Category Archives: UAAP

Back to the Podium (9 February 2006)

While scouring my old Livejournal for a school paper I wrote years ago, I came across the following post. I wrote it hours after winning my first UAAP medals in the seniors division! More than six year had passed since that moment. I can still feel the sheer adrenaline rush of that day. It’s a pity that we didn’t have fancy DSLR cameras or high-res videos back then. 

At least I was able to express the emotions that I felt through prose.

Finally. Got a silver this afternoon in the hurdles. I topped the overall list of qualifiers (15.88) but sadly, finished 2nd in the final heat. Damn. I was 0.03s away from the gold. To add insult to injury, I celebrated too early by raising my arms half a meter before the finish line. That cost me the race since I wasn’t able to outlean the gold medallist, whom I edged out in the same qualifying heat.

Nevertheless, this feels great. How badly I had missed finishing at the top echelons of the field. The cheers of my teammates were incomparable treasures. Seeing them happy because of what I had achieved made this victory a hundred times more sweet.

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Digging Deep

I felt tense watching from the stands. Perhaps it was due to the cold early evening air or the glare of the floodlights. Sheltered from the steadily falling rain by my trusty umbrella, I waited for the men’s 4x400m relay to start.

The grueling event has been the waterloo of Ateneo athletics. Ever since the Ateneo joined the UAAP, it has only won two bronzes – in the mid-80’s and the mid-2000’s – amidst a slew of heartbreaking close shaves with the podium. Despite the resurgence in Ateneo sprinting, the other schools stamped its dominance in the quarter-mile.

Read John Aguilar’s “The Blue Paint”

Maki de Jesus, a bemedalled former juniors standout, had a gutsy start. Running in the seventh lane, the rookie overtook the athlete in lane eight by a good five meters, as the first runner from powerhouse FEU streaked to an early lead. From then on, it was a battle for second place behind the dominant Morayta quartet.

The first baton exchange was executed with fine precision. Joel Magturo, another greenhorn, timed his take-off perfectly with the visibly exhausted de Jesus. The young Joel, a finalist in the 100m dash, held on to fourth place. Three schools – DLSU, UE, UST and Ateneo – were locked in a fierce tactical battle.

Carlos Soriano ran a gutsy third leg. He positioned himself well in the first 200m, conserving precious speed and strength by lurking behind the leading sprinters. As soon as the four-man peleton hit the last bend, Soriano turned on his afterburners. The back-to-back 100m dash champion overtook the early leaders to snatch second place coming into the final lap.

I screamed like a man possessed at Soy’s final burst of speed. Never has an Ateneo team won silver in the 4x400m relay. There and then, I felt my eyes blur as I cheered my lungs out.

Then came JP Azcueta’s anchor leg. From the stands, I saw the determined expression on his face. He took off life a bullet, maintaining the team’s second place position. Coming into the homestretch, I could feel the silver medal coming into fruition.

The dream silver wasn’t meant to be.

DLSU’s Patrick Unso, a bum stomach notwithstanding, ran a superb final 50m to snatch second place. UE’s last runner came hurtling towards the finish, threatening to overtake the decelerating Azcueta. But JP clung on to Ateneo’s first 4x400m medal in six years. After missing out on the 4x100m relay podium; Maki, Joel, Soy and JP struck back with a hard fought, well-deserved bronze. It was an exhilarating race – a scintillating, nerve-wracking experience for the spectator and an unforgettable experience to those who were victorious.

As soon as the JP crossed the finish line, he fell on his knees, burying his face in his hands. In the four days that I’ve watched my former teammate compete, he always seemed to linger at that very spot after every race. This time around, there wasn’t a single trace of disappointment on the grizzled veteran’s rain-soaked face. Instead, JP cried tears of joy, as he took in the wondrously triumphant moment.

