The annual Philippine National Open Invitational Athletics Championships was held in Bacolod, Negros Occidental; as part of the Olympic-style program of the POC-PSC National Games. The newly-renovated track of the Panaad Stadium, site of many an Azkals game, was the scene of battle. The event was an opportunity for aspiring elite athletes to showcase their talents. An amalgam of crack international campaigners, collegiate standouts, as well as promising grassroots talents comprised the lineup of athletes.
Aside from a few snags in the processing of the official ID cards, the athletics competition was fairly well-run. The technical officials, composed of both Manila-based and provincial personnel, were a well-drilled lot. The green-clad PSC volunteers, despite their inexperience, were exuberant in the way they did their jobs.
- Panaad at Night (Photo from Zek Valera)
There were some instances when the start of a race was pushed back because of equipment breakdown, particularly with the automatic timing system. Nevertheless, it was a relatively well-organized local competition, according to a foreign coach.
The Sprints and Hurdles
In light of the oft-revised schedule, only a handful of foreign entries from Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia made it to Bacolod. The most illustrious name among the visitors was Rayzam Shah Wan Sofian, the 2007 SEA Games gold medalist in the 110m high hurdles. The Malaysian did not disappoint, as he outclassed a lean local sprint hurdles field, stopping the clock in 14.1s. Laguna’s Robin Tuliao was a far second at 14.8s. Kota Kinobalu’s prolific Eddie Edward won over many-time UAAP seniors champion Romnick Herida of UAAP Athletics (11.19s), compatriot Fahrul Nazri (11.32s) and Australia-based Andrew Pirie of the Philippine Pole Vault Club (11.34s) in the century dash.
Patrick Unso of TMS Ship-DLSU reigned supreme in both the junior 110m high hurdles (14.3s) and the 400m low hurdles (54.47s). Robert Francisco of Laguna (14.5s) came second to Unso in the boy’s sprint hurdles.
There was some controversy in the men’s hurdles races, as national team member Junrey Bano was disqualified moments before participating in the 400m low hurdles qualifying. Nevertheless, Bano was allowed to take part, in spite of being officially out of the competition. The country’s top low hurdler stopped the clock at a classy 52.80s. UAAP Athletics’ Jeson Ramil Cid officially won the event in 54.60s.
Isidro del Prado, Jr., whose illustrious father still holds the Philippine 400m national record, surprisingly false started in qualifying, meriting an instant disqualification for the talented quarter-miler. In the absence of Del Prado, 2007 SEA Games gold medalist Julius Nierras (48.55s) and 20-year old Christian Bagsit (49.03s) made it a one-two finish for the Philippine Air Force. Del Prado (22.05s) nipped Nierras in the half-lap, beating the veteran by a massive four-hundredths of a second. Zamboanga’s Noli Torres (50.79s) and Aldrin Gonzales (51.36s) ruled the boy’s 400m dash.
13-year old Mary Diesto, a student of nearby Bacolod Tay Tung High School, won the girls’ 100m dash with an impressive 13.20sc clocking. Filipino-American Princess Joy Griffey walloped FEU’s Hanelyn Loquinto in the 200m dash, 25.24s to 26.03s, despite being weakened by food poisoning.
National training pool member Zara dela Virgo, slowed down by a knee injury sustained at the recently-concluded Thailand Open, failed to finish the Women’s 100m hurdles. Jennylyn Progio ruled the poorly-attended two-woman final, stopping the clock in 15.8s. Nerve pain saw the withdrawal of national record holder Sheena Atilano from the sprint hurdles field. Capiz’ Jaycel Cabaguena (15.9s) was impressive in the girls’ race, romping to a commanding 1.3s gap over TMS Ship’s Lea Casilihan (16.6s).
FEU’s Josie Malacad (1:02.79s) edged out Laguna’s Keizel Pedrina in the one-lap hurdles race. Malacad won over her UST rival by almost two-seconds.
