Saipan runners show way

Tania Tan, right, smiles as she completes the half marathon event in last Saturday’s Saipan Marathon. She was joined in the finish line by coach and fellow half marathon runner Ronald Villafria. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

Though outnumbered by off-island participants, Saipan runners still stood out after making it to the podium and earning age group wins in last Saturday’s 2018 Saipan Marathon.

In the half marathon race, Saipan had a 1-2 finish in the women’s division with veteran Noriko Jim crossing the finish line first and youth runner Tania Tan coming in at second. Jim, the many-time 10K champion of the same event, opted for a longer race this year and was successful after completing the course, which started and ended at AMP via Beach Road with a turnaround point at Pacific Islands Club, in 1:45:39.

Tan clocked in at 1:50:48 to place ahead of two tough runners Hyun Ju Kim (1:51:10) of Korea and Xue Xiao (1:54:53) of China. Rounding out the Top 6 (overall rankings in women’s) who were honored at the awards ceremony last Saturday’s night at Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan were two more Saipan residents— Chiharu Sato (1:55:27) and Sarah Vanderwal (1:56:48).

In the men’s division, Ronald Villafria made the cut in the Top 6 after reaching the finish line at the 1:37:05 mark. Japan’s Genta Saito ruled the men’s half marathon after submitting 1:22:48, while perennial XTERRA and Tagaman participant Aleksandr Dorovskikh of Russia was ranked second following his 1:25:15. Completing the Top 6 are Japan’s Tooru Kase (1:28:00) and South Korea’s Il Hoe Koo (1:29:03), and Jo Min Woo (1:35:34).

In the age group category, Tania’s mother, Lydia, was the top finisher in the women’s 50 to 59 division after capping the 21.09K race in 2:00:17. Lydia recorded the fastest time among the age group champions, finishing ahead of 20 to 29 winner Misaki Seumasu (2:01:16) of Japan.

Vianny Mettao was the other Saipan runner who won a division title, as the 11-year-old ruled the women’s 14-and-under category after checking in at 4:40:25. Other age group winners were 15 to 19’s Min Yu (2:37:26), 30 to 39’s Hui Zheng (2:03:31), 40 to 49’s Xiaoqing Duan (2:14:35), and over 60’s Changyub Lee (2:44:52).

In the men’s division, Saipan had three runners earning age group first place medals with Renato Gaviola (1:55:43), John Michael Navarro (2:01:28), and barefoot Chang Whan Jang (1:50:53) dominating the 50 to 59, 14-and-under, and over 60 categories, respectively. China’s Zehua Chen (1:50:34), Yang Li (1:45:25), Hongming Yang (1:37:44), and South Korea’s Jin Gu Ha (1:39:10) reigned supreme in the 15 to 19, 20 to 29, 40 to 49, and 30 to 39 age groups.

Meanwhile, in the full marathon, Charlie Sendin averted a Saipan shutout in the Top 6 after placing second in the race that also started and ended at AMP with turnaround points at Banzai Cliff up north and PIC down south.

Sendin completed the 42.195K race in 3:40:47 to finish second behind Japan’s Noriyasu Oda (3:37:51). The Saipan resident and Japanese runners were way ahead of the other Top 6 finishers—Japan’s Ichiro Kubo (3:51:28) and Miyashita Masaki (3:58:20) and China’s Weiyang Zhang (3:52:03) and Guo Ping Ang (3:55:00).

In the women’s division, another Saipan resident, Heather Taylor, came out on top of her category after recording 3:43:27. The 30-year-old Taylor was the only runner in the women’s Top 6 to break the four-hour mark in full marathon, as Yoshiko Yamamori was at distant second with a time of 4:03:59. China’s Quizhen Tong (4:04:24), Shirong Pang (4:08:29), and Zhongxiu Wu (4:13:42), and the U.S’ Heather Popa (4:15:52) rounded out the Top 6.

In the age group category, Saipan had two top finishers, while Tinian had one. Emily Northrop won the 20 to 29 division after registering 4:42:09, while Alyona Gersonde ruled the 30 to 39 division with her 5:24:23. Tinian’s Kimberlyn King-Hinds got the top honors in the 40 to 49 after submitting 4:20:13, while Japan and China split the last two categories with Kumiko Nakamura (4:51:44) and Suhua Feng (6:25:01) prevailing in the 50 to 59 and over 60 divisions, respectively.

In the men’s field, three Saipan residents placed first in their respective age groups with Rommel Buenaflor (4:00:55) winning the 40 to 49 division, Xander Kahn (5:17:34) topping the 30 to 39 group, and Teng Zhang (5:15:39) lording it over in the 15 to 19 class. Japan’s Yoshinori Chitake (4:06:21) and China’s Yanfeng Yin (4:04:16) and Yinbao Sun (4:13:50) were the other age group champions in the second longest race last weekend.

Roselyn Monroyo | Reporter
Roselyn Monroyo is the sports reporter of Saipan Tribune. She has been covering sports competitions for more than two decades. She is a basketball fan and learned to write baseball and football stories when she came to Saipan in 2005.

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