There’s a line from “Chariots of Fire” aptly describing the quarter-miler as someone who digs deep. Those four young men ran their hearts out, mustering every strand of willpower possible. Years from now, people probably won’t remember who won the medals, much less the actual results. In the long run, what endures is the experience of giving it your all and leaving everything on the playing field.

Maki, JP, Joel and Soy posing with their medals (Photo from JP Azcueta)

UAAP 73 Athletics Day 1 (26 January 2011)

Whilst stuck in EDSA traffic on my way to Ultra yesterday, I felt cold beads of sweat drench the old school Ateneo Track & Field warmer I was wearing. After an hour’s worth of snail-pace trudging, the familiar sight of the Blue and White greeted me.

The feel of UAAP 73 is entirely different from the years past. Aside from a handful of seniors, the rest of the current members of the college squads are mere acquaintances. A small number of my contemporaries from the other schools have turned to coaching. Even the venue itself brings forth an alien feel, in light of the fact that the UAAP has been held in Rizal for the better part of the league’s 73-year existence.

View the UAAP 73 schedule here

The Rundown

Freshman JB Capinpin missed the Long Jump top 8, after being disqualified for false starting at the 100m dash heats. Ateneo’s 1-2 sprinting punch, Soy Soriano and Franco Imperial barged into the century dash final in bombastic fashion, with the latter emerging the clear leader out of all qualifiers. In the final, Soriano overcame the fast finishing Jose Unso’s last ditch final burst, crowning himself as the fastest man of the meet at 10.8s.

Soriano (C) dominates his heat. (Photo from Joseph Angan)

Surprisingly, the Men’s 110m high hurdles was held as a straight final. Back in the day, we used to have as much as 3 heats for high’s, with each school sending at least entries. De La Salle University’s Unso ran his heart out, stopping the clock at a hand-timed 14.7s. Unso, eldest son of national 400m hurdles record holder Renato, won convincingly over UST’s Emman delos Angeles (14.8) and decathlete Jeson Cid of FEU (15.0). Ateneo’s Dean Roxas (15.4s) and team captain Zek Valera (17.6s) finished 5th and 8th, respectively.

DLSU’s Patrick Unso, the younger of the Unso brothers, was conspicuously absent due to conflicts with the release of his high school clearance.

On the distaff side, UST’s Bane-bane was just too classy for the rest of the field, running away with a dominant 15.1s win. Ateneo’s Anj Aquino, after a gutsy effort in qualifying, ran a hard-fought 16.7 in the final. Veteran thrower Mica Sibayan won silver at the shot put, notching a new personal best. State University’s Precious de Leon heaved the shot to a distance of 10.14m, enough to overhaul Sibayan’s 10.09m. A determined Ally Lim clung to a 5th place at the 5,000m walk, collapsing through sheer exhaustion. Lim’s lung-busting effort signified the no-nonsense fighting spirit of the current crop of tracksters.  Indeed, the women’s team had gone a long way.

With the departure of sprint queen Maita Mendoza, women’s track & field powerhouses FEU and UST reigned supreme at their traditional bailiwick, the 100m dash. FEU’s Hanelyn Loquinto ran 12.1s over UST’s Luville Dato-on.

The jumping marks were relatively lackluster, due to the substandard runway. FEU’s talented Cid could only manage a modest 6.46m leap – enough for the long jump gold. UE’s Gatmaitan, mentored by none other than the legendary Elma Muros, missed the women’s triple jump by a mere centimeter (11.79m). DLSU’s Felyn Dollosa won gold (11.80m).

View the official UAAP results from PATAFA

View partial UAAP results from Pinoymiler

Ateneo High School’s Chuckie Dumrique stormed through the 100m dash boys’ final. The talented Toledo almost threw 50m en route to a commanding victory in the junior javelin competition. The versatile Joaquin Ferrer, however, came short at the 110m high hurdles boys’ final. UPIS’ Nasis ran the (hurdle) race of his life to edge out the more fancied Ferrer.

