Track stars topped Northern Marianas Sports Association’s yearly honor roll.
Since NMSA started recognizing athletes in 1980, Northern Marianas Athletics standouts have combined for 29 Male and Female Athletes and Student Athletes of the Year awards to lead swimming, which has earned 24. Zarinae Sapong and Tania Tan are the latest track stars to be acknowledged by NMSA during last week’s 2018 NMSA/Tan Annual Sports Banquet at the Hibiscus Hall of the Fiesta Resort & Spa Saipan with the former bagging her third straight Female Athlete of the Year award and the latter notching her first Female Student Athlete of the Year plum.
“Athletics’ success through the years is attributed to commitment—commitment from the athletes and their parents and families, coaches, and the supporters of our program, such as the different schools in the CNMI and the private companies here,” NMA president Ramon Tebuteb said.
“Our athletes always give their best effort in training and competition, while our coaches play a critical role in developing these talents. Plus, we have our supporters/sponsors who tirelessly work with us in running our program. These are the key pieces to our success,” he added.
Sprinter Jacque Wonenberg led NMA’s dominance in the NMSA yearly banquet after collecting five Female Student Athlete of the Year awards—the most (student) in CNMI history and she did it in consecutive years. The Marianas High School graduate’s reign in the contest for students started in 2005 where NMA had a sweep with Darrel Roligat getting the Male Student Athlete of the Year award. Then in 2009, Wonenberg got her last top athlete award and NMA again had a sweep with fellow runner Matthew Mancao bagging the Male Student Athlete of the Year trophy.
Also in 2009, the Female Athlete of the Year plum went to an NMA bet—Yvonne Bennett—and the sprinter went on to earn a 3-peat in that category.
Lia Rangamar (2012) and Rachel Abrams (2014) picked up where Bennett left off, while Sapong duplicated the latter’s feat with her triumphs in 2016, 2017, and 2018. Rangamar and Abrams also won in the student category in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Other NMA athletes who made it to the honor roll were Isidro Tebuteb (first awardee from track/1996), Ketson “Jack” Kabiriel (2002), Julie Tokyo (2003), Bo Wang (2004/the first time NMSA recognized students), Tyrone Omar (2006 and 2007), Noriko Jim (2006), Gabriele Race (2014), and Donavin Ada (2015).
From 2002 to 2018, athletics missed making it to the NMA awards banquet only once—in 2013—where the top athletes were from four different sports. Cycling’s Russ Quinn and golf’s Leina Kim won the Male and Female Athlete of the Year awards, while swimming’s Kensuke Kimura and tennis’ Carol Lee were named Male and Female Student Athletes of the Year.
Athletics also took the most Coach of the Year recognition (five) since NMSA started giving the award in 2004. Elias Rangamar was the first recipient of the award and got three more with his fourth handed out in last week’s event. Rangamar’s two other Coach of the Year trophies were won in 2008 and 2009, while Robin Sapong had the same award in 2006.