Competing against a Sub-14 Sprint Hurdler

Prior to the Philippine National Games, the fastest sprint hurdlers I’ve competed against were national record holder Alonzo Jardin (14.75s), UAAP record holder Orlando Soriano (14.96s); my teammate, three-time UAAP 110m high hurdles champion, Michael Mendoza (14.97s); and Robin Tuliao (14.98s)*. In terms of hand-timing, Mike (14.6) and Soriano (14.8) are on top of the list.

Talking with Coach Ceril Yap of Kota Kinabalu, I was excited to find out that Malaysia’s top hurdler, Rayzamshah Wan Sofian, was set to compete in Bacolod. Rayzam, then 18-years old, came from nowhere to snare the SEA Games sprint hurdles crown four years ago in Thailand, stopping the clock in 13.91s. With Tuliao, Jose Unso and Emman delos Angeles also in the field, my comeback race was relatively well-stocked with local hurdling talents.

During the warm-up, I tried not to observe Rayzam’s routine, as I focused on preparing for my first race in three years. Nevertheless, I was awestruck at his pinpoint hurdling clearance. His lead leg skims the hurdle. The Malaysian champion’s trail leg was just as snappy as it cuts over the barrier. Being a sub-10 100m dash sprinter, Rayzam possesses blistering speed in between barriers.

View my account of the PNG 110m high hurdle race here

Read my PNG wrap-up here

For my warm-up, I placed two hurdles at the far side of the track. Soon enough, all the hurdlers were sharing the barriers that I set up. Rayzam, apparently uncomfortable at running at the eighth lane, politely asked if he could move the hurdles to the adjacent lane. All throughout his warm-up routine, the Malaysian was a picture of calmness. He seemed quite at ease even with the alien surroundings, in light of the depth of his international experience.  The entire hurdling motion – from sprint to hurdling clearance – appeared easy for the guy.

He went on to win the race by a massive 0.7s over Robin (14.8). We talked a bit at the finish line. I found it amusing that he was in the Philippines for a holiday! He had quite a lot of anecdotes to share, from competing against the likes of Liu Xiang to his training regimen in Malaysia. For someone who has reached the pinnacle of regional competition, Rayzam was certainly laid back.

In jest, I thanked the guy for coming over to the Philippines and raising the level of play. Even if he considered his 14.1s time unremarkable, for us Filipino hurdlers, running so close to the thirteen second barrier was a surreal thought!

*- I only ran against Jardin twice, when he had shifted to the decathlon and was a shadow of his old hurdling self. I was sidelined by a broken arm when Soriano set the aforesaid UAAP record. When Mike went below 15-seconds, I was watching from the sidelines as a college alumnus, having used up all my five playing years. Tuliao set his PB at the Thailand Open a month ago.

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