ILAGAN CITY – Junior track athletes Katherine Anne Quitoy and Charmaine De Ocampo stole the spotlight from their seniors with record-breaking performances and multiple gold-medal hauls at the close of the 2019 Ayala – Philippine Athletics Championships Friday afternoon here at the Ilagan City Sports Complex.

Quitoy, the Bacolod City native and Palarong Pambansa champion, threw 44.71 meters in girls’ javelin throw to erase a 21-year-old record of 44.54 meters set by legendary thrower Rosie Villarito back in the 1998 national open.

The hurl of 18-year-old Quitoy was meters ahead of her closest competitors Lanie Carpentero (41.93 meters) and Tina Rosete (34.28meters), who settled for silver and bronze medals, respectively.

De Ocampo, on the other hand, also sent a strong statement as the most promising runner today with an astounding four-gold and two-silver medal finish at the end of the three-day trackfest organized by the PATAFA 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.

The Cavite Province standout De Ocampo emerged as the most bemedalled athlete in the APAC with gold-medal wins in the 1,500 meters (5:09.98) yesterday to add to her earlier mints in the 800 meters, 4×100 and 4×400 girls’ relays. She just fell short in the 4×400 mixed gender relay and the 3,000-meter run and settled for the silvers.

National team members also hogged the spotlight with Francis Medina, Robyn Brown, Kristina Knott, Eric Cray and Anfernee Lopena also finishing with multiple gold medals.

Hurdlers Medina and Brown clinched three gold medals apiece following their wins in the men’s and women’s 400 meter hurdles, respectively. They also added mints with wins in the 4×100 men’s and 4×100 women’s relay events, respectively.

They ended their strong showing in style in the first ever 4×400 mixed gender relay together with Eloisa Luzon and Mico Del Prado after clocking in 33.44 seconds to complete a triple-gold medal haul.

Today’s top Filipino sprinters Cray and Knott also reigned supreme in the 200-meter run to highlight the last day of the national open, which also serves as qualification of the national team pool members for the coming Southeast Asian Games this November in New Clark City.

Veteran SEAG campaigner and multiple gold medalist Cray clocked in 21.92 seconds in the said event to prevail over Mohammad Irfan Qabeel Daud (22.59second) and Yann Guang Marcell Tan (22.88seconds) of Singapore, who settled for the silver and bronze medals, respectively.

This was Cray’s second gold medal after anchoring the national team’s 4×100 men relay victory during the first day, with teammates Lopena, Jomar Udtohan and and Clinton Bautista.

The meet’s fastest woman Knott, for her part, zeroed in on the 32-year-national record of legend Lydia De Vega (23.35seconds) after a 23.63-second run in the 200 meters to win the gold over national teammates Zion Corrales Nelson (24.03seconds) and Kayla Richardson (24.51seconds).Like Medina and Brown, the Orlando, Florida-native Knott also emerged as a triple-gold medalist with earlier wins in 4×100 women relay and the centerpiece 100-meter run.

Hailed as this year’s fastest man with a victory in the centerpiece event 100-meter dash, national team veteran Anfernee Lopena also has a chance to be a triple-gold mint winner with upcoming race in the 4×100 mixed gender relay along with Eloisa Luzon, Kyla Richardson and Cray as of press time.

Seasoned national team campaigners Mervin Guarte and Albert Mantua also notched two gold medals apiece.

Middle distance runner Guarte clocked 3:58.20 to win the gold medal in the 1, 500 meters which was a quick followup to his 3,000-meter steeple chase win the other day. Mantua, for his part, dominated the men’s discus throw and shotput.

With this, PATAFA President Philip Ella Juico could not help but be satisfied and thrilled despite having only one record breaker in Filipino-American pole vaulter Natalie Uy, who set a new national record with 4.12 meters.

The Ohio native Uy eclipsed the 11-year mark of 4.11 meters tallied by Deborah Samson back in 2008.

“This is the opener of the season, you do not expect these athletes to be always aiming for records. They’re just taking it easy. They’re not yet pushing themselves because that’s the long-term plan,” said Juico.

Uy and other tracksters clinched their respective spots in the national team with still seven months to go before the SEAG set from Nov. 30 to Dec. 11 in New Clark City in Capas, Tarlac, according to Juico.

“As of today, I think we have already 21 athletes who are qualified in the national team. They have up to September to retain their spots in the pool,” he added.

In a bid to further whip the national team into a competitive squad come the SEAG, the PATAFA now prepares for tougher tournaments like the Asian Athletics Championships, World Relays together with the athletics open championships in Singapore, Thailand and Taiwan for their final build-up.

Juico’s ‘wishlist’ is to equal or even surpass the record 13 golds tallied by the Philippine national athletics team led by Lydia De Vega, Nonoy Unso and Isidro Del Prado Jr. back in 1983 SEAG.

“This year’s SEAG will have the biggest athletics event in history with 48 events so our wishlist is we just want to equal the 1983 record. That’s only a wishlist,” Juico said. “We have to have a goal. We’re not saying we can win 13 gold medals. We’re just saying that’s our goal. After all, we’ll be playing in front of our own country.” (Photos from PATAFA Media Bureau)

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