Villacrusis, Zhang rule U18 X-Country

Ella Zhang of Agape Christian School sprints toward the finish line to win the girls U18 division of last Saturday’s NMA All Schools Cross Country Finals held at the Saipan Country Club. (Jon Perez)

Christian Villacrusis and Ella Zhang survived the strong challenge from their opponents to top the boys and girls U18 age group competitions in the 2017 All Schools Cross Country Finals held last Saturday at the Saipan Country Club.

Villacrusis, after the start, just stayed behind a phalanx of runners from Agape Christian School and slowly made his way past them as they went deeper in the first mile of the two-lap course. The Mt. Carmel School student then little by little established some distance from the rest of the pack and was the first runner to make the turn heading into the final lap with three ACS runners right behind him.

From there, Villacrusis paced himself and made one final sprint to the finish in completing the race in 17:22 and beating ACS’ Kobe Wang for the boys U18 gold. Wang led ACS’ strong effort, coming in at close second at 17:25 and was followed by teammates Jonathan Xiong (18:11) and Peter Wang (18:21).

Saipan International School’s Jae Hyuk Jung and Clayton Izuka completed the Top 6 in the U18 boys with times of 18:40 and 18:48, respectively.

While Villacrusis led from start to finish, it was a different story for Zhang in the girls U18 division as she fell behind SIS’ Tania Tan early in the race and was still in second as they headed to the final lap.

Starting slow seemed to be Zhang’s tactic as she just paced herself and showed she had enough gas in her tank. Zhang went in full sprint going into the final 500 meters to finish ahead of Tan with a time of 19:30. Tan reached the finish line after 12 seconds (19:42), while Tiffany Yang, another ACS female runner, came in at third with a time of 23:09.

Three more ACS runners completed the Top 6 in the girls U18 race: Tian Bo Zhang (23:45), Amelia Yu (25:08), and Kyra Kim (27:46).

In the U15 age group, SIS’ Kaden Church and Marianas High School’s Therize Millare were the top finishers with times of 19:10 and 19:38, respectively, and were followed by ACS’ Paul Cao (19:18) and Stella McCallio of SIS (21:21). ACS teammates Arthur Liang (19:24) and Hansen Li (19:39), MHS’ Ken Song, and Bobby Bae of ACS (20:03) completed the U15 boys finishers. SIS teammates Violet Allen (22:52) and Malika Miyawaki (23:40), ACS’ Vivian Wu (23:15), and Victoria Torres of SIS (25:05) finished third to sixth places in the girls division.

Multisport athlete Rintaro Miyawaki gave SIS a first place finish in the boys U13 division. He had the fastest time of 18:25 to beat Eric Chen by almost two minutes as the ACS runner crossed the finish line in 20:20 and was followed by Miyawaki’s teammate, Dylan Mister (20:58). Three ACS runners placed fourth to sixth: Steve Qiue (21:35), Samuel He (22:02), and Martin Song (23:10).

Jenny Lin led an almost ACS sweep in the girls U13 as she came in at the 24.34 mark and was followed by teammate Faith Zou (24:40) and Grace Christian Academy’s Soleil Lamar (25:00). Elizabeth Xu (25:17) and Tina Zheng (28:21) of ACS and Saipan Community School’s Chloe Seo (29:13) finished in the Top 6.

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Jon Perez | Reporter
Jon Perez has been covering local and international sports events for more than 15 years. His sports writing career started when he joined the weekly DAWN, University of the East’s student newspaper, when he was in college.

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