BENNETT, WONG CHOSEN AS ATHLETES OF THE YEAR
Reporter, Saipan Tribune
Micronesia's fastest woman Yvonne Bennett and bemedaled swimmer Rezne Wong had been out of the local sports scene for quite some time, but their outstanding performances last year were never forgotten as the Northern Marianas Amateur Sports Association (NMASA) named them the 2010 CNMI Female and Male Athletes of the Year.
Bennett, who has been off-island for more than half a year now, studying at Boise State University, was given the coveted plum during last night's 2010 NMASA Annual Sports Banquet at the Saipan Grand Hotel. Her father, Ambrose, was present to receive the sprinter's award.
“I can't wait to tell Yvonne she won the award again. She was very excited to hear who will the winners be and somehow, she was hoping she would take this award,” the older Bennett said.
It was Bennett's third straight time to win the prestigious individual plum. The 20-year-old runner got NMASA's nod anew after her impressive performance in the 7th Micronesian Games in Palau last year. Bennett won the 100m and 200m runs in record-breaking fashion and led the CNMI to gold medal finishes in the 4x100m and 4x400m relay races.
Wong, who is currently in Hawaii swimming for NCAA Division I school University of Hawaii-Manoa, also did a superb job in last year's Micronesian Games, earning him the 2010 NMASA Male Athlete of the Year award.
He claimed 12 gold medals and one silver in Palau, and was named Most Outstanding Male Athlete of the Micronesian Games. Wong's father Eli, received the wooden latte stone trophy on behalf of his son.
The CNMI also recognized the top student-athletes for 2010. This year, the award was named 2010 Tan Siu Lin Foundation/NMASA Male and Female Student Athletes of the Year with tennis' Christian Miller and Li'amwar Rangamar winning the honors.
Miller was chosen for his strong showing in on- and off-island tournaments. The Saipan Southern High School student won the Coconut Classic and Tan Holdings Tennis Classic, topped the U14 age group of the North Pacific Qualifying Tournament in Guam, and made it to the semifinals of the 2010 Pacific Oceania Junior Championships in Fiji.
Rangamar, a senior at Marianas High School, was a familiar figure in both track and field events and basketball competitions here and outside the CNMI. She played for the MHS Dolphins who won the MISO caging, helped the CNMI team take a silver medal in the 7th Micronesian Games, and was part of the Commonwealth's relay squad that claimed gold medals in the 4x100m and 4x400m runs. Rangamar also competed in Australia and set a new CNMI national record in the javelin throw.
Both Rangamar and Miller were in awe when their names were called, as life-sized cutouts of their pictures were unveiled during the awards presentation.
“I am speechless and honored to get this award and be the first recipient of the TSL/NMASA trophy. I especially love the prizes that go with it,” said Rangamar, who also received gift certificates, sports clothing, a medal, and an iPod.
Miller was also elated with the recognition, saying this inspires him to play better this year.
Coach of the Year
Three decades after winning the first NMASA Male Athlete of the Year award, and seven years after making it to the CNMI Hall of Fame, Tony Rogolifoi was back on stage to receive another trophy.
Rogolifoi was handed the 2010 Coach of the Year award for steering the CNMI Baseball Team to a silver-medal finish in the 7th Micronesian Games in Palau. He was also cited for his contributions to Little League and Saipan Major League.
The CNMI Hall of Fame member brought 11 players to Guam to attend the Baseball Confederation of Oceania Academy and helped train the region's youth sluggers. He also conducted similar training sessions on Saipan.
In the SML, Rogolifoi managed the Miller Lite Brewers and powered them to a finals stint against the Fielders. He was also the president of Saipan Little League Baseball last season.
Rogolifoi was with his family when he received the 2010 Coach of the Year award and thanked them for standing by with him, while he spent countless hours in promoting baseball and basketball.
Hall of Famer
The CNMI Hall of Fame admitted another member last night with the induction of Tino Olopai to the elite class.
Olopai made it to the CNMI Hall of Fame for his outstanding showings in basketball, volleyball, softball, and baseball in the 1960s and 1970s.
The newest member of the Hall was known for helping the Breakers build a more than 60-game winning streak in the island-wide volleyball league on Saipan in the 1960s, for earning a slot on the CNMI basketball team that competed in the 1969 Micronesian Olympics, and for playing Portland Community College's fast-pitch softball team.
Olopai was present to receive his award and came at the banquet with wife, Jean, and a grandson.
“I was surprised to receive this award. I thought it was just a gathering with my old teammates [fellow Hall of Famers Kurt Barnes and Ric Duenas]. I am thankful to NMASA for this honor,” Olopai said.