Surprise winners in 5K of airport trail run

Posted on Nov 24 2022


Now it can be told.

Contenders didn’t suddenly just drop out of the race like flies during the 5K run of the Inaugural Open & Masters Cross Country Championship last Nov. 12. 

They just got lost along the way to the finish line.

“It was a first time circumstance for us. No amount of planning will change a person to take a wrong turn. It happens even at elite races like the Boston Marathon. There is no prevention for human error. If I was there at the finish  I would’ve told them to run out again and finish the course. I didn’t find out till after the fact that  they thought they ran the actual course. There was confusion but we learned from this. I’m glad people got lost on this course because now I know we need more procedures in place. We will be disclosing from all our races from now on what to do in this circumstance. Either go back out and finish the prescribed course or take the DQ for not completing,” said Run Saipan president Edward Dela Cruz Jr.

For the record, the 5K portion of the Saipan International Airport Trail Run 2022 was won by Jericho Tobias and Anastasia Dela Cruz.

Tobias topped the men in a time of 51:21. He was followed by Ricky John Santiago and Arnel Pagarao in 52:41 and 56:44, respectively. 

Dela Cruz, meanwhile, was the first woman to cross the finish line—along with baby Sasha in a stroller—in 53:44. Ronalyn Mangali and Minerva Faith Hernando came next with times of 59:19 and 1:02.3, respectively.

Both men’s and women’s 5K winners were understandably shocked upon learning they won the race.

“Surprised is the word I would use. I definitely didn’t expect it, but it was a great experience. I’ll definitely be joining more events like this through Run Saipan with the intent to enjoy more of the walking, running and jogging experiences they put together,” said Tobias, a 29-year-old staff member under the Public School System’s Mental Health Program. 

“I didn’t even think of winning or losing, I was just testing the waters cause it was my first run after so long. I wanted to check how my son would take it so early in the morning and how I would be feeling running,” said Dela Cruz, Triple J Motors Finance and Insurance manager.  

On others making a mistake on the run route, “When I saw who was going up the hill on the actual route I had an idea that all the others just came back and didn’t run the course. There were only two men in front of me. But I couldn’t be too sure because the boys from Agape [Christian School] are very fast, they might have been back by the time I made it to the hill,” she said.

In the end, the airport trail run proved that cross country races are really tough. 

“It’s not like standard road races where we make it as easy as possible for the participants. The fact that people got lost speaks of how tough our new course is. The results of the 5K finishers should speak for itself. That’s what happened out there. People get lost and it happens. I give commendation to the runners who refused to give up at the finish line and ran back out to finish the challenge of completing the actual 5K course,” said Run Saipan’s Dela Cruz, who incidentally is the husband of the women’s 5K winner. 

The Run Saipan head also took time to thank the sponsors of the Inaugural Open & Masters Cross Country Championship. 

“We rarely do raffles and we were very selective on who to solicit from. We wanted companies from the airport to show support.  Thank you to Skydive Saipan, Micronesian Air Cargo, Star Marianas Air, Triple J, and Marianas Southern Airways for sponsoring raffle prizes this year. They really showed their support in health wellness and community first with their pledges. Thank you so much. Next year I hope United Airlines will join us in this event. It would be a dream come true for all the companies at the airport to throw in for the community.”

The winners of the raffle, meanwhile, were Daniel Li (SkyDive Saipan’s 14,000feet + video coverage package), Ricky Santiago (two roundtrip tickets from Star Marianas Air to Tinian), Tim Paul (roundtrip ticket of his choice from Marianas Southern Airways to Tinian, Guam, or Rota), Leilani Ruszala ($50 off shipping from Marianas Air Cargo), Arnel Pagarao, Chong Nam Lee, Manny Sitchon, Rommel Bartolo, and Leo Wania ($10 gift certificates to Great Harvest) Dr. Ron Snyder and Terra Allen ($25 gift certificates to Surf Club), and about 50 people received 25% off shipping giveaways from Micronesian Air Cargo. 

Mark Rabago | Associate Editor
Mark Rabago is the Associate Editor of Saipan Tribune. Contact him at

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