After three months of logging miles, Guam’s elite long-distance high school runners finished the season at the 2019 Independent Interscholastic Athletic Association of Guam All-Island Cross-Country Meet.
On Thursday, at John F. Kennedy High School, the Saint Paul Christian School Warriors boys cross-country team, for the second consecutive year, claimed the championship.
Despite not having an individual runner place in the top nine, the consistent Saint Paul garnered enough points for the repeat gold medal performance.
The Warriors, with 79 points, edged the Okkodo High School Bulldogs. The Bulldogs, with 82 points, placed second. Rounding out the podium, the Guam High School Panthers, with 99 points, placed third.
The Warriors, under the leadership of coach Sherwin Paet, had five runners finish in the top 25.
Saint Paul, who finished undefeated during the regular season, had huge performances from Owen Tretasco (10th place), Yamazaki (13th place), Jacob Miranda (14th place), Keith Nauta (18th place), and Masato Tsujii (24th place).
“There was a lot of pressure on us going into the race,” said Saint Paul sophomore Kanta Yamazaki. “Despite having all that pressure, we still did our best, and I’m proud of our team.”
JFK girls win gold
In the girls competition, with 53 points, the JFK Islanders secured the top spot. The Panthers, with 59 points, placed second. The Saint John’s School Knights, nabbing the bronze medal, finished third.
Knights' Baden is best
In the girls’ individual competition, four freshmen bested the field.
The Saint John’s School Knights’ Jordan Baden, in 21 minutes, 15.8 seconds, climbed to the top of the podium. Guam High’s Hannah Zura, on her heels, in 21:21.6, placed second. JFK’s Trixia Nierva, in 21:31.8, claimed the bronze medal. The Panthers’ Molly Lang, in 22:05.2, finished fourth.
Baden, Zura, and Nierva, over 2-1/2 miles, led the pack, drawing the spectators’ attention.
With 1,000 meters to the finish line, Baden and Zura broke away. Baden, with the crowd cheering loudly, in the final 200 meters, made her final kick.
“They definitely pushed me to be in that position, and at the end, I knew I had to let it all out …,” Baden said. “Coach Desmond (Mandell III) is really amazing, and he pushed me throughout the season."
“He told me today to give it my all, and he knew I could do it,” she recalled.
“I'm really proud of Jordan, and I knew one of (us) had to lose,” Zura said. "And, sadly, it was me. But, I’m still proud of her.”
Before the race, heavy rain created slippery conditions, especially on the last hill, and final turn onto the oval.
“Going up the last hill before making the turn to go onto the track, I sped up, and she (Baden) did as well,” Zura said. “We were side by side and, at the last turn, ... (I) slipped, and that was the mistake I made.”
“I’ve raced against Hannah before, in seventh grade, and she improved so much,” Baden said. “She has gotten much faster than before, and she is amazing.”
GW's Terrance Johnson wins individual title
George Washington High School Geckos’ Terrance Johnson, undefeated throughout the season, continued his 5K dominance.
Johnson, in 16:35.7, was crowned boys champion.
“I just tried to do my best today,” said Johnson, who began his high school cross-country career running for the Tiyan High School Titans. “Anyone could have a good day, but I just ran my own race, and I’m thankful for my teammates this season for pushing me.”
GW’s Paul Mansfield, in 17:40.3, placed second.
Finishing in the top five, Southern High School freshman sensation Carlos Leon Guerrero, in 18:31.4, placed third. The Knights’ Marc Rajesh, in 18:42.0, secured fourth place. Okkodo’s Darren Tamondong, in 19:03.3, placed fifth.
“I'm grateful for Terrance, and he is extremely talented,” Mansfield said. “I started this season out of shape, and finished in the middle of the pack ... . As the season progressed, I started improving and consistently finished second.”