ZACH NAMED 2013 TOP ATHLETE

ZACH NAMED 2013 TOP ATHLETE

📅31 December 2013
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By Patrick Lujan

Zach Pangelinan, the 2013 GSPN Athlete of the Year, poses with his proud parents Jimmy and Tina Pangelinan during his recent visit home for the holidays.

Zach Pangelinan, the 2013 GSPN Athlete of the Year, poses with his proud parents Jimmy and Tina Pangelinan during his recent visit home for the holidays.

It’s one thing to represent our island in sports.

It’s an entirely different thing to represent our country – the United States of America.

Rugby player Zachary Pangelinan has had that distinct honor to once again represent our great country this year. With that, Pangelinan has been named the GSPN Athlete of the Year for 2013 as voted by the Guam Sports Network staff.

“There are estimated to be about 32,000 senior male players in the U.S. so becoming an Eagle is pretty challenging,” said former Guam rugby coach Peter Baggetta, who is now an assistant coach for the women’s U.S. National team. “The chances of becoming an Eagle is .1%!!”

“It’s a great honor (of winning the award),” the 25-year-old Pangelinan said with a smile as wide as Marine Corps Drive. “All the hard work pays off.”

He’s not joking when he talks about the hard work he’s put into the sport. After suffering a severe ankle injury a couple of years ago after a season with the USA 7’s team, Zach fought his way back to make it to the national Eagles (15’s) team. Not to mention that he’s gaining the attention while playing for the OMBAC’s in San Diego, an amateur domestic team, in comparison to other national players who play professionally in Europe.

Zach Pangelinan carries the ball for the Eagles against New Zealand's Maori All Blacks on Nov. 9 in Philadelphia. (courtesy photo)

Zach Pangelinan carries the ball for the Eagles against New Zealand’s Maori All Blacks on Nov. 9 in Philadelphia. (courtesy photo)

He is the only athlete to return to the GSPN Top 5 List, finishing second in the 2012 list.

After spending the holidays on Guam and putting in some beach rugby and soccer games, Pangelinan heads back to the states in hopes of staying on Team USA.

“I’m still eyeing the World Cup (2015 in Europe),” Zach said about his future goals.

And to think that a rugby player’s prime years are 25-30 years old – the Sanchez Sharks alum is ready to hit his peak!

What they said: “I think that Zach has been a really great representative of Guam and also a great role model for all the younger athletes on Guam (rugby and other sports) in that he has been able to overcome both personal challenges as well as the simple numbers game through his hard work and dedication to show that if you persevere and work hard you can make it off island.” – USA assistant coach Peter Baggetta

#2: BABY JOE TAIMANGLO, MIXED MARTIAL ARTS: Baby Joe made headline news with his success, making it to the Bellator Featherweight Tournament Semifinals in Bellator 103, before falling to Justin Wilcox by unanimous decision. The loss snapped a personal 10-fight win streak for ‘The Juggernaut’.

Baby Joe Taimanglo is No. 2 in the 2013 list of top athletes on Guam after his successes in Bellator. (photo by Jesse Castro)

Baby Joe Taimanglo is No. 2 in the 2013 list of top athletes on Guam after his successes in Bellator. (photo by Jesse Castro)

“It’s nice to hear that I’m getting recognized for the things I’m doing out at Bellator,” Taimanglo said about making the Top 5 list. “I really wanted to win the tournament, but due to the injury in the semis, it prevented my goal of becoming world champion.”

He reached the semifinals with an impressive unanimous decision win over Andrew Fisher in Bellator 99 on Sept 13.

He finished the year 2-1, kicking things off with a win in Bellator 94.

After spending the holidays on Guam, BJT is back in San Diego starting his camp for the Bellator Bantamweight (135 lbs) Tournament which starts in March.

“(My body) feels like it’s recuperated and rejuvenated after putting my body through so much hard work (in 2013),” Taimanglo said. “It enjoyed its relaxation and it’s time to get back to the grind and push to become the world champion.”

Despite the Guam food consumed during the holiday season, Taimanglo is confident that his camp’s nutritionist will comfortably get him to the 135-lb. weight for the upcoming tournament.

BJT says he feels blessed while representing Guam in the states shown by the fan appreciation no matter where he fights, whether it’s in California or Kansas.

