Written by Bob Snow, OAA and Athletics PNG Life Memeber
Early competition was to conduct the heats, where necessary, for the 400m and 800m metres events.
In the U18 Women’s 400m Serah Neuendorf, Western Province, (the daughter of Baobo Duaba-Neuendorf and Rosemary Nami) won easily in the time of 63.48 seconds. A good win on debut at the national level.
In the Women’s Open Division, the favourites cruised through to easy wins in their respective heats. Fifteen year-old Lenia Gilis (WNB) recorded a time of 59.95, and Edna Boafob (Lae City) was timed at 60.37 seconds. Others to make the final included Patricia Kuku (WNB – 63.07) and Priscilla John (NCD – 63.87 seconds).
Timothy Tuna (the son of Takale Tuna) was the fastest qualifier in the U18 400m heats with a time of 53.60 seconds.
The heats of the Open Men’s 400m produced no surprises with the favoured athletes delivering the goods. Fastest times were recorded by Leroy Kamau (NCD) 49.24, Daniel Baul (NCD) 49.24, Emmanuel Wanga (Lae) 49.76, Eldon Toti (NCD) 50.42 and Jonathan Dende (NSI) 50.72 seconds. Only the first in each of the three heats automatically qualified for the final, so the pressure was definitely on right from the beginning. Looking forward to the final on Saturday.
Albert Kauba (ENB) was the fastest qualifier in the Open Men’s 800m heats with a time of 2:03.09, from Jonathan Theo (NCD) 2:03.56 and George Yamak (Western Province) 2:05.32.
Day One concluded with two long distance races.
The first was the Women’s 5000m. It was expected to be a strong contest between Simbu’s Jemima Mondo and ENB’s Monica Kalua. As the race developed there was a very young mystery runner who was with the early leaders Monica and Mary Tenge. She looked to be full of running and had an effortless style. As the race entered the final stages, the mystery runner (later to be identified as 13-year old Christian Moiyang from Simbu) left the others in her wake as she cruised to an easy win in the time of 19:39.70 – for another excellent debut performance by a young athlete. Monica Kalua came second in 19:43.92 and Mary Tenge (ENB) finished in the bronze medal position (20:00.88) only 1/100th of a second ahead of 14-year old Jemima Mondo (20:00.89). PNG, once again, has been able to produce some very good, exceptionally young, female athletes. Now the challenge is to keep them in the sport for the important Island competitions in 2022 and beyond – not forgetting the World Cross Country Championship in Bathurst.
Athletics PNG has a very good scheme for developing distance runners, and it will be brought into action at the end of these championships. The runners will be based in Simbu province, and (presumably) East New Britain.
The final race of the day was the Men’s 10000m. This 25-lap race can be very boring, but the main protagonists – Siune Kagl (ENB) and James Kuadua (ENB) ensured that it would not be so this time. Add to their performances we had another very young young “mystery runner” who later we discovered was Dilu Goiye (Simbu).
Right from the beginning the pace was on and they were attempting to break the 33 minute barrier. In the 2019 Pacific Games in Apia, PNG had a clean sweep in this event with the gold going to Simbai Kaspar (33:34.90) with Siune claiming silver and James the bronze. In the current era a time of sub 33 minutes is very good.
(By the way, the PNG NR for this event is 31:21.4 by Tau John Tokwepota, set on a grass track in Lae in 1976. Tau John followed that up with another sub-32 minute time with 31:29.14 at the Los Angeles Olympics in 1984. Only John Kokinai has also been under 32 minutes.)
With the pace being relentless with laps varying between 75 and 80 seconds, Siune gradually pulled away from James and secured a good win in under the 33 minute barrier. His time was 32:56.95 and that for James was 33:12.93 – both times being much faster than they recorded in the Apia Pacific Games last year. Things are looking good for Men’s long distance racing in PNG.
The youngster, Dilu Goiye, recorded a creditable 34:02.04 for his debut on the national stage. Well done. His time would have easily won the 2019 Nationals in Kimbe where the winning time was over 35 minutes.
Now we get ready for the explosive 100m finals and the much anticipated 400m events.
With so little hurdles activity in PNG during the pandemic, the finals for the Men’s and Women’s 400m Hurdles were not expected to produce much interest. The main potential competitors, however, decided to concentrate on the flat sprint events. Only one entered the Women’s 400m Hurdles – Edna Boafob (Lae) and her time was 68.71 seconds. There were three in the Men’s event, which was won by Daniel Baul (NCD) in 55.30 from Joachim Lolok (NCD) with the time of 56.47 seconds. Expect a more serious approach to this event in 2021 once we start to get good times from Ephraim Lerkin in the USA, and the “contest across the Pacific Ocean” warms up. Daniel, Ephraim and others have Mowen Boino’s NR of 50.37 seconds in their sights.
The Final of the Men’s 1500m was early in morning to enable those athletes who wished to enter the 3000m Steeplechase to compete in both events. The Steeple was held in the late afternoon.
