AN athletics test event set on Oct. 26 and 27 at the New Clark City is expected to show the Filipino tracksters' readiness for the coming 30th Southeast Asian Games.
A 72-member Philippine athletics' team will compete against entries from Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam in the 20,000-seat New Clark City athletics' stadium inside the sprawling 9,500-hectare NCC sports complex.
"During the test games, I expect our athletes to be smart enough to get a good feel of their opponents' real worth and how much more they have to do during the actual SEA Games," said Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president Philip Juico.
Twenty-four of the 48 athletics events lined up in the SEA Games will be played in the test events, each having 15 participants to ensure competitiveness.
Of the 46 golds in the SEAG, the athletics' contingent will aspire for 13 golds.
"I used the word aspiring, not targeting, because that is what we have inculcated in our athletes’ minds from the time we formed the national training pool and the moment they started training,” said Juico.
Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) chairman William Ramirez said the test tournament will give the Filipino athletes additional boost and exposure before the actual SEA Games competitions.
“Our athletes need all the exposures they could get to take the pressures off them. It’s part of the process to make them familiar with the competition. That’s why the PSC has been supportive of their foreign stints and training,” Ramirez said.
Leading the charge for the hosts is pole-vaulter Ernest John Obiena, the Philippines' first-ever qualifier to the 2020 Tokyo Olympics on the strength of his gold-medal winning 5.81-meter effort in a Chiarri, Italy tournament last Sept. 3.
High hopes are also pinned on Fil-Am bets Kristina Knott and Zion Corrales-Nelson, who are expected to crowd Vietnamese champion Le Thunh Chinh for the 100-meter (11.56) and 200-meter dash (23.32) crowns.
Knott, who is training, already posted an improved time of 11.42 seconds during the Asian Grand Prix's 100-meter event, and 23.62 seconds in the Philippine National Open 200 meters.
Corrales-Nelson also bettered the SEAG mark with a time of 11.41 seconds in a US NCAA meet early this year.
Joining them in the men's division are sprinters Eric Cray and Anfernee Lopena in the 100-meter dash, alongside Michael del Prado and Jayme Sequito (400-meters), Carter Lilly and Marco Vilog (800-m), Mariano Masano and Said Guermali (1500-m), Clinton Bautista and Alvin Vergel (100-meter hurdles) and Francis Medina (400-m hurdles).
In the 100-meter relays are Cray, Bautista, Yuher Go, Jomar Udtohan and Vince Buhayan, while Sequito is in the 400-meter relays with Del Prado, Udtohan, Edgardo Alejan, Frederick Ramirez and Reymond Alferos.
In the women's division are Kayla Richardson (400-m), Marisol Amargo (800-m), Melissa Escoton and Jely Paraguile (100-m hurdles), along with Robyn Brown, Bernalyn Bejoy(400-m hurdles), Joida Gagnao (3000-meter steeplechase) and pole vaulters Alyanna Nicolas and Natalie Uy.
The team of Nelson, Knott, Kayla and Kyla Richardson are in the 100-meter relay team, with Eloisa Luzon and Escoton. Jessel Lumapas and Maureen Schrijvers are part of the 400-meter relay squad.