ILAGAN CITY – The best and most promising track and field stars in the region take centerstage when the 12th Southeast Asian Youth Athletic Championship goes full blast on Monday at the sprawling Ilagan City Sports Complex in this enchanting city.
A total of 18 gold medals will be at stake in the opening salvo of this prestigious age-group tourney that serves as appetizer for the 2017 Ayala Philippine National Open Invitational Athletics Championships on Thursday in the same venue.
The opening ceremonies turned into a memorable night of song and dance numbers as Ilagan City Mayor Evelyn Diaz joined Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) secretary general Steve Hontiveros and Department of Labor and Employment Sec. Silvestre Bello in declaring the games open.
John Carlo Yuzon, a product of this region who plucked the gold medal in last year’s Palarong Pambansa in Legazpi City, lit the championship flame, while fellow Palarong Pambansa gold medalist Cherry Mae Banatao led the oath of sportsmanship, much to the delight of close to a hundred delegates from Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iraq, Malaysia, Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Singapore, Sri Lanka, and Timor Leste.
Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association (Patafa) president Philip Ella Juico was supposed to grace the opening-day festivities, but pulled out at the last minute to attend to an urgent personal matter.
The spotlight will be on Veruel Verdadero and Jane Marie Cambonga, two prized members of the national pool who are looking to book a slot in the national track and field squad that will campaign in the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur this August.
A 15-year old student from Immaculate Conception in Dasmarinas, Cavite, Verdadero is going for gold in all of his five events following a dominant performance in the Batang Pinoy National Championships in Tagum City, Davao del Norte last year.
He will compete in the boys’ 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter, 4x100 relay and 4x400 relay where he looms as one of the favorites.
“I am eyeing no less than the gold medal,” said Verdadero, who ruled the boys’ 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and 4x100-meter run before crashing with a hamstring injury in the Batang Pinoy last December.
On the same note, 17-year old Cambonga of Paliparan National High School also in Cavite is tipped to dominate the throwing events.
She will vie in the girls’ javelin throw in the morning before marching back to action in the afternoon to compete in the girls’ discuss throw.
This tourney is presented by the City of Ilagan and sponsored by Ayala Corporation with Milo, Philippine Sports Commission and the International Amateur Athletic Federation as co-presentor and Foton Philippines, UCPB Gen and Run Rio as minor sponsors.