Spectators who braved the evening rains were in for a treat at the much-anticipated 2nd Micronesia Athletics Championships took center stage at a busy Oleai Sports Complex.
It was a historic moment for the Northern Marianas and its athletics program as athletes were able to showcase their skills away from the searing sun as lights installed by the Commonwealth Utilities Corp. crewmen lit up the area for the first-ever track and field event held at night in the NMI.
Officials finally got a big sigh of relief after Mother Nature's heavy rain that drenched the island throughout the day ceased, giving enough time for the state-of-the-art track and field facility to dry up in time for the opening ceremony.
All attention was on the athletes and coaches from the NMI, Guam, Palau, Marshall Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Kiribati, and Nauru as they paraded on the oval of the state-of-the-art track facility.
Making their entrance as they led the elite pack of athletes was the Palau delegation, as flag- bearer Donovan Helvey, who competes in the jump events, proudly waved his country's flag to the applause of the crowd.
Following Palau was flag bearer Evangelyn Ikelap and her FSM delegation, while Guam distance runner Leana Peters headed her delegation's entrance.
The two-athlete Nauru delegation were next to march in front of the crowd, followed by thrower Tunia Kaotirak and his Kiribati delegation, and the Marshall Islands with sprinter Rolando Ceasar serving as flag bearer.
Then came the largest delegation as the NMI team, led by Micronesian Games discus record holder Dolores Rangamar marched onto the rubber surface and marched in front of a cheering home crowd.
The Marianas High School JROTC Color Guard was also in the spotlight, marching into the venue with the U.S. and CNMI flags. All was then silent for the anthems of the U.S. and the CNMI sang by students of Saipan Southern High School.
Shortly after, Northern Marianas Athletics vice president Louie Wabol took the podium and welcomed the stars of the region.
"Thank you, you brought the rain," the vice president jokingly told the delegations. "We didn't have rain until you came."
Saipan Mayor Juan B. Tudela also recognized the significance of events such as the MAC, citing the friendships that the formed by from each delegation to another.
"This evening, we kick off another championship game that I'm sure will also be remembered as another great event," he said in comparison to the two other regional events featuring athletics held on Saipan--the inaugural Micronesian Games in 1968 and the 2nd Micronesian Games in 1990. "I am confident that this year's competition will prove to be exciting."
Oceania Athletics Association president Ann Tierney then took the stage, explaining one of the purposes of holding the event.
"These Championships are part of the development programs in Micronesia," she said. "There are 19 members, and seven are here today. For some of you, this might be your first time representing your country...if not, then its getting better. It gets harder and harder."
CNMI head coach Bobby Winkfield then led all in prayer, and Rep. Ray A. Tebuteb closed out the ceremony with words that drew applause from all in attendance.
"Let the best runner and athlete win, and let's begin the games," he said.
Several athletes had already begun showcasing their skills as the women's high jump, men's triple jump, and women's hammer throw were scheduled to begin at 5pm. The events were pushed back a little due to rain. The first two legs of the men's octathlon followed before action was halted for the opening ceremony.