Since the entry of a slew of rookies five years ago, the University of Santo Female Tracksters have taken home the golden trophy year after year in UAAP women’s athletics.
For most of these four seasons, the champions manage to win comfortably. This time around, though, they were given a chase for the ages.
The Far Eastern University were hot on the heels of the Female Tracksters, taking the lead prior to the final day. The turnaround was an eye-opener for the Tigresses.
Team captain and one of the fifth-year standouts Alyssa Andrade admitted that it was not a easy. “Sobrang na-pressure po kami kasi dikit lang ‘yung laban. Kung aangat yung isang team, aangat din po kami [pagkatapos]. Grabe yung habulan ng points po, kaya na-pressure po kami.
“Ang ginawa po namin kagabi po is nag-focus po kami. Kagabi po pumunta po kami sa church. Kanina naman, nag-meditate kami, inalis namin ‘yung mga negative feelings o kung ano man,” she admitted.
This is UST’s fifth championship of the season.
And come winning time, the Tigresses delivered.
Andrade showed her dominant form in the long jump, taking her third straight gold in the event with a leap of 5.80m. National triple jump record holder Angel Cariño of the De La Salle University Lady Tracksters was a relatively distant second at 5.66; while fellow Tomasina Rosnani Pamaybay was a tad shorter at 5.63.
UST then finally hit their stride to cut the deficit to two after the 1500m, as Jie Anne Calis pocketed the gold over her senior Pamatian at 4:41.19, who finished at 4:44.02. Joida Gagno kept FEU above waters with the bronze at 4:47.12.
The Lady Tams then put up a cushion, as Melissa Escaton of La Salle and their own Jelly Paragile held off double sprint gold medalist Karen Janario at the 100 m hurdles.
The Lady Green Trackster clocked at 14.34, setting a new UAAP record in the sprint hurdles event. FEU got the silver also in record-surpassing time of 14.46. Janario snagged the bronze at 14.59.
At this point, the thrilling and tight race to the crown on, heading to the final event – the 4×400 relay.
The two teams started slow in the relay, as UP and La Salle picked up the pace in the early-goings. Nonetheless, when Pamatian took the baton for UST, the graduating senior pushed for the win.
FEU distance specialist Joida Gogna tried to close the gap, but with the Fighting Maroons in second place, the Lady Tam had a hard time catching up.
In the end, the then four-time champions crossed the finish line first at 3:51.66 and ahead of FEU, who finished almost 8 seconds after at 3:59.03. UP clinched the silver in the race at 3:54.78.
The gold in the relay proved the deciding factor for the championship; the Female Tracksters of UST ended up with a total of 358 points over the Lady Tamaraws at 347 points. The Maroons rounded up a repeat of the podium just last February for Season 80, as they tallied 203 points.
The long jump stalwart Andrade was pleased that the squad pushed on.
“Nakaka-proud po kasi matagal po namin na nakuha ‘yung championship, and nag-champion nga po ulit sa year namin. Hindi kami papayag na mawala pa ‘yung championship na ‘yun,” she said.
Gunning for their sixth straight title, Andrade hopes that the Tomasinas learned something from the hardships they encountered this year, and will not settle for less.
“For this season, alam naman naming ‘yung mga pagkakamali naming nagawa man. Hopefully for next season, mag-improve po yung self namin, ‘yung performance po namin na ‘wag kaming makampante kung ano man yung nakuha namin ngayon.”