Amidst all the action, the most memorable moment is Paco Razon’s desperate, last ditch heave for the bronze (article to follow). Ateneo’s Miguel Sibayan fell to fourth place. In a show of dominance, UST won both the gold and silver.

UP’s Javier Gomez was unable to defend his javelin (and decathlon) titles due to a recurring knee injury.

Razon's magical last-round throw. (Photo from Joseph Angan)

Post Script

Whilst watching the events with Jerome Margallo, the UAAP pole vault record holder said something that warmed my heart. Margallo admired the support given by former Ateneo athletes to the current team. Coming from a hardened veteran and an accomplished collegiate athlete, the compliment brought forth feelings of pride – and a sense of accomplishment. This strong sense of team was the main driving force behind the modest successes of our college years.

Even if three long years had passed since my last UAAP race, I still feel at home amidst the sea of familiar and not-so-familiar faces. As I cheer my heart out for this year’s young turks, I swell with pride at the thought that I too had once trodden upon those fertile field of dreams.

* Special thanks to Andrew Pirie for compiling results.

Photo credits

Joseph Angan (The Guidon)

UAAP Track & Field Championships 2011

Throughout my days at the Hill, I had a total of seven UAAP track & field competitions – two as a junior and five as a senior. From 2001 to 2008, the highlight of each year was the 4-day athletics championships held in Rizal Memorial Sports Center. Looking back after all these years, I can honestly say that the experiences borne out of the field of competition – the ups and downs, the peaks and troughs – had been character-building.

UAAP hostilities will commence tomorrow afternoon. Since Rizal is undergoing a drastic face lift, the organizers had chosen Ultra as the venue. The old Olympic-style schedule consisting of four straight days of events was shelved by adding several days of rest in between the final two days (Jan 26, 27, 29 and 31 are the competition days).

This will be my third time to watch the UAAP as a track & field alumnus. Gone are the familiar faces of my former teammates. Aside from a handful of athletes (now seniors), most of the members of this year’s team are acquaintances, in light of the age gap!

As always, I make it a point to watch the first day – and the 110m high hurdles. With three-time UAAP champion Mike Mendoza’s graduation, the emerging Dean Roxas is the Ateneo’s best bet in the sprint hurdles. The fleet-footed Soy Soriano, arguably the best sprinter to have come out of Loyola in recent years, will anchor the team’s sprinting hopes. Freshman Al Bugarin, the Unigames 2011 shot put gold medalist, is a taller version of Ryan Dalman, whose UAAP shot put record still stands after 6 years.

On the distaff side, the pole vaulting duo of Bettina Maclang and Jam Valenton are forces to be reckoned with. Veteran thrower Mica Sibayan also returns to play out her final year of eligibility.

My First UAAP 200m dash

I stumbled upon the following clip a while back. I couldn’t stop laughing at how slow I was! It was taken during my rookie year in the UAAP Men’s Division. A day after finishing 3rd to the last (17.46s) in the 110m high hurdles (my supposed best event!), I ran the 200m dash.

My 18-year old self ran next to the future Philippine 100m/200m dash record holder, Ralph Soguilon. In 5 or so strides, Waldy overcame the stagger. For a split-second, we were running abreast (at the bend!) before Soguilon switched on his afterburners to the demolish the shell-shocked field!

I wound up 3rd to the last (24.85s) in a field of 24 in the 200m dash qualifying round! Waldy probably ran something in the 21-second territory!

Needless to say, I sucked big time!

The Finish Line (25 July 2005)

I wrote the following piece more than five years ago. I was a college junior back then. The memories of the team’s last place finish during my rookie year was still fresh. The team was in the midst of an upheaval. We were dead set on a single goal of redemption. Everyone was on the same page, as shown by our intense, often-times jovial weekly team meetings.

After finishing dead last in UAAP 66 and fifth place in UAAP 67 (thanks to masteral recruits from the national team), the Men’s Team missed a podium finish by a measly 4.5 points in UAAP 68, thanks then team captain Rob Sargan’s freak pole vault injury.

