After a 14-month break UAAP Track and Field break, the first day of season 78 for the men’s division kicked off with plenty of excitement in Philsports Arena. All eyes were on the Far Eastern University as they set to defend their crown from the rest of the field. However, both the University of Santo Tomas and the University of the Philippines had strong performances also leading up to the competition, so up until this point, it is anyone’s championship to win.
FEU’s defending 100m champion Clinton Kingsley Bautista was the man to keep an eye on in the event, along with UST’s Romnick Nor. Moreover, UP’s Gabriel Soriano, who won silver in last year’s Philippine National Games (PNG) – Luzon Leg, and is also the defending 400m champion, was also someone to watch. Season 76 100m champion Jasper Tanhueco was also on the field and a sprinter pegged as a favorite going into the final.
There was no surprise about the results of the qualifiers, as Bautista ranked first with a personal best (PB) of 10.87 seconds. However, what surprised on the field were Ateneo de Manila University’s (ADMU) Leo Valera, who failed to qualify last year in the same event, and rookie Josemaria Ramos. Valera clocked to qualify in rank 5, while Ramos clocked an impressive 10.95 second sprint, ranking him at second overall in the heats.
The rules for the UAAP are not the same as those set by the International Association of Athletics Federations (IAAF). The IAAF’s ruling are that in the heats, the first one (or two, depending on how many players there are) to cross the line in every heat automatically qualify for the next round. After which, the “fastest losers” will be considered. The latter are those who did not rank first in their heats but still registered a fast time. The UAAP only considers the top eight fastest in the heats of every race from the sprint events (100-400m), the 800m, and the hurdle events (110m and 400m). It is then expected that the qualifying times are going to be close to that in the finals.
Around two hours later, the finals was expected to be a tight race between Bautista, Ramos, and Nor, who were the only qualifiers to clock a sub-11 sprint. Upon gun start, Ramos took over the lead and crossed over the 80m first; however, veterans Bautista and Nor both switched gears and overtook the rookie come the last 15m. Bautista managed to defend his title with a time of 10.94 seconds, while Nor only just managed to snag the silver away from Ramos by about 0.01 seconds: Nor clocked 10.99 seconds, while Ramos clocked 11.00 seconds. Tanhueco finished 5th with 11.14 seconds, while Soriano finished 6th with 11.17 seconds.
Much like in the 100m, the 800m also had some favorite going into the race. UST’s defending champion and current UAAP record holder Elben Neri did not falter in the heats as he ran away from the pack from gun start until the end. He finished with 1:53.14, over two and a half seconds quicker than the two next fastest qualifiers Erwin Parcon from DLSU and Jomar Angus from FEU, both clocking 1:55.60 each.
Despite running just 1:54.09 in the finals, Neri still pulled through and ran away from the pack, demonstrating his half-mile dominance by defending his crown. This time around, Angus from FEU bested DLSU’S Parcon by slightly edging the former come the finish line. Angus finished silver with 1:55.73 while Parcon finished 0.25 seconds slower with a time of 1:55.98.
The only individual throwing event for the day was the Men’s Shotput. The absence of FEU’s Pacheco did not hinder their team’s scoring ability in the event as teammate Johnwell Quitain still managed to snag the gold with a massive throw of 12.60m. It was over almost half a meter farther than silver medal finisher Fel Quetulio from UP, who threw 12.23m. These two men were the only ones who manage to throw above 11m. Bronze place finisher Kenneth Rafanan from DLSU fell 0.02m short of a 12m throw. UP’s Rommel Baguisa almost snagged the bronze if not for a 0.05m lead by Rafanan. To everyone’s surprise, after the men’s decathlon’s shotput event, ADMU’s Joseph Capinpin competed in the individual throwing event and still placed fifth with a powerful throw of 11.73m.
On the other side of the field, a lot of excitement was buzzing as SEA Games 2015 Pole Vault Silver medalist Ernest Obiena from UST was finally set to compete. Obiena holds quite a few records and titles in his hands; he is the current UAAP record holder, and the Philippine Junior and Senior records in the pole vault. Back in Season 75, Obiena was also the Rookie of the Year after winning gold in the pole vault and setting the current UAAP record he is now set to beat again.
The field held no match for Obiena, as he was over a meter away from the rest of the competitors. UP’s David Managuelod snagged the silver medal away from DLSU’s Adel Valdecanas by having less fouls. Both Managuelod and Valdecanas vaulted 4.35m.
After the entire field had been eliminated, it was time for Obiena to finally set the bar to his preferred height. Obiena’s current standing UAAP record is at 4.45m, while the current standing Philippine Senior National Record is at 5.45m. The officials set the height at 5.46m, and to no surprise, on the third attempt, Obiena cleared the bar and set a new national record, winning gold as a consolation prize. He did not stop there, however, as he tried to set the bar higher after by trying to clear 5.50m. Almost clearing the bar at the 2nd attempt, the fatigue finally kicked in as he fouled out in his 3rd attempt, failing to clear the bar.
Obiena still has a long way to go before the deadline for the qualifiers for the Rio Olympics. He still has a lot of competitions to prepare for, and may as well join fellow national team member Eric Cray to qualify for Rio.
With the absence of defending champion, current UAAP record holder, and SEA Games 2015 Bronze medalist Janry Ubas, the hunt for the gold was now within the reach of last year’s silver medalist Ian Delos Santos from FEU and from the PNG – Luzon Leg’s gold medalist Joseph Capinpin from ADMU. It was going to be a tight match between the two, as Capinpin dominates day one, while Delos Santos proves strong and consistent on day two.
Delos Santos and Capinpin both went back and forth beating each other in the first day.
In the first event, Capinpin bested Delos Santos with a 100m time of 11.20 seconds, over 0.23 seconds faster than Delos Santos. Trailing them behind was ADMU’s Henry Gonzales with a time of 11.44 seconds, FEU’s Kenny Gonzales with 11.46 seconds, and ADMU’s Gabriel Vera Cruz with a time of 11.56 seconds.
Come the second event, Delos Santos bested Capinpin as the former jumped 6.57m. Capinpin only managed to jump 6.39m, with his teammate Vera Cruz having the next best jump in the second event with 6.55m.
However, Capinpin threw a massive 11.47m in the shotput to pull away a bit from Delos Santos, who only managed to throw 9.66m.
Delos Santos cemented his dominance in the high jump with a leap of 1.78m. The only other decathlete who managed to tie him in this event was UE’s Wilmar Martinez.
In the final event of the day, the grueling quarter-mile was to be raced and would determine the half-time leaders. Delos Santos ran a fast 51.63 seconds, clocking the fastest 400m of the night for the decathlon. ADMU’s Gonzales chased down UST’s Roque Lesondra to be the second fastest in the 400m with a time of 51.64 seconds, with the latter only managing to run 51.91 seconds.
Despite Capinpin’s strong effort, Delos Santos managed to end day one as the half-time leader with a total aggregate score of 3296 points. Capinpin on the other hand ended the first day with 3292 points.
Expect day two to have the lead switch back-and-forth between Capinpin and Delos Santos. Capinpin has some good events on the second day, but Delos Santos is known to be consistent on the second day.