What they said: “Baby Joe has always been a tremendous athlete. Our team (Alliance MMA) is stacked with other great fighters and we push each other to get better every day. Combine that with his natural abilities and you have an amazing fighter. The future is bright for him and I look forward to helping him accomplish his mission.” – Alliance teammate Joe Duarte

Nicole Tainatongo won CrossFit Asia and represented Guam well in the CrossFit Games in July. (photo courtesy CrossFit)

Nicole Tainatongo won CrossFit Asia and represented Guam well in the CrossFit Games in July. (photo courtesy CrossFit)

#3: NICOLE TAINATONGO, CROSSFIT: Nikki’s news of winning CrossFit Asia in June blew up the GSPN Facebook page like no other news to this date. It is ranked the top sports story of 2013 as she took out 31 other competitors in South Korea to gain the honor as the fittest woman in Asia.

“Ultimately, my goal was to go to the Games, and in Asia you have to take first place because only the top athletes and team go through. So in order to go to the Games, I had no choice but to beat the entire region,” Nikki said in July.

Nicole Tainatongo is the fittest woman in Asia after winning CrossFit Asia over the summer of 2013. (GSPN file photo)

Nicole Tainatongo is the fittest woman in Asia after winning CrossFit Asia over the summer of 2013. (GSPN file photo)

Tainatongo dominated the three-day competition in Seoul, taking first in four events and placing in the top three for all seven.

Tainatongo went on to represent Asia in the CrossFit Games in July and finished in 39th place out of 44 of the world’s fittest women – taking ninth place in one event.

What they said: “She is a very humble person with a big heart and passion for helping others out. She started a little exercise program at our house earlier this year before the Games with her aunties, uncles & cousins. She wanted to do more for the community and we spread the word around in the village and it has grown with up to 20 people exercising with her coaching skills a few days a week at the Merizo Recreation Center.” – proud mother Tina Tainatongo

#4: GABE LOMBARD, TRIATHLON: The super athletic Lombard was voted on the list for his consistency on the triathlon scene highlighted by a gold medal in the 3rd Annual Pacific Island Triathlon Championship in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea in August.

Triathlete Gabe Lombard comes in at No. 4 for the 2013 top athletes list. (GSPN file photo)

Triathlete Gabe Lombard comes in at No. 4 for the 2013 top athletes list. (GSPN file photo)

He is the reigning two-time Guam National Triathlon Champion.

“This island produces some incredible athletes and it’s an honor to be voted in with some of the best,” Lombard said. “I wouldn’t even be in to triathlons were it not for my brother Pete, so I need to thank him first and foremost for introducing me to the sport and allowing me to race with all of his hand-me-down equipment.”

Lombard, who was an All-Island basketball player at St. John’s and played collegiate hoops, turned to triathlon and feeds off the grueling challenges it beholds.

“I’m grateful to be able to represent the island and look forward to a busy 2014 triathlon season. My achievements this year are a testament to the hard work of the Guam Triathlon Federation, XTERRA Guam and the highly competitive field of triathletes I’m fortunate enough to call friends.”

What they said: “Gabe has improved dramatically over the past two years and I’m so excited to see how far he can go in the sport. He is well rounded as a triathlete, strong in all three disciplines. I’m so proud of him!” – former Guam triathlon champion and older brother Peter Lombard

#5: JOHN AQUINO, RUNNING: “I’m in the top 5? Nice! It feels good.”

It’s a no-brainer that the high school running star made the list. All Aquino did was break one record after another – and he’s not done as he readies himself for his last go at the upcoming track & field season. And it all started with setting goals.

“These were my goals: break the 3000-meter record twice, and I did. My goal was to compete in Oceania. In cross country, my goal was to get first in the individual and for the team, and we did. And my goal was to get first in the Asia Pacific Cross Country and I did. It worked out.

John Aquino was a high school record-breaker throughout 2013. (GSPN file photo)

John Aquino was a high school record-breaker throughout 2013. (GSPN file photo)

“Every day, I practiced every day. I wouldn’t have achieved my goals if I didn’t practice every day. In order to become better, you have to do double of what the other kids are doing. If I didn’t do that, I wouldn’t be here where I’m at.”

Watch out 2014, Aquino has already set some goals for the new year: break the 1500- and 3000 meter records and get first place place in the Kick the Fat 5K.

What they said: “If he continues to improve, he’s going to come out as one of the top high school runners that Guam ever had. Right now, he’s just very focused. He’s eager to finish up his high school career on a good note. I think he got a little more hungry after his junior year when he realized he had a lot of potential. Once he realized that, he really worked extra hard. He really focused his training even more.” – JFK running coach and Athletic Director Jay Antonio

OTHER NOTABLE VOTE-GETTERS

Josh Calvo, MMA/jiu-jitsu

Mike Carbullido, jiu-jitsu

Charlie Epperson, running/triathlon

Derek Mandell, running

Trae Santos, pro baseball

Paige Surber, soccer/basketball/volleyball

April Talledo, soccer/basketball/volleyball

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