ILAGAN – Looks like Philippine athletics has a new darling.

Filipino-American Natalie Uy debuted for the national team in style as she ruled the women’s pole vault event in record-breaking fashion on opening day of the 2019 Ayala-Philippine Athletics Championship Wednesday afternoon here at the Ilagan City Sports Complex.

The 5’6” newcomer vaulted for 4.12 meters right in her first try to shatter an 11-year national women’s record of 4.11 meters recorded by Deborah Samson at the 2008 California Regionals.

“I was a little nervous the whole week but I just had to go out and play today,” said the Ohio native, who waited for seven months before finally wearing the Philippine colors. “It’s incredible. I’m very happy how it went out today. I’m just really happy to come over here.”

She was supposed to play for the PH flag as early as the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, but her papers weren’t ready at the time. She secured her Philippine passport in mid-August last year.

Uy’s record leap would have been a sure gold in the Southeast Asian Games, too, as the winning mark of Chayanesa Chomchuendee in the 2017 edition of the biennial meet in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia only stood at 4.1 meters.

Expect more from Uy, who has a personal-best 4.30 meters achieved in Spain last year.

“Absolutely! Yes, I can do better than this,” added the 24-year-old pole vaulter, whose father Henry Uy hails from Cebu. “With more training, yes, I can do better. I’m excited to train and bring home the gold this coming SEA Games.”

Her national teammates Alyana Nicolas and Riezel Buenaventura grabbed the silver and bronze medals with 3.80 and 3.40 meters, respectively, in the tournament organized by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association and supported by the City of Ilagan, Ayala, Milo, Philippine Sports Commission, Soleus, L.TimeStudio, Cherrylume, Foton, Asian Athletics Association and the International Association of Athletics Federation.

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