Season 2005-2006 was pivotal in reversing the team’s fortunes. A year later in UAAP 69, we won Ateneo’s first ever UAAP Men’s Track & Field trophy.

It was getting late and the team was anxious to get into the bus. However, the chartered G-Liner Bus was nowhere to be found. The Ateneo Track & Field Team was left idle for about half an hour in the dimly lit parking lot of the decades old Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, frozen in an unwanted moment.

The men’s team had just finished last among a field of seven schools. Such was the pallor of the gloom that every single one of my teammates felt embarrassed and helpless, albeit in varying intensities. Even our mightiest champion, Khole dela Cruz, the UAAP Decathlon Gold Medallist, exhibited signs of disappointment. What was the use of winning a gold medal for yourself when you cannot even help your team rise from the ignominy of finishing last, he questioned.

In that parking lot, I sat by myself staring blankly at the passing vehicles, insensitive to the noises of the busy Manila street. I failed to score even a single point by not qualifying for the 110m hurdles final. I could not hold back the pangs of despair, as the tears kept trickling down my face.

When a teammate of mine noticed my silent sobbing, I immediately muttered a hastily made-up excuse and went to the dugouts in search of solace. Walking towards the washroom, I wiped my face dry and dreamt of the moment where Ateneo would once again reign supreme in the college ranks, just like the 1961 NCAA Champion team led by Jorge Ledesma and the late Boogie Pamintuan.

I started those four days of UAAP Track & Field competition as a mere freshman, insulated by a false sense of invincibility. I emerged from the dugouts with wounded pride, ravenously hungry for redemption just like the rest of my contemporaries.

This year’s team is different from the teams of the years past. With a coaching staff composed of national team mainstays, well versed at the modern techniques of the sport, winning depends on the desire of the athlete. Finishing last is out of the question.

During weight training, my teammates and I follow the program to the letter and do extra weights and abdominal workouts afterwards. Such is the competition within the team that each one tries to outdo the other in terms of the weight that is lifted. Whenever one screams “Pagod na ako! (I’m tired!)” from doing the exercises, a teammate nearby will surely answer back “Ano yung narinig ko? (What did I hear?)” in order to push the visibly exhausted teammate to the limit. The one lifting the weight responds by saying “Sarap magbuhat! Hindi pa ako pagod (I love lifting weights! I’m not tired yet!)”

During oval workouts, the same brand of hard work (within the bounds of reasonable training and injury prevention, of course) is highly evident. No matter how difficult the workout, everyone strives to finish it, with the less fatigued ones cracking the usual joke during the lighter moments.

Each time before I race, I always look into the area of the bleachers where the team sits. Doing this gives me a boost of strength – a reaffirmation of purpose. Yes, I run for myself but I also run for my family, for the Alma Mater, for the greater glory of God, and for the bunch of guys wildly cheering my name from the grandstand – friends who wait at the finish line with a much needed bottle of Gatorade.

I am exerting the best of my efforts in pursuit of elusive triumph. When I feel the fangs of fatigue and the urge to simply give up, I picture myself at the end of the 110m High Hurdles finish line, raising my arms in victory. I think of the moment wherein tears of joy and not of helpless despair would slowly fall down my cheeks towards the hallowed track of the Rizal Memorial Track Oval – a moment I dream of day and night.

The 2nd runner-up trophy that felt like a Championship!

UAAP 69. December 2006. The 2nd runner-up trophy that felt like a Championship!

The Kings of the Track: 65th UAAP Juniors Champions

Whilst looking for clips of my 400m low hurdle races, I stumbled upon a series of videos I uploaded years ago. Topher Constantino (my high school team captain) and I compiled and edited all the clips from those four days of UAAP action. Since Youtube wasn’t invented yet, we burned the finished product into a VCD, with much loss of quality! Too bad I lost all the high quality originals.