The Distance Events
The country’s long distance aces, Rene Herrera and Eduardo Buenavista were virtually untouchable in their respective events. Herrera (9:06), a many-time SEA Games champion, completely demolished UAAP Athletics’ Christopher Ulboc (9:18.22) in the 3,000m steeplechase. Similarly, Buenavista ran a punishing last lap to reign supreme in the 10,000m run.
- Vertek in action at the 10,000m run (Photo from Zek Valera)
San Sebastian’s Mervin Guarte set a new national junior record in the 1,500m run, en route to winning the senior title. Guarte ran below 4:00 in the metric mile, notching a fine time of 3:57.83.
The United Track & Field Team, composed of Diesto, Shaira Hernandez, Raye Deanne Ferrer and Hannah Malate – all 13 year old’s from Bacolod Tay Tung – eked out a surprise win in the girls’ 4x100m relay. The Capiz team, the pre-race favorites, false started; hence, meriting instant disqualification.
The Men’s 4x100m relay proved exciting, as a fast-finishing Rayzam Shah of Kota Kinabalu almost ran down the locals on the home straight. The UAAP Athletics quartet of Jhon Rey Bardos, Abraham Alzona, Herida and Cid – a powerhouse lineup of UAAP foes – won first place in 42.05s. The PAF team, anchored by Bagsit, came in second place at 42.07s, three-hundredths of a second from the Malaysian team.
- PAF’s Bagsit in the 4x400m relay (Photo from Zek Valera)
The Philippine Air Force foursome of Nierras, Eduardo Alejan, Christopher Demata and Bagsit proved too much for the fancied UAAP squad. The Ernie Candelario-trained Airmen built up an insurmountable 5 second lead, stopping the clock in 3:14.42.
The Decathlon and the Field Events
The indefatigable Cid, the national junior record holder, scored 6,287 points in the Men’s Decathlon, propped up by dominating performances in the 110m high hurdles, 400m dash and the 1,500m run. National training pool member Manuel Lasangue was a far second with 5,670 points.
National team stalwarts Arniel Ferrera and Rosie Villarito each grabbed double golds, with the former taking titles in his best event, the hammer throw (57.55m), and the discus throw (43.23m). Villarito, competing for Laguna, won both the women’s shot put and javelin throw.
Despite being six meters off his personal best, national record holder Danilo Fresnido (64.20m) easily won over SEA Games medalist Dandy Gallenero (61.40m). Baguio-based Eleazer Sunang almost broke the long-standing shot put national record, heaving the implement to a distance of 15.57m. In frustration, the burly Sunang threw the shot from a standing position after the competition, easily reaching 16.00m!
Negros Occidental’s Maika de Oro handily won the Girls’ Discus Throw with her 37.36m heave. The hometown bet also struck gold in the shot up with her 10.18m throw.
Jerome Margallo of Team Hua Liong topped the Men’s Pole Vault. The national pool member cleared 4.25m, way off his 4.64m best, but more than enough to edge out Laguna’s Robin Bunda, the ageless Emerson Obiena and UAAP Athletics’ Zek Valera. Bunda, Obiena and Valera all cleared 4.15m. On the distaff side, Riezel Buenaventura – another Obiena protege – was virtually unopposed. The FEU alumna flew to a new personal best of 3.81m. TMS Ships’ Alex Smith, the national junior record holder, was a far second at 2.70m.
The come-backing Benigno Marayag narrowly lost to Nino Espinosa of Laguna in the Men’s long jump. Both jumpers had best jumps of 7.21m, but the latter won over the triple jump specialist on count-back.
Baguio’s Catherine Kay Bautista twice finished second behind Marestella Torres. Torres, the national record holder for both the long jump and the triple jump, was in a class of her own, notching winning leaps of 6.38m and 12.55m. The exuberant Bautista leaped 6.09m and 12.09m, on top of winning the 100m dash (12.58s) over national training pool member Loquinto. Bautista, who is coached by former jumps queen Lerma Baluaitan-Gabito, is a sure cinch to be bumped up to the training pool, in light of her performance in the horizontal jumps.
View the complete athletics results from the PSC website
From the UAAP Athletics Facebook page
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From the PSC Facebook page