Athlete Profile: Isila Apkup PNG
Article By Bob Snow
Isila was born 15th August 1998 at Ambunti Health Centre and raised in Waskuk Village, in the Ambunti District of the East Sepik Province.
Her early endeavours in Athletics came when she was a student at Ambunti High School. She later moved to the “big smoke” of Wewak (the provincial capital) and attended Brandi High School.
Her school performances led to her being selected to be part of the East Sepik Team to the 2014 PNG Games, to be held in Lae, Morobe Province. She competed in the 400m event, winning her heat and semi-final and then place 3rd in the final behind two well credentialed athletes who had already represented their country. She was also part of the East Sepik 4 x 100m team that had come 4th and the 5th placed 4 x 400m team.
Athletics PNG took notice of her performances, and Isila was now on the radar for future team selection.
In 2015 Isila competed at the PNG Nationals in Lae for the first time. She won the U18 400m (64.66) and came second in an invitational 400m event (64.11).
In the 2016 Nationals she came 3rd in the U18 200m (28.10). In the 2017 Nationals in Goroka she came 5th in the Senior Women’s 400m (64.32).
It was in the 2018 Nationals in Port Moresby that Isila finally lived up to her early potential with a good 200m time of 26.71 and two good times in the 400m with wins in the heat (59.84) and the final (58.47). In the same year she was part of a small PNG Team to the Melanesian Championships held in Port Vila, Vanuatu. There she came 5th in the 200m (26.63) and 4th in the 400m (64.05).
In the 2019 Oceania Championships in Townsville Isila clocked a good time of 26.16 in her heat of the 200m and was a member of the bronze medal winning 4 x 400m Relay Team.
During 2019 Isila was part of the PNG Team to the World Relay Championships in Yokohama, Japan and competed in the PNG 4 x 200m and 4 x 400m Relay Teams. On the way back home, the team competed in Bangkok, with Isila being a member of the 4 x 400m relay team.
Later in 2019 she was part of the PNG Team to the Apia Pacific Games where she ran 25.44 seconds in the heats of the 200m and came 5th in the final in the time of 25.45. Isila was part of the gold medal winning 4 x 400m Team with the time of 3:44.86 – the 5th fastest time ever by a PNG Team.
Isila was now ready for the next stage in her career – the USA – where she became the first member of her extended family to undertake tertiary studies.
With three other PNG athletes, Isila joined the Track and Field Team at Cloud County Community College in the US state of Kansas.
Isila is extremely lucky in her position in Cloud County CC, as she has so many other PNG athletes helping her and each other to cope with the new culture, expectations of the coaches, the change in climate (especially during the bitterly cold winters) and to keep homesickness at bay. Joining Isila are Leonie Beu, Emmanuel Wanga, Ephraim Lerkin, Shadrick Tansi, Jonathan Dende, Alphonse Igish & Francis Wailoni. The college has also had visits from Leroy Kamau and Emmanuel Anis. In addition, coach Nelson Stone travelled to Kansas to help all of the athletes continue their good work during the Northern Hemisphere summer break and be ready for action in Saipan – and Birmingham.
By early 2021 she was well into action for her new college and since then Isila has risen to new levels of performance.
Her personal best performances in early June 2022 were –
100m 12.06 Texas in May 2021
100m 11.66 windy Kansas in May 2022
200m 24.87 Kansas in March 2021
200m 24.01 windy Kansas in April 2022
400m 56.11 Kansas in April 2021
Isila, along with the others at Cloud County and other colleges in the USA, was now ready for her second Pacific Games in Saipan. She had come a long way from Waskuk Village in the Ambunti District of East Sepik Province, overcoming all of the difficulties en-route and rising to the challenge.=
In the Mini Games in Saipan, Isila competed in five events. Despite coming at the end of a very long US season that started with indoor competition at the beginning of the year, she was able to record some exceptionally fast times.
In the 100m Isila won her 100m heat in 12.01 seconds and finished 2nd in the final (12.07) behind Toea Wisil. In the 200m, Isila came 3rd with a personal best time of 24.49 seconds. She also won the bronze in the 400m final where she recorded the time of 57.55 seconds.
The 4 x 100m Relay was a triumph for PNG, with their winning time of 45.85 seconds being a new national record. Isila teamed with Adrine Monagi, Toea Wisil and Leonie Beu.
The 4 x 400m was a huge win for the PNG Team (3:52.76), with a 13 second win over the New Caledonians who won the silver medal. Here isila teamed with Leonie Beu, Toea Wisil and Edna Boafob to take home the gold.
After an extremely long season, Isila now had to re-set her mind and body for the Commonwealth Games in Birmingham.
In Birmingham Isila competed in the 200m recording a windy time of 24.97 in her heat. In the 4 x 100m Relay, the team of Adrine Monagi, Toea Wisil, isila & Leonie Beu improved on the national record that they had created in Saipan, when they crossed the line in the time of 45.38 seconds.
Following on from the Commonwealth Games, Isila, and the rest of the US-based athletes, returned to their colleges in the USA, to resume studies, and plan for the very important 2023 season, which will reach a peak with the Pacific Games in Honiara in November.
Isila is studying Secondary Education at Cloud County Community College and is in her final semester at the college. In the next semester she will be transferring to a university to continue her studies and athletics’ career. We wish her all of the best in her continued stay in the USA and achieving good sporting and educational outcomes that will benefit her and her country.
We look forward to seeing her in the important 2023 Athletics’ meets.