Athletes of the Northern Mariana Islands hauled in a total of 12 medals and were in contention for four more in the opening night of the 2nd Micronesia Athletics Championships Wednesday at the Oleai Sports Complex.
Making his presence felt and bagging the NMI's first gold medal of the Championships was veteran thrower Nick Gross, who dominated the javelin event after his best throw landed more than 10 meters farther than his closest competitor. The former collegiate athlete stunned the hometown crowd when he threw for a distance of 56.26 meters.
Palau's one-two punch of Dallas Oketol and playing-coach Sngebard Delong rounded up the medalists in the event with throws of 45.63 and 45.36 meters.
Veteran distance runner Noriko Jim, meanwhile, paced herself well in the first four laps of her 5,000m race then took over and began stretching away from the competition to win gold in a sterling time of 19:44.28. She was followed by Guam's Leana Peters and Nicole Layson, with Peters crossing the finish line in 21:06.18 and Layson in 21:24.71.
Meanwhile, fast and furious Tyrone Omar exceeded expectations and took home the silver medal in a thrilling photo finish in the men's 100m sprint. After getting off to a slow start, Omar worked his way into contention and crossed the finish line in 11.21 seconds, only behind Jack Howard of the Federated States of Micronesia, who took gold in 11.18 seconds. Howard's presence was good news for the FSM delegation as coach Elias Rodriguez was not certain if his star sprinter would arrive on time for the event.
The battle for bronze was tight as three athletes--Darrel Roligat of the NMI, Rikko Thoma of Nauru, and J.J. Capelle of Nauru--all finished with identical times of 11.50 seconds. The photo finish, however, showed that Thoma was barely ahead of the two.
Female standouts Jacque Wonenberg and Dena Ngirchongor also had their Kodak moments on the high jump--the first event of the Championships--as Wonenberg recorded a jump of 1.20 meters for silver and Ngirchongor 1.15 meters for bronze. The gold went to Palau's Felicia Saburo, who was in a league of her own as she topped the class with a jump of 1.35 meters.
Wonenberg bagged another medal as she and distance runner Bo Wang placed in the top three in the 800m event. Wang was so close to claiming gold as she and Peters of Guam engaged in a neck-and-neck battle to the finish, with Peters taking top honors in 2:31.59. Wang still had an impressive performance for silver in 2:31.88, while Wonenberg clocked in at 2:35.66 for bronze.
Multi-sport athlete Ketson "Jack" Kabiriel also netted a bronze medal in the men's 800m. Kabiriel finished in 2:12.76, while Guam's David Townsel and Tony Castro made it a one-two finish for their delegation with times of 2:10.02 and 2:12.34.
Micronesian Games discus record holder Dolores Rangamar continues to find success in her comeback campaign as she was in contention for gold before settling for the bronze in the women's discus with a throw of 29.16 meters. The winning throw came courtesy of Palau's Chandis Cooper, who broke her MAC record with a distance of 29.77 meters. Nauru's Tracey Duburiya grabbed silver with a throw of 29.51 meters.
Also having a successful comeback to the sport is Sidro Tebuteb, who won bronze in the men's hammer throw with a distance of 24.96 meters. The event was won by Justin Andre of Guam after her recorded a distance of 47.63 meters, while Tunia Kaotirake of Kiribati secured silver with a throw of 26.81 meters.
Jeff Saures also hauled in a shiny hardware for the NMI as his jump of 1.55 meters was good for bronze in the men's high jump. Donovan Helvey of Palau almost matched the MAC record he set in 2003 with a gold medal-winning jump of 1.81 meters, while Buraieta Yeeting of Kiribati took silver.
Koblerville Elementary School student Reylynn Sapong then teamed up with Omar, Wonenberg, and Roligat to win bronze in the medley relay. Sapong ran the first 100m, Omar followed in the second 100m, Wonenberg did the 200m leg, and Roligat anchored well in the 400m. The team was in fourth place when Roligat took the batton and began closing in. The crowd got to its feet as Roligat sped up in the final 100m to break into a medal finish.
Yoshi Suzuki also did well in the men's 5,000m event, placing fourth in a neck-and-neck finish. The event was topped by Guam's Toby Castro and Jay Antonia as the two broke away from the pack and stayed together to finish one and two in 18:16.61 and 18:17.26. FSM's Detwin Ichuro took bronze in 18:59.61, just ahead of Suzuki who clocked in at 18:59.71. Chang Wang Jang (19:08.42), Reggie Ayuyu (19:56.31), and Marcan Aldan (20:47.52) also did well for the NMI.
In other events, Taatia Dubiriya of Kiribati won gold in the women's hammer throw with a distance of 28.75 meters, while Tracey Duburiya of Nauru (17.70) and Aiko Imbat of Guam (15.53) bagged silver and bronze.
Also, Rabangaki Nawai of Kiribati held the lead in the men's octathlon with 2510 points, while Palau's Nicolas Mangham was in second with 2210 points. FSM's Kaitani Graham held second place after three events, however, did not compete in the fourth event and was scratched out.
Kiribati's Buraieta Yeeting also had success in the men's triple jump and won gold with 13.35 meters, while Guam's Rafaelito Deausen and Jon Paulino took silver and bronze with distances of 11.82 and 11.02 meters.