Saipan Swim Club swimmers made their presence felt in last month’s Saipan Sportsfest, showing notable performances in the 2015 Tagaman Triathlon and 2015 XTERRA Saipan Championship.
Kento Akimaru did both races and helped his team to an overall top finish in the relay division. In the Half Ironman course in Tagaman, the 14-year-old swimmer was fifth out of the water in the 1.9-kilometer swim leg held in the waters off the Pacific Islands Club. The four other swimmers who beat Akimaru were all pros, while the SSC swimmer defeated 24 others, including pros Renata Bucher, Carina Wasle, Alexander Dorovskikh, Belinda Hadden, David Esposito, and Daz Parker.
Akimaru’s 27:15 in the swim leg was just less than three minutes behind Tagaman winner Ben Allen’s 24:50. Pros Olivier Marceau (25:29), women’s champion Mieko Carey (25:49), and Kaon Cho (26:32) finished ahead of Akimaru, who teamed up with biker Cesar Fortalez and runner Keith Longuski and posted a field-best time of 2:51:44
In the shorter but more challenging 1.5-kilometer race in the waters off Micro Beach for XTERRA Saipan, Akimaru swam even better, placing third overall behind champion Allen (15:57) and runner-up Bradley Weiss (17:10) and downing a bunch of pros after registering 17:16. The SSC swimmer joined forces with fellow youth athlete Erico Castro and Seiya Eda to lord it over in the relay division of the rain-soaked race after posting an impressive time of 3:25:03. Akimaru’s team was the lone squad to finish the treacherous course under four hours.
The Marianas High School student said he loves doing both races and was happy to conquer the challenging swim course in XTERRA this year.
“In XTERRA, the current was pretty strong and I love the challenge,” said Akimura, who has been participating in the Saipan Sportsfest for the last five years. “For Tagaman, I will try do to solo next year.”
Akimaru was so impressive in the swim leg that XTERRA Saipan banquet host Glenn Policare told teams interested in competing in next year’s race to call “180-KENTO” if they are looking for a swimmer.
Akimaru’s teammates Jinju Thompson, Rintaro Miyawaki, and Christian Villacrusis also completed the Saipan Sportsfest. The debuting Thompson did the Olympic distance of the Tagaman relay, logging 24:34 in the 1.5K swim and finishing fifth overall out of 56 swimmers. The 12-year-old swimmer teamed up with her father, Colin, and runner Kaden Church and they finished third in the mixed relay and fourth overall after finishing the race in 2:46:03.
“I am glad I tried both races this year. It was a lot of fun, though I was first nervous getting into the water during XTERRA because of the rain. However, once I was in the water, the nervousness was gone and I just focused on finishing the race,” said Thompson, who was No. 18 (21:36) out of 63 in the XTERRA swim leg.
Thompson and teammates Wynn Brillo and Miyawaki took the runner-up honors in the mixed relay and fourth overall with their time of 4:17:18.
Miyawaki finished the 12K trail run in 1:21:26 for the No. 33 spot and defeated 28 others.
“It was my first time to try trail running and it was a lot harder than running on the road. The course was so slippery and the rocks were sharp,” said the 10-year-old SSC member.
Miyawaki also did the run leg of Tagaman, timing in at 51:32 in the 10K race for No. 12 spot out of 55 runners. He teamed up with fellow SSC swimmers Rinto Takahashi and Taiga Sato and the trio placed fifth overall and second in the men’s division after completing the Olympic distance course in 2:46:05.
Villacrusis was first out of the water in the Olympic distance course, timing in at 21:58. His team, which also had biker Fred Remillosa and runner Ricardo Antonio, placed third in the men’s relay and sixth overall with a time of 2:49:50.
In XTERRA, Villacrusis was fifth overall after posting 18:21, just 11 seconds behind many-time XTERRA champion Marceau. Villacrusis had the same teammates in XTERRA and this time they gained the runner-up honors in the men’s and third overall with a time 4:12:43.
“This year’s XTERRA was more intense because of the rain, but I am still happy with my time,” said Villacrusis, who debuted in the off-road race last season and also joined the Taga Kids this year.
Victoria Chentsova also returned this year for XTERRA and she and teammates Butch Sublemente and Enrique Evanglista were ranked first in the mixed relay and second overall after timing in at 4:04:08.
The 17-year-old Chentsova was seventh overall out of the water, but first in the women’s field as her 18:33 defeated the 18:34 of division champion and United Kingdom pro Jacqui Slack.
“I love the course condition this year because the rain and strong current pushed me to swim harder. It was very exciting,” said Chentsova, who said trying the ocean swim and joining a triathlon team give SSC swimmers an opportunity to bond with other athletes.
“It’s a good cross training and at the same time a great chance to meet other people and form new relationships,” she said.