Daily Archives: August 12, 2011

Ateneo Men’s Track and Field Team Makes Historic Podium Finish

“Ateneo Men’s Track and Field Team Makes Historic Podium Finish”

by James Gregorio

Last season, one week prior to the actual competition, former Ateneo Men’s Track and Field Team captain Robert Sargan (IV AB IS) was injured in a freak accident during training. Although the other 19 members stepped up to the challenge to make up for the absence of their prized pole vaulter and decathlete, they missed the mark to a third place finish by only 4.5 points.

Since Ateneo joined the UAAP league in 1978, the men’s track and field team has never tasted a podium finish. The highest that the team ever attained was 4th place in 1982, 2002 and 2005. This year, 20 athletes were ready to go toe-to-toe with their rivals from other UAAP schools in a quest to finally reach the podium.

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Finding Inspiration

I hardly know anyone from my old college track & field team. Except for my former coach and a couple of vets, most of the guys and gals are strangers. At first, I felt awkward wearing my circa 2005 and 2006 Ateneo kits. These articles of clothing, juxtaposed with the newer versions seem archaic. The age gap, come to think of it, is quite glaring. I graduated from college back in 2007, when the rookies of this year’s team were mere high school freshmen.

I used to know quite a lot of the young guns. But due to internal team issues, these guys opted to cut their ties with the Blue Tracksters. I was surprised at the sudden exodus, especially when I heard stories from both conflicting sides. In a varsity team, a college coach’s words are law. It’s either you fit in or you ship out. Hence, most of the team are newbies. Only a handful of the previous years’ crack veterans decided to stay.

I wasn’t always the most obedient of athletes, but I did appreciate the patience my coach displayed in the face of my subtle arrogance. I just couldn’t imagine quitting the team.

During the times when I shared the track with the new squad, I saw something familiar that caught my eye. Amidst the youth and inexperience, I saw traces of of the 2003-2006 teams, of which I was part. We weren’t the best of athletes. In fact, none of my batchmates were given college scholarship offers. In 2003, the team finished dead last. Through sheer guts and hard work (and a bunch of talented rookies), we clawed our way up. Three years later, we hoisted a medium-sized, Lapu-Lapu-inspired second runner-up trophy. It was the first podium finish by an Ateneo Men’s Team in the UAAP. Even if it wasn’t a prestigious championship crown, it sure as hell felt like we were on top of the world.

It has been more than three years since I last competed for the Blue and White. As I move forward in life, I know for a fact that my shelf-life as a part-time working athlete is limited. Amongst the frequent solitude, I find inspiration in these exuberant youths. Whatever happens come UAAP time, whether they finish dead last or on top of the perch, I’ll gladly find time to watch them compete. They remind me of a simpler time, when all that seemed to matter were getting good grades, winning a medal and spotting the next head-turner on campus. Moreover, seeing them reiterates the fact that there’s more to life than clearing hurdles. Somewhere down the road, I’d have to hang up my spikes for the last time.

Until then, I’ll be doing my utmost best to be the fastest sprint hurdler this country has ever seen, whilst building the foundations of my off-track life.

Adjustments

When I went back to Rizal a couple of weeks ago, I was a bit puzzled at the lack of people running in the track. The recreational runners and youth athletes were nowhere to be seen. Except for a few national athletes, the stadium was practically deserted. I dismissed the observation and went about my training.

After shooing away a bunch of kids loitering by the football field, a security guard approached me whilst I was doing hurdle drills. She asked if I were an outsider. “I’m with the national team,” I replied, not wanting to abbreviate my training session. I asked Sheena about this and her answer confirmed my worst fear. Rizal is closed to the general public, as it caters exclusively to national athletes for the time being.

Read: “Thoughts on the Rizal Memorial Stadium”

My heart sank. This means shifting my weekend training base to the worn out track of Ultra from the comfortable, athletics-centric aura of Rizal. I could have continued lying between my teeth. I wasn’t raised that way, mind you. If the PSC deems it fit to close off Rizal to help our athletes better prepare for the SEA Games (or due to the renovation controversy), I’m okay with that – whatever the true reason is. It’s a privilege our national athletes deserve.

Besides, it’s not like I’ve been deprived of a training venue. Ultra is still available, despite the poor state of its synthetic track. I don’t know when I’ll be able to train in Rizal again. Until then, I have to make do with what I have and make adjustments to my schedule.

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