Triple Crown Open Water Swim Series 1 and 2 held last July 10 and July 24.
The 12-year-old timed in at 14:47.70 minutes in Series 1, ruling the women’s field, which also included adult swimmers. Batallones’ time was almost 3 minutes ahead of her closest competitor and she even outraced six of the seven male entries in the 1,000m competition.
In Series 2, Batallones surpassed her Series 1 time after recording 11:09.87, more than a minute ahead of the second-place finisher. Batallones’ times in Series 1 and 2 were faster than the records of swimmers that joined the 1,000m qualifier for the 2021 FINA World Championships in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. The female winner in the qualifier in Series 2 posted 11:29.47, while the two others selected completed the course in more than 12 minutes. In Series 1, the three qualifiers had finish times of more than 15 minutes.
Tsunami Saipan’s Isaiah Aleksenko was named male student-athlete of the month after won the 1,500m event in both the SSC Triple Crown Open Water Swim Series 1 and 2 held last July 10 and 24.
In Series 1, the 14-year-old clocked in at 18:23.10—the fastest time in the event’s longest open water swim—defeating 16 other swimmers, including adult participants, and was nearly one minute ahead of the second finisher. The CNMI does not keep records for ocean swim, but for comparison purposes, the islands’ 13 to 14 age group record in the 1,500m freestyle swim is 18:14.65 and in the last 1,500m ocean swim held before the pandemic, the top finisher took nearly 23 minutes to complete the course. In Series 2, Aleksenko finished at 19:25.92, the fastest among the 21 adult and junior swimmers.
Heather Calderwood was named female athlete of the month for July after she came in first place in the women’s 6.5-mile V1 long-distance race held in July in the waters off Kilili Beach. Winds were strong, the seas were rough, and the battle for first place was close. The 31-year-old came out on top of the women’s open long-distance category. Calderwood was introduced to the va’a paddling sport in early March of this year. Born on Saipan and a graduate of Marianas High School, Calderwood’s homecoming has been a dream come true. She enjoys the ocean and environment. With just four months of paddling experience, Calderwood’s physical fitness, positive attitude, willingness to learn, and train hard resulted in a first-place victory.
Male athlete of the month for July, Jason Tarkong, won the 6.5-mile long-distance V1 race held in the waters off Kilili Beach. The wind conditions and seas were rough, and the battle for first place was a close one. The route was from Kilili Beach, north to Garapan Fishing Base and back. Tarkong took first place in the race. His accomplishments include former NMSA team of the month with Marianas Outrigger Club for May 2021, representing the CNMI winning a gold medal in the 1,500m sprints at the 2014 Micronesian Games in Pohnpei, and again with Team CNMI winning a silver medal for the long-distance 12-mile-long distance race at the 2018 Micronesian Games in Yap. As the head coach for Napu Outrigger Canoe Club and active team member of the MOC, he has proven that at 54 years old, age is nothing but a number.
The Tan Holdings Football Club U15 Girls Soccer Team was named July team of the month after winning the championship of the recently concluded NMIFA Summer Youth League. The team dominated the division by winning all their matches. They scored 60 goals in the initial round-robin series and then added another 22 goals in the championship round. They were also the best defensive team conceding only six goals during the entire season. The U15 Girls Division played the 5 vs. 5 format. The team is comprised of Kaithlyn Chavez, Audrey Castro, Rizza Relucio, Tamia Hix, Matty Angeles, Julie Ann Chavez, Aubrey Castro, Julie Ann Capayas, and Mia Abuan. The team’s coach is Albert Bergancia. Most of the players are already members of the Girls national team or the NMIFA Junior National (Soccer) Academy.
August female student athlete of the month, Tiana Cabrera, is an incredibly committed runner. She trains with Northern Marianas Athletics, Run Saipan, and with Saipan International School’s team. She has taken on a leadership role at the school and is always encouraging. She has won many local events over the last year, including two in the month of August.
She has had setbacks, like every athlete, but uses these to improve her running. She really is the face of distance running among the student athletes on the island. When she started at SIS, she was the No. 3 runner, but her perseverance has led her to grow in skill and athleticism so that she can be counted on to always have a top performance. In addition to her commitment to running and her leadership of the team, Cabrera is also one of the key student- coaches who will be working with Tanapag Middle School students to develop their team for the 2021-22 season.
Southern United Football Club (SUFC) Women’s Team is August team of the month after emerging the champion of the recently concluded Dove Women’s League Tinekcha Division, the premier or top division. The team had the best record—5 wins and 1 loss. Although the division had only four teams, this division was very competitive because most players are current or former national team players, or those who are in the national training pool. Most players in this SUFC Team are in the women national teams. These ladies train several days a week. To remain competitive and to sharpen their skills, those in the women’s national team also compete in the B Division of the NMIFA Men’s League. Members of the team are Allyssa Angeles, Christina Atalig, Nathanette Blas, Jenny Ann Capayas, Jannah Casarino, Keisha de Leon Guerrero, Marinel Falalimpa, Stephanie Flores, Tyana Hix, Haidee Manibusan, and Britany Wally. The team’s head coach is Ruselle Zapanta. (PR)