I extracted the following clips from my decaying CD and uploaded the grainy videos to blip.tv:

Those were wonderful times! Our team was so dominant that our final points tally was more than double that of the second placer. Despite the relatively low quality of competition compared to the current UAAP Juniors standards, we were Champions nonetheless. If I recall correctly, that was the 25th overall crown of the Ed Sediego-coached Ateneo High School Track & Field Team.

Despite miscues in the 4x100m relay (we dropped the baton, finishing 3rd place) and my failure to catch UST’s anchor in the 4x400m relay, the team registered an impressive array of victories from all disciplines. The troika of Ron Jaworski, Mark Durante and Emman Floresca led an all-Ateneo sweep in the Discus Throw. It was the oft-injured Sport Mequi’s healthy year, after having been plagued by hamstring problems for a good part of his high school days. The towering Mequi, our ace sprinter, romped to a commanding victory in the 100m dash.

The most remarkable performance was Lester Guballa’s Rookie of the Year/Most Valuable Player double. Guballa, then a sophomore, lorded it over the middle- and long-distance events.

As the quality of high school competition improved throughout the past years, it took more than half a decade for the succeeding teams to emulate our Championship.

It’s quite surreal to think that almost 8 years had passed since those four days.

The records that we set are now long gone, since records, after all, are meant to be broken. We might not have produced the likes of high school legends such as Illac Diaz, Jay Arteficio and John Aguilar (whose performances remain immortalized in the junior record books), none of us are expected to be future members of the Ateneo Sports  Hall of Fame (except for our multi-titled mentor, Ed Sediego), but the fact that we won a UAAP Championship shall always remain etched in the annals of school history.

During those four days, we were the kings of the track!

Ateneo de Manila High School 65th UAAP Juniors Track & Field Team (2002-2003)

Gino Banson

Vincent Benedicto

Topher Constantino

BJ Cruz

Mark Durante

Emman Floresca

Michael Foronda

James Gregorio

Lester Guballa

Maio H. del Pilar

Jesse Herrera

Ron Jaworski

Pio Lim

Carlo Mendoza

Sport Mequi

Miggy Natividad

Carlo Puno

Joboy Quintos

Andre Rivera

Robby Solis

Mark Salvador

Head Coach: Edward Sediego

Program Head: Mick Perez

The Low Hurdles

During last Saturday’s fortuitous encounter with my former college team, my coach of five years uttered two words: “Four lows.” It was good coaching advice coming from a veteran trainer.

For a track & field athlete, this refers to the 400m Low Hurdles, one of the most grueling events in the sport. Back in high school, the lows were my primary event, instead of the highs. In my senior year in high school (UAAP 65, December 2002), I won gold in the lows, stopping the clock at the pedestrian time of 1:05. I was stricken by a bad case of the flu prior to the meet, ruing my chances in the three individual events I had. Thankfully, I recovered enough measure of health to eke out a win in my best event. It was an inspired performance, having qualified for the final ranked in 8th place. I was apparently out of sync, in light of my illness. In the coming days, I faltered at the 110m high hurdles (3rd) and the 400m dash (4th).

110m high hurdles (7:53)

400m low hurdles (8:29)

To ease my transition into the senior ranks, I competed in just the 110 high’s during my first season as a college-level athlete. The event stuck. And I fell in love with the highly technical sprint hurdles.

In the latter years, I was supposed to take up the lows again. In my junior year, I had to scratch out of the 400m low hurdles qualifying heat to conserve my leg strength for the crucial 4x100m relay (I was the last minute addition to an injured Rob Sargan. We won Ateneo’s first-ever silver medal since 1994 that year). A freak hurdling injury in my senior year put me on the injured list. In my fifth and final year of eligibility, my unwarranted fears of burnout saw me skipping the lows yet again.

