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Payback (13 April 2008)
October 17, 2010Posted by on
Since it’s Unigames time again, allow me to resurrect another one of my old entries. I wrote this piece during the dark months after UAAP 70. I was then unemployed and had lots of free time. I was still dealing with my ignominious UAAP exit; I wrote quite a lot of entries in an effort to face reality head on.
Good luck to the Ateneo Men’s and Women’s Track & Field Teams! Bring home the bacon!
Panaad Stadium circa 2006. One my favorite stadia in the Philippines.
The sun shone brightly. It was a perfect Negros afternoon.The final heat of the 110m high hurdles was about to start, but I was on the stands videotaping an event wherein I wanted so badly to run.
A day earlier, I faltered in the qualifying heat, clocking a measly 17.9s, way slower than my then-PB of 16.9s. I was a sophomore back then and my warm-up routine was not yet refined. Furthermore, my hurdling fundamentals were built upon shaky ground. I was entered as a late replacement for Tim Robles (who instead focused on the upcoming 400m dash final) in the 4x100m relay. I ran my leg superbly, but ultimately, the quartet wound up with a 4th place finish.
Still tired from the relay, my hurdling warm-up proved ineffective. I got out of the blocks slower than usual, floated over each barrier and sprinted lackadaisically in between each hurdle. It was supposed to be my breakout race, after breaking the 17-second barrier for the first time. I was devastated. I sobbed at the dugout and vowed there and then that I shall have my redemption.
The same feeling pretty much summed up the emotions of the men’s team. We came to Bacolod with the intention of actually winning something, but wound up with virtually nothing but two measly 4th place finishes. Despite the best of our efforts in training and in competition, we were simply outclassed.
Two years later, the team was back in Bacolod for Unigames 2006. Things were different. It was a strong and vicious team. The greenhorns were now battle-hardened veterans.
Unigames 2006 was the very first podium finish for the men’s team. Nearly everyone brought home medals. The performances of Rob Sargan and Ryan Dalman were inspiring. And the supporting cast gave ample support.
My experience was bittersweet. Bitter, because I could have done better if I didn’t get sick or got carried away by matters of the heart. Sweet, because I finally had my redemption.
A few days before the qualifying heat, I was already feeling the initial effects of an upcoming tonsillitis case. My throat felt itchy, my body burning with fever. My condition deteriorated. In fact, the night before the race, I was wrapped up in mountains of clothing and blankets to stay warm. I even turned off the air-conditioning in our room because of the unbearable cold, much to the chagrin of my roommates!
I was in disbelief at the unfortunate turn of events. I was nearing the peak of my collegiate career. I was aggressive and deeply inspired, eager to finally make up for that disaster two years ago. This was yet another case of my out-of-town competition jinx.*
But through a lot of prayers (and due to my mom’s concoction of calamansi and virgin honey), I felt a lot better in the morning. The fever had subsided and I actually felt great.
That time around, my warm-up routine was solid and effective. I was focused on the task at hand. Nothing could have shaken me from my fearsome determination to run the perfect race. I felt unusually fast before the heats. I felt so pumped up. My legs were raring to go. After my warm-up sprints over three flights of hurdles, I pumped my fists with glee. I liked what I felt. I was a very dangerous man back then.
I was slated to run in the first heat. The USPF athlete beside me, the National Junior Champion and the PRISAA champion, got out of the blocks early; hence, a yellow card was charged to the entire field. I was in for a great battle, I told myself. I love going head-to-head against strong sprinters despite my dearth of speed.
Evenly-matched (Photo from Charles Banez)
My start was quite good as the USPF athlete’s [Harren Millendez edged out my teammate Mike Mendoza during the 2006 Nationals] lead was a mere 1/4 of a step. As I cleared more hurdles, I felt my engine change into higher gear. I ate up his lead gradually. By the 7th hurdle, we were sprinting abreast. His speed was no match for my quick clearing. As soon as I sprinted over the last hurdle, I was somehow amazed at finishing ahead of everybody. It was surreal.
Frankly speaking I was not used to this. I sprinted the last 14.02m to the finish line in a blistering pace, diving emphatically to the tape.
15.2s! A new PB! (Photo from Charles Banez)
I ran a then personal best: 15.2s. As I went back to get my stuff, I was nodding my head and pumping my fist in self-adulation.
I could not seem to duplicate the same degree of intensity in the final heat the next day. Perhaps, it was due to the fever, which immediately came back as soon as the events of the first day ended. I finished a far third behind Orlando Soriano and Gabriel Quezada, with a fairly average 15.6 clocking [still ahead of a fast-finishing Mike Mendoza – the future 3-time UAAP gold medalist!].
Nevertheless, I was smiling at the finish line. I just ran in the finals despite being ill; I won’t be going home empty-handed.
Soriano and Quezada appeared at the Inquirer sports pages the day after. A good 2/3 of my body was included in the photo too!
Partially-hidden! (Photo from Maita Mendoza)
* – I ALWAYS get ill (In my first Unigames in 2003, I was stricken with asthma and fever. In Baguio 2005, I was down with fever and asthma and in Nationals 2006 in Nueva Ecija, stomach flu and fever).