The Ateneo de Manila University Blue Eagles looked headed for their third straight UAAP title even before the final day of the 79th UAAP Swimming Championships began, but it was no reason for them to take it easy. In the end, they secured all six gold medals at stake, with three new UAAP records to boot.
“We’re happy to get the title again. Every one worked hard, so we deserve it,” King Eagle Axel Ngui said. “We made sure everyone has a goal, and everyone worked on that goal. It’s not just me who will be leaving Ateneo a legacy, every one of us has something to do with this legacy.”
As the team goals were crafted, individual interests were put aside. Both Ngui, and reigning back-to-back Most Valuable Player and two-time Olympic veteran Jessie Lacuna, had to make sacrifices. Instead of competing in seven individual events, both only participated in five to enable them to compete in two relay events where they could establish a mark that will stay on for some time.
Last season, amidst setting countless of new UAAP records, the Blue Eagles missed the gold in only two events, one of which was a relay event – the 200m Freestyle Relay. Knowing that some teams have loaded up in the sprint events, Ngui and Lacuna teamed up to hopefully contain the threat.
This enabled their younger teammates to step up and contribute to the overall effort of the team. UAAP Season 77 Rookie of the Year Alberto Batungbacal rose to the challenge and even emerged as this season’s Most Valuable Player with 95 points. Batungbacal, who was denied the MVP crown several times back in his stint with the Ateneo Junior Tankers, finally took home the ultimate individual prize.
In the final day of action, Batungbacal won two gold medals in UAAP record fashion as he sped his way to a record time of 16:42.61 in the grueling 1500m Freestyle event, as well as another record time of 2:22.95 in the 200m Breaststroke. These two gold medals add to his collection of three gold medals in the 100m Breaststroke, 400m Individual Medley and 800m Freestyle and one silver medal in the 200m Individual Medley. He also set a new UAAP record in the 100m Breaststroke.
University of Santo Tomas’ Jux Solita (17:08.01) finished second in the 1500m Freestyle while Ateneo’s Eman Dapat (17:22.50) finished third. Ateneans crowded the podium in the 200m Breaststroke as Paolo Mutuc (2:24.85) and Carlo Silva (2:25.86) shared the limelight with Batungbacal.
Ngui capped off his productive five-year stint with the Blue Tankers by securing two gold medals in the 50m Backstroke (27.73) and 50m Freestyle (23.96). The emotional captain went straight to his sister Andrea, who was later awarded Rookie of the Year of the Women’s Division, for a passing of the torch of sorts after the 50m Freestyle heat. Ngui will go down in the history books of Ateneo as the swimmer who brought the university its first UAAP championship in Season 75, as well as a three-peat feat between Seasons 77 to 79 – that’s four championships in five years.
Neil Puyo of De La Salle University nabbed the silver in the 50m Backstroke in 27.88, while Brandon Sing of Ateneo rounded out the podium in 28.21. Ateneo’s Jethro Chua (24.31) finished second to Ngui in the 50m Freestyle, while DLSU’s Red Silvestre (24.56) took the bronze.
Lacuna, fresh of the Rio Olympics, took his fifth individual gold medal in the 200m Butterfly by registering a time of 2:06.27, a few body lengths apart from teammate and silver medalist Miguel Arellano (2:13.60) and DLSU’s Puyo (2:16.14).
Arellano, who was a former Juniors’ Division MVP, was named the Season 79 Men’s Division Rookie of the year with a total of 37 points.
The Blue Eagles ended their campaign in the best way possible by fielding a team that came from behind to take the gold medal and new UAAP record in the 400m Medley Relay. Jeric Santos, Silva, Gerard Reyes, and Justin Sy proved too much for University of the Philippines’ Gian Berino, William Lara, Lans Donato and Carlo Doragos, as the former team clocked in at 4:03.67, ahead of the latter’s 4:04.04. DLSU came in third in 4:11.16.
Last year, the Blue Eagles only lost Gio Palencia to graduation. This year, the team will bid farewell to Ngui. With only a few vital cogs graduating every year and new pieces to the puzzle coming in, such as Chua and Arellano, the UAAP Championship looks to stay in the same campus in the years to come.
DLSU ended a distant second in the standings, collecting a total of 314 points compared to the 603 points Ateneo had amassed.
UP ended as second runner-up with a total of 194 points.
|UAAP Season 79 Men’s Swmming Final Tally|
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