The long wait is finally over.
The once-a-year, four-day showdown that is the UAAP Swimming Championship has unfolded, and while there were plenty of surprises coming into the tournament, men’s division titleholder Ateneo de Manila University yet again surged ahead of their competitors after a day of action.
The De La Salle University was certainly a busy program this past off-season, as they bolstered their squad with a slew of top-class recruits bearing plenty of national and international experience.
Arguably the most prized recruit of his class, De La Salle Zobel’s Sacho Ilustre moved up from the junior ranks straight into La Salle’s senior team. The multiple UAAP Juniors’ record holder and MVP enrolled in La Salle with standouts Jexter Chua, Christian Sy, and Yuri Ilustre, and they brought with them plenty of hope to finally outclass their arch-rivals Ateneo.
The University of Santo Tomas and University of the Philippines likewise made significant moves in improving their squads by aggressively recruiting from some of the biggest and most talent-laden classes in recent memory. UST made sure to keep most of their UAAP Season 80 Juniors’ Division champions in the program, while adding Palarong Pambansa standout Christian Anor into the fold. Meanwhile, UP brought in NCAA Juniors’ Division MVP Baste Arcilla of San Beda University into their squad.
Over in Katipunan, Ateneo were unable to bring in as many new faces into their program, but La Salle Greenhills’ Ianiko Limfilipino proved to be a pivotal addition. All the while, former UAAP MVPs Jessie Lacuna and Aldo Batungbacal were contemplating on whether or not to play out their final year of eligibility. Even as rumors floating around had them bidding the UAAP farewell in Season 80, the duo made sure that they stayed in top condition to compete.
As it turned out, in the first day of the UAAP Season 81 Swimming Championship, Lacuna and Batungbacal led the way for Ateneo and – along with the rookie Limfilipino – took the fight out of their competitors by collecting a total of three gold medals, two silver medals, and a bronze medal spread across three events.
Lacuna’s run of consecutive gold medals – dating back to his debut season in 2014 – continued after he ruled the 800m freestyle in 8:33.98 and the 100m freestyle in 52.18 seconds. In the 800m Freestyle, Batungbacal finished second at 8:46.39 and, together with Lacuna, the two veterans lauded their rookie teammate Limfilipino, as he finished his first UAAP event with a bronze medal in 8:59.31 to complete a podium sweep.
The ever-exciting 100m freestyle event was a showdown between a graduating phenom in Lacuna, an emerging phenom in S. Ilustre, and last year’s winner of the event and eventual Rookie-of-the-Year Miguel Barlisan of Ateneo. Lacuna mustered all his experience and strength to overcome the two young guns as Ilustre only managed a time of 52.57 seconds, while Barlisan touched in at 52.68 seconds.
Ilustre then immediately returned to the pool for a match-up with another graduating veteran in Batungbacal in the 200m Individual Medley. This time, however, Batungbacal made sure to break away from the field as he reigned in 2:09.49. Limfilipino took advantage of the worn-out Ilustre to sneak in at second with a time of 2:12.38, while Ilustre finished at third in 2:13.69.
Despite the failure to land a gold medal in the individual events, La Salle showed how serious they are about making a run for the championship by dominating the two relay events of the day. Gamaliel Torres, Alfonso Bautista, Red Silvestre, and Miggy Narciso teamed up to record a time of 1:48.87 in the 200m Medley Relay. Ateneo (1:50.17) and UST (1:51.36) rounded out the podium. In the day’s final event, Alnair Guevarra, Jose Ereneta, Fahad Alkhaldi and Richmond Santos slowly worked their way to the front in finishing at 8:14.02, edging out UP (8:15.76) and UST (8:17.75).
UAAP Swimming action continues on November 10, 2018 and will run until November 11, 2018 at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex Swimming Pool. Day 2 events include the 400m freestyle, 50m breaststroke, 100m butterfly, 200m backstroke and 400m freestyle relay.
Jessie Lacuna (ADMU) – 30
Aldo Batungbacal (ADMU) – 27
Ianiko Limfilipino (ADMU) – 22
Sacho Ilustre (DLSU) – 22
Chrisian Anor (UST) – 12
ADMU – 113
DLSU – 76
UST – 44
UP – 31
UE – 6