The CNMI athletics team competing in the 2016 Micronesian Athletics Championships in Pohnpei has a mix of youth and veteran athletes.
Graduating high school student Zarinae Sapong leads the CNMI’s young guns and will be joined in the regional championships by fellow student-athletes Conatsu Kaga, Jerald Castillo, Leowell Cristobal, Shankweiler Pinyarat, Bernadette Horey, and Chloe Salvosa. Completing the squad are veterans Ben Jones Jr. Nick Gross, Sylvan Rangamar, Daniel Joab, and Beo Ngrichongor and team officials Ronald Olopai (coach) and Reylynn Sapong. The group is scheduled to leave early this morning for Pohnpei, which will host the competition from June 2 to 4.
The student-athletes, except from Zarinae, will be competing in the youth division. Zarinae is entered in the open category along with the veteran members of the team.
The Marianas High School student will race in the 100m and 200m runs and will join fellow Dolphins Pinyarat, Horey, and Salvosa in the 4x100m and 4x400m relays. Salvosa will also participate in the youth division’s 100m, 200m, long jump, and javelin, while Horey will do the 100m and 200m, and long jump, too, along with the 400m run. Pinyarat will compete only in running events—100m, 200m, and 400m.
Kaga, the younger member of the team at 13, will take on longer distance courses—800m, 1,500m, and 3,000m.
The two other student-athletes—Castillo and Cristobal—will be the CNMI’s bets in the 100m, 200m, relays, and long jump, and 400m, 800m, 1,500m, respectively. Cristobal is also doing the youth division’s long jump contest.
Ngrichongor will race in the 200m, 400m, and relay runs, and the 400m hurdles, while Joab and Rangamar are entered in shutput and discus. Gross will join Joab and Rangamar in the two throwing events and will add javelin to his list. Jones will participate in the javelin throw, too, to go with his bid in the 100m and 200m runs.
The members of the team have limited preparations at the track, as the Oleai Sports Complex track and field facility has yet to undergo resurfacing. However, Northern Marianas Athletics official Elias Rangamar said the athletes did the best they could under the tough training condition and he is confident the squad will produce good results in Pohnpei.
“The team’s training was not ideal, with the conditions of the field and its availability but as usual we just have to adapt to the conditions. As far as the team’s preparation, it’s been tough as well, with most of our coaches and participants being part of the Public School System, we had to juggle our training schedule because of extra-curricular activities (i.e. test, graduation practices etc.) happening as they near the end of school year,” Rangamar said.
“But, we have some proven veteran athletes that will do well in their favored events. At the same, we have middle and high school student athletes that will participating in their first ever off-island competition. They all were medalists during the PSS / McDonald’s All Schools tournament earlier this month. I really can’t predict how well we’ll perform as we don’t know our competitors as no listings or results from our Micronesian neighbors have been published to gauge our competition. But I am confident though that they’ll do well, with the time they’ve put into practice,” the NMA official added.
The CNMI athletes will be up against host Pohnpei, Chuuk, Yap, and Kosrae, Guam, the Marshall Islands, Nauru, and Palau.
After the competition in Pohnpei and once the track resurfacing is done, NMA is hoping to hone the skills of the young athletes competing in MAC and discover new talents.
“Our program is at a crossroads right now, as a lot of our seasoned athletes have moved on to school, military, and family life. With the resurfacing of the track facility at the Oleai sports complex, we hope to start a new group of athletes to regain the winning culture we’ve been accustomed too through the years,” Rangamar said.