Looking back, I can honestly say that I acted like a wuss, turning down the opportunity to take up another event. I was too selfish, wanting to focus on my individual gold prospects (I finished fourth in the 110 high’s, my only individual event). As the team’s elder statesman, I should have met the challenge head-on, instead of running away with my tail between my legs.

To my coach and teammates, I apologize. Whew. It feels good to get that out of my system.

Can I fit in low hurdles training in my schedule as a quarter-life stricken professional? Of course, it’s possible. Anything is possible. One advantage of a potential shift to lows is that the longer hurdles race isn’t as technically demanding as the high’s. This comes at the price of a decent quarter-mile sprint. Moving up in distance would necessitate longer (and lung-busting!) training times. Despite having been pampered by short sprint workouts for so long, I know for a fact that this shift is achievable.

I never had the fastest of sprinting times. In fact, I almost always lagged behind the other sprint hurdlers of my time. Even if my relatively efficient hurdling technique kept me in the race, it wasn’t enough to turn out dominating performances.

Was I better suited for the longer, speed endurance events? Perhaps. But then again, there’s no use crying over spilled milk, as the saying goes! My first and foremost priority is building my career, not an athletics comeback. I do not want to be consumed by the intense passion of being the nation’s best hurdler yet again. I’m way past that. My goals for my modest comeback is far from lofty.

I simply want to train and race again, to reach the fastest possible time, making the most out of the circumstances I inhabit. As I’ve said before, there are far greater things in life than clearing hurdles.

Afterword

My most eloquent moments seem to come at the heels of heartbreak. I wrote the following piece days after my final UAAP. My confidence was shattered; I was aimless. A months-long period of emotional erosion – then healing – took place.

Now that I’m older (and wiser, hopefully), looking back at these turbulent yet formative chapters evokes fond feelings of nostalgia.

11 February 2008

Ah the race.

That race.

I tried to stay with the leaders during the first part of my relay leg, but decided against it after the 180m mark. I disengaged and coasted for about 50m, stayed in position for another 70m, but as I prepared for the final burst my legs simply could not go faster. We were in 5th place when I passed the baton to Mike Mendoza. Even though Mike and JP Azcueta overtook DLSU to get 4th place, we simply could not meet the targets that were set. I put the blame entirely on myself. If I only stayed with the race leaders all throughout. If only I had more speed endurance – more heart.

It was like February 2006 again, when the team failed to win 3rd place by a measly 4.5 points behind UE. Only this time, we lost a bigger prize, the 1st-runner up trophy by the infinitesimal amount of 3.5 points.

Again, there are a variety of “what-if” scenarios, with the aforementioned 4x400m race included. It’s a Pandora’s Box of situations that hardly does any good. But hey, we scored the highest ever aggregate score among all the Ateneo Men’s Track & Field teams that have competed through the years. So many people rose to the occasion and excelled.

I remember writing something several years back, about giving it your all and owing it to yourself in the end. The sun has set and I’m preparing to go down from the hill. In this momentary calm, I recollect my thoughts; put them in order amidst the chaos of these nightmares.

I feel really bad, but it could have been a lot worse. I didn’t meet my goals, but it sure as hell was a great season. I seem to forget that only a year ago, I was struggling to recover from a broken arm. I did break 15 seconds, even if it was only hand-timed, and had an almost forgettable string of low-15 second races. In the UAAP, I clocked a measly 15.52s in the heats and 15.75s in the final. I could have done much better, but the start, the sprint-in-between and the clearing simply didn’t have its usual spring. It could have been psychological; my collapse – my being outclassed – baffles me.

February 7 (and the 10th as well) simply wasn’t my day.

