After their Men’s Basketball team ended 21 years of semifinals drought, the University of the Philippines Men’s Athletics squad is out to snap their 37-year wait for another title.
With super rookies, grizzled transferees, and seasoned veterans, there was nowhere to go but up for the Fighting Maroons. And what better way to start the bid than with a dominant showing.
Obiena takes back-to-back; NU claims first gold in return
The day started bleak for the Maroons; they did not field someone in the season’s opening event: pole vault. Nonetheless, it was a solid start to the competitions.
Last year’s Rookie of the Year and pole vault champion Francis Obiena rose up to his billing, as his elder brother EJ skipped this season once more. Having competed for the University of Santo Tomas in 2016, EJ Obiena vaulted a whopping 5.46 m to claim both the UAAP record and the national record with that height.
This year, however, the younger sibling – who represents De La Salle University – only got 4.30 m, but it was enough to top his rivals for the gold. Silver went to Far Eastern University’s Jovanie Kasi, and the bronze to Mark Operario of the Ateneo de Manila University with identical 4.15 m marks. Kasi took the higher medal due to fewer attempts at the said height.
Later that afternoon, problems abounded for UP’s bid. Former ROY Elijah Guevara came in late to the call for the shot put finals, resulting in a “did not show” call and automatic ineligibility in his remaining events. A sorry end to the graduating Maroon’s UAAP career.
Still, fellow super senior Fel Quetulio and the rest of the UP shot put throwers were ready to step up as expected. But Tyronne Flores spoiled UP’s domination of the event and relegated Quetulio to silver. It was a fitting gift to the National University’s return in the championships – a gold with a huge 14.07 m heave.
The former ROY and previous UP skipper managed 12.87 for the second place, 22 cm ahead of DLSU’s Keneth Rafanan’s 12.65.
Jomar Udtohan is UAAP’s fastest man; Super Rookies maroon foes
The Diliman-based squad would not be denied of a sweep of the track events, however, as they sent almost all their runners to the medal rounds in top positions.
Transferee and national team standout Jomar Udtohan and former UAAP Juniors Most Valuable Player Jaime Mejia were 1-3 after the 100 m heats. Rookies Macario Masano, Edwin Giron, and Ferdinand Tridanio also blew past the opponents in both heats of 800 m.
Come the finals, UP simply turned these positions into medals.
Udtohan did better at 10.78 sec in the gold-clinching run, from 10.84 sec in the morning qualifiers. On the other hand, Mejia retained a sub-11-second performance for his last 100 m in the UAAP. The Civil Engineering major finished at 10.93 in the finals, an identical mark to the qualifiers.
FEU’s John Kenneth Paculba ended at 11.02 sec for the bronze ahead of teammate and second-seed Febeboy Kasi.
But the highlight for the Maroons were their Super Rookies in the middle distance runs, as they vanquished the opposition in the 800 m.
As early as the 50-meter mark from the start, Giron, Masano, and Tridanio broke away from the pack and took it from there, making it a three-way battle just among themselves.
They even raced each other to the finish, gathering pace and leaving everyone else for the fourth place in the final 100. In the end, Giron, who was still in form, out-hustled Macaso and Tridanio for the gold at 1:52.95. Macaso finished just 0.03 sec off Giron for the silver, while Tridanio gassed out to the bronze at 1:53.62.
With their outstanding start, UP lead the pack with 86 points off two golds, three silvers, and a bronze. FEU is at second with 54, La Salle follows at 25.
Unofficial Tally as of Day 1
UP 86 (2-3-1)
FEU 54 (0-1-1)
DLSU 25 (1-0-1)
NU 18 (1-0-0)
ADMU 17 (0-0-1)
UST 16 (0-0-0)
UE 13 (0-0-0)
AdU 1 (0-0-0)