The 1500m saw a good win by Simbu’s Abel Siune. I first saw Abel in 2012 at the PNG Games held in Kokopo. As a 12-year-old he finished in third place in the 10000m in a very good time. Abel has been on the PNG Athletics scene every since. It is gratifying to see him, 8 years older, still in the sport, and at the “advanced age” of 20 win a National Championship event. His 1500m time was 4:09.67 to narrowly edge out Andipas Georasi (WNB) who recorded 4:09.71 seconds. Third was Turalom Aquila (WNB) – 4:10.20 narrowly from George Yamak (Daru) – 4:10.81. A highly competitive race with several long distance runners coming down in distance to try their luck – and improve their speed.
Later in the day the other 1500m events were held. In the U16 Women’s event the winner of the 10000m yesterday, Christian Moiyang (Simbu) 5:32.83 was a narrow winner from Dominica Kakapa (WNB) in 5:33.12.
The Open Women’s 1500m was won comfortably by Lyanne Tibu (NSI) in 5:00.75 from Monica Kalua (ENB) with a time of 5:10.30. Lyanne won the bronze medal in Apia last year in the time of 4:52.04.
You could see from the live streaming that there was a very strong headwind that had to have affected the 100m times. It was decided some time ago that if that were to be the case then the 100m finals’ races would be reversed. The result was much faster times, but with significant tail winds.
The morning heats were held running into the wind, and the times were not fantastic. However, the top athletes only needed to qualify for the finals. The real action would come later in the day – with tailwinds.
Toea Wisil (NSI) won her 100m Final by a huge margin, in the time of 11.70 (+3.0). I imagine that Toea would be disappointed with her time, but as she has not competed for quite a while, it was a good step on the road to much faster races. Adrine Monagi (Popondetta) was next in 12.46, Monica Korowi (NCD) 12.82 then came Cellian Taubuso (NCD) 12.93 and Irene Duai (NCD) 13.01 seconds.
The U16 Women’s 100m final was won by Daniella Paubali (NCD) in 12.99 (+2.8) from Vivian Tutuai (ENB) 13.14, Lenia Gilis (WNB) 13.17 and Jonnica Manau (ENB) 13.38 seconds.
Danlyne Siliven (WNB) won the U18 Women’s 100m Final in 12.97 (+3.4) from Serah Neuendorf (Daru) 13.05 and Salome Yaling (GSS) 13.13 seconds.
The U18 Men’s 100m Final was fiercely competitive, with Graham Bai (WNB) 11.05 seconds narrowly edging out Chubby Solomon (NCD) 11,07 and Timothy Tuna (NCD) 11.09 seconds. Timothy is the son of one of PNG’s most successful athletes, Takale Tuna, who was doing live commentary during the race.
In the Open Men’s 100m Final Leroy Kamau (NCD) was a convincing winner, but it could have gone very wrong at the end. Not used to running from the south to the north he mistook the finishing line and slowed down many metres before the real finish of the race. He still ran a fast time of 10.57 (+3.5). He started his celebration with approximate 12 metres of the race still to be completed. How fast could he have gone – albeit with a strong tailwind? In 2nd was Emmanuel Anis (East Sepik) 10.74, then David Guka (GSS) 10.89, Linus Kuravai (WNB) 10.94 and then Terrence Talio (NCD) 10.95 seconds.
In the photo provided by photographer Graham Robinson and APNG you can see the premature celebration as an overjoyed Leroy crossed the 90m line before anyone else. Luckily he did not pull up too soon.
The highlight on the field came in the Open Men’s Triple Jump where Robert Oa (NCD) won with a jump of 14.02 (+3.6) from Eldon Toti (NCD) 13.92 (+2.5) and Rocka Manau (Lae) 13.70 (+2.2).
The best Women’s Triple Jump of the day came in the U18 Division where Vivian Tutuai (ENB) jumped 10.38m (+3.0).
Much interest surrounded the finals of the 400m. Many of the top athletes had given themselves a heavy schedule and we were not sure how they would handle so many races in such a short time.
Edna Boafob (Lae) convincingly won the Open Women’s Division in a time of 59.80 from West New Britain’s Lenia Gilis 61.42 and Patricia Kuku 62.16 seconds.
The Open Men’s race was (as expected) fiercely fought. Star of the day, Leroy Kamau (NCD) took out the title in 48.17 from teammate Daniel Baul with 48.52, Emmanuel Wanga (Lae) 48.83, Jonathan Dende (NSI) 49.93 and Alphonse Irish (NSI) with 50.60. To this field we can add Benjamin Aliel, Shadrick Tansi and Ephraim Lerkin and things look good and highly competitive for the foreseeable future.
The Steeplechase events were missing the main stars, but in the Open Men’s perennial team member, Andipas Georasi (WNB) was a convincing winner in the time of 10:14.61 Second came Israel Takap (ENB) in 10:19.85 and third was Turalom Aquila (WNB) in 10:21.30. Andipas first represented PNG in 2010 and has been on Team PNG many times, the most recent being in Apia 2019 where won the bronze medal in the Steeple.
In the Women’s 3000m Steeplechase, Mary Tenge (ENB) went to the front straight from the gun and built up a solid lead. With only three in the event it looked as though she would be an easy winner. Feeling the pressure Mary started to slow down and Ana Toby (SIM) in second position began to close the gap. On the last lap Mary dug deep and in the end found that her finishing straight kick was enough to secure a comfortable win. The winning time was 12:34.85. Poro Gahekave opted out of this event, but come 2021 we expect to see her back in control of the Steeple – water jump and all.