After the relay, which was the last event of the four-day meet, I took my time going back to the bleachers. Ashamed of my performance, I didn’t want to face my teammates. While I was sulking at one of the benches – “wallowing in self-pity” is a more creative and apt term – Orlando Soriano came to me to give his jersey. For a moment, I forgot the negative things and realized that sport did go beyond winning medals and scoring points. For all of track & field’s simplicity – those who throw and leap the farthest, those who run the fastest, wins – it really goes beyond beating the “7 nameless and faceless guys standing in my way.”**

One of the most relevant sports-related quotes out there are the ones by Martina Navratilova, the many-time Wimbledon champion; and Baron Pierre de Coubertin, the founder of the modern Olympics. Navratilova’s words are truthfully blunt: “Whoever said ‘It’s not whether you win or lose that counts’ probably lost.” For Baron de Coubertin, “The most important thing in the Olympic Games is not winning but taking part; the essential thing in life is not conquering but fighting well.”* At first glance, the two seem to lie on opposite poles, with the former viewing winning and losing from a black & white lens, and the latter, being more universal and philosophical.

If you made me chose between the two quotes a year ago, I would have chosen Navratilova’s. Now that I’ve been bitten by defeat’s rabid fangs, her words seem like virulent, bestial jaws devouring my skin – reminding me of the simple truth, that oh so painful of facts, that I’ve lost.

Through the excruciating pangs of failure, I had an epiphany – that these two quotes are not paradoxical. Each one complements the other; the latter builds upon the former: Indeed, sport is about winning; there can only be one winner, one gold medalist – one champion. But sport goes beyond winning and losing. Sport is beyond making a string of excuses that debunks sport’s very essence. Sport is about making goals and meeting them. Sport is facing adversity head on. Sport is about commitment, a wholehearted devotion to something that you love doing.

Sport is about winning yet it goes beyond winning.

In the end, I threw away all those notions of shame and negativity. I mustered enough courage to speak in front of the team – that fine collection of young men who had stood together, fought together, suffered and laughed together – to thank them for a lifetime’s worth of memories.

* – The Olympic creed actually came from a sermon by an American Bishop, Ethelbert Talbot, according to this BBC feature.

** – Quoted from Michael Johnson

*** – For a year after UAAP 70, I was unable to look at these video clips. It was pure agony at that time.

December 2006

While looking for pictures of Rizal Memorial, I chanced upon the following photos from Babisalva‘s Flickr account:

These were taken during the 2006 (UAAP 69) Men’s 110m high hurdles final. I was sidelined by a broken arm, leaving the rest of the Fab Four hurdlers (and last minute substitute, Charles Banez) to slug it out with the UAAP’s best.

Mike Mendoza was just a rookie then. Jotham Manlapaz was in his sophomore year. Lech Velsaco and I have been teammates for three years. In the months leading to UAAP 69, us four grew remarkably close. We tried our utmost best to train at the same time, synchronizing our schedules. We even had customary hurdler shots during various events!

We were bonding like a well-oiled 4x100m quartet. Indeed, we trained as a team, we pushed each other to the limits of physical endurance. We gave pointers and helped each other out while warming up. After the race, we gave high fives and whopped it up when someone achieves something notable. Deep down, each of us knew that once on the track, during those 14, 15 or 16 seconds of explosive hurdles action, it was every man for himself. Once the starting gun fires, it’s up to the athlete alone to clear those 10 barriers and reach the finish line as fast as humanly possible.Track & field, after all, is an individual event.

When I broke my arm in November 2006, it was Lech and Jots who brought me to the hospital.

It was an emotional moment, seeing my closest teammates qualify for the final. I strained my voice cheering for those guys from the bleachers.

As the race ended, Mike ran a then personal best of 15.15s, digging deep to win a silver medal in his rookie year. After trying out 10 events (from Long Jump to race walking), Lech finally found a track event that’s tailor-made for his aggressive style. Last but certainly not the least, my ever-so-faithful, God-fearing training buddy Jotham, completed the three-man Ateneo presence in the sprint hurdles final – an unprecedented feat in school history.

Despite being crushed by my inability to compete, seeing my friends occupy three of the eight lanes in the final heat did much to lift my sagging spirits.

Photo credits:

Babisalva’s Flickr

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