Ilagan City—Top track bets from here and abroad show their wares today when the 2019 Ayala Philippine Athletics Championships fire off here at the Ilagan City Sports Complex.

Athletes from Singapore, Malaysia and Sri Lanka battle it out on the field against tracksters from local clubs and the Philippine national team in the three-day trackfest organized by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association and supported by Ayala, Milo, Soleus and the City of Ilagan.

As formidable as the participants are, all eyes will be on the national track bets, who are out to prove their spots in the national team, with the Philippine Open being the federation’s gauge on who will be fielded in the coming 30th Southeast Asian Games, which the country hosts in November.

“We’re looking for athletes who will qualify to the national team. The best five performers here will be in the training pool. Then, we’ll choose the top three for the SEA Games,” PATAFA training director Renato Unso said.

“We will have a running leaderboard starting from now until September so this is the best time to qualify, though we will still have weekly relays in June.”

Leading the cast for the nationals are debuting Filipino-American pole vaulters Natalie Uy and Alyana Nicolas, who loom as the heavy favorites to dominate over local counterparts based on their personal-bests of 4.30 meters and 3.93 meters, respectively.

Those pole vault leaps, especially Uy’s, are good enough to shatter the 4.10-m gold-medal tally of Thailand’s Chayanesa Chomchuendee in the 2017 edition of the biennial regional sports conclave.

Uy and Nicolas will be the first from around 30 national athletes to plunge into action today with the women’s pole vault final set at 2 p.m. at the track oval of the Ilagan City Sports Complex.

Aside from them, 2015 SEAG bronze medalist Donovant Arriola also hits the field in men’s long jump set at 7 a.m. in a bid to claim the first of the 38 gold medals at stake in today’s opener.

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