Strong finish from CNMI swimmers


Lennosuke Suzuki, seen here competing in a local meet last month, made it into the finals of the 400m freestyle event in last week’s XI Oceania Championships held in Suva, Fiji. (Roselyn B. Monroyo)

CNMI swimmers made it into the finals and marked personal best times in the last two days of competition at the pool in the XI Oceania Championships.

Christian Villacrusis advanced to the B Finals of the 50m breaststroke last Friday, while Lennosuke Suzuki swam in the medal round in the 400m freestyle last Thursday and got a personal best time in the 50m freestyle. Salofi Welch also earned a PBT in the 50m freestyle event, which had its preliminary heats last Friday at the Damodar National Aquatic Centre in Suva, Fiji.

Villacrusis submitted 36.05 seconds in the qualifying heat in the 50m breaststroke to gain the last berth in the B Finals. He then lowered his time in the finals after posting 35.83 seconds. Fiji’s Taichi Vakasama (30.23 seconds) won the B Finals, while Guam’s Benjie Schulte (29.26 seconds) ruled the A Finals.

In the 50m freestyle, Villacrusis was the fastest among the three CNMI bets with his 27.36 seconds, while Suzuki and Welch also broke the 28-second barrier after recording 27.56 seconds and 27.62 seconds, respectively. The 13-year-old Suzuki eclipsed his previous PBT (28.11 seconds) logged on May 7, 2016 during the Northern Mariana Islands Swimming Federation Closing Swim Meet. Welch also set a new PBT, as his earlier best read at 28.02 seconds and was also made in the same local competition last month.

Besides the 50 freestyle, the three CNMI swimmers competed, too in the 200m individual medley during the final day of the Oceania tournament. This time, Suzuki beat his two teammates after clocking in at 2:34.54, while Villacrusis and Welch posted 240.11 and 2:40.82, respectively. New Zealand’s Wilrich Coetzee topped both the qualifying heat (2:06.03) and finals (2:05.51) of the 200m IM event.

In the 400m freestyle contest last Thursday, Suzuki registered 4:44.11 in the preliminaries to barge into the finals where he finished eighth after submitting 4:49.92. The Cook Islands’ Wesley Robert took the gold medal after timing in at 3:57.91.

Meanwhile, Victoria Chentsova also entered the finals of two of her last three events. She first booked an A finals ticket in the 200m backstroke last Thursday after completing the four-lap race in 2:43.92. In the finale, she was just two notches away from getting a medal after placing fifth and posting 2:45.33. New Zealand’s Annabelle Paterson claimed the gold medal after clocking in at 2:16.68.

In the 800m freestyle, Chentsova’s preliminary time of 9.50.78 mover her into the A finals where she finished seventh and ahead of four other swimmers after recording 9:58.34. New Zealand’s Monique King won the gold after completing the event in 8:53.54.

For her final race—the 50m freestyle swim—Chentsova timed in at 30.17 to beat swimmers from Papua New Guinea, the Marshall Islands, Palau, and the Federated States of Micronesia. New Zealand’s Gabrielle Fa’amausili was awarded the gold medal in the sprint event after registering 25.60 seconds in the finals.

The Kiwis went on to top the medal tally in the four-day competition with its 51 medals—23 golds, 16 silvers, and 12 bronzes. Australia finished second with its 16-18-9 tally, followed by the Cook Islands (2-0-0), Guam (1-1-0), PNG (0-3-3-), Fiji (0-2-5), Samoa (0-2-1), Hawaii (0-1-5), and New Caledonia (0-1-5).

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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