ATHLETES OF THE YEAR HAILED
One repeat winner and three new ones took the top athletes awards in last night's 2011 NMASA Annual Sports Banquet held at the Seaside Hall of Saipan Grand Hotel.
Athletics' Yvonne Bennett was named 2011 Female Athlete of the Year, claiming her fourth straight award. The 21-year-old runner is now based in Idaho, studying at Boise State University, and was represented at the awards ceremony by her parents, Ambrose and Lilian Bennett.
Bennett got NMASA's nod anew after her record-breaking races in 2011 and gold medal win in the 2011 Oceania Regional Championships in Apia Samoa in July. The Commonwealth sprinter won the 400m race (57.66 seconds) in the Oceania meet and took the bronze and set both the CNMI and Micronesian records in the 100m (12.52 seconds) and 200m (25.67 seconds) runs.
Then at BSU, she was part of the Broncos' 4x400m women's relay team that crushed the school's 23-year-old record. Bennett and three others completed the 4x400m relay race in three minutes, 44.64 seconds to surpass the 3:45.60 record by a BSU team in an indoor tournament in 1988.
The Kagman High School graduate also set a new CNMI mark (57.14 seconds) in the 400m during the 2011 Western Athletic Conference Outdoor Track and Field Championships and was one notch away from advancing to the second round of the 2011 IAAF World Championships in Daegu, Korea. Bennett timed in at 12.78 seconds in the 100m preliminary run to place fifth in her heat.
Joining Bennett on the elite list for 2011 were baseball's Joshua Jones, tennis' Rafael Jones, and fellow sprinter Rachel Abrams.
Joshua Jones clinched his first Male Athlete of the Year award, earning the coveted plum for leading the CNMI to a gold medal win against Guam in the 2011 Pacific Games in New Caledonia.
The lefty pitched for the CNMI and did a superb job on the mound, lifting the Commonwealth to an 8-4 victory against Guam in the finals. Joshua took the mound in the third inning and stayed there until the last and got his vengeance when he gave up only two runs, one each in the third and sixth innings.
Jones' final statistics at the Games were a 5-0 win-loss record, 30.2 innings pitched, and 42 strikeouts. He allowed only one earned run in the entire tournament.
Abrams also represented the CNMI at the 2011 Pacific Games, and made history for CNMI athletics. She timed in at 27.46 seconds in the qualifying heat in the 200m run, finished second, and claimed a finals slot. Abrams was the first CNMI female sprinter to advance to the finals of a race in the Pacific Games.
Three months before going to New Caledonia, Abrams was in Palau and helped the CNMI U15 team win the silver medal in the 2011 Micronesian Basketball Tournament.
Her impressive performance in 2011 earned Abrams the Tan Siu Lin Foundation/NMASA Female Student Athlete of the Year honors, sharing the award with Rafael Jones.
Rafael Jones ruled the boys U18 division of the 2011 North Pacific Qualifying Tournament in Guam, competed in a couple of Junior ITF events in Fiji, and finished in the Top 4 in the 2011 Pacific Oceania Junior Championships, also played in Fiji. With his strong showing in U18 tournaments, Jones also competed in adult events and held his ground against much more experienced foes.
All four top athletes received trophies and a life-sized cutout of themselves, courtesy of the TSL Foundation. Abrams and Rafael Jones also took home prize packages from the foundation.
Meanwhile, Vicente Saures was inducted to the CNMI Hall of Fame for his outstanding contribution to volleyball from the 1960s to 1980s. He was supposed to attend the ceremony, but a flight delay prevented him from doing so. Vicente's brother, Joe, accepted the award on the former's behalf.
CNMI Sports Hall of Famer Tony Rogolifoi was named Coach of the year for his leadership of the gold-medal-winning baseball team at the Pacific Games. Baseball's Rose Igitol was selected as Administrator of the year. And in what came as no surprise at all, the CNMI Men's Baseball team was chosen as Team of the Year.
Sports officials, athletes and their families, and NMASA supporters attended the awards ceremony with NMASA president Michael A. White leading the presentation of awardees.