Rio Olympian Ian Lariba, Alyssa Valdez, Kiefer Ravena vie for UAAP Athlete of the Year honor
Ateneo stars Kiefer Ravena and Alyssa Valdez are among the strong contenders for the UAAP Athlete of the Year honor. Reuben Terrado

THE UAAP will fete its student-athletes who made big impacts for Season 78 in Saturday's closing ceremonies at the Ang Bahay ng Alumni inside the University of the Philippines campus.

The highlight of the 5 p.m. event is the much-awaited announcement of the league's Athlete of the Year, an honor shared by La Salle table tennis star and Olympian Ian Lariba, Far Eastern University chesser Janelle Mae Frayna, and Ateneo tanker Hannah Dato last season.

Lariba, who steered the Lady Archers to a second straight table tennis crown that keyed the school's return as the seniors division general champion, is favored to come away with the league's highest individual award.

The Cagayan de Oro native also made history by being the first Philippine table tennis player to qualify in the Olympics. Lariba, who was unbeaten in her five-year UAAP stint, gained a ticket to Rio with her impressive performance in last month’s 2016 ITTF-Asia Olympic Games Qualification Tournament in Hong Kong.

All the MVPs from the league's 15 sports, including Ateneo's Alyssa Valdez (women's volleyball), Kiefer Ravena (men's basketball), and UP's Daniel Gadia (men's football), are eligible to win the Athlete of the Year plum.

The UAAP will also honor the athlete-scholars who not only excelled in sports but also in academics, while citations will be handed out to the league's athletes who competed in various international tournaments during the 2015-16 season.

Outgoing Season 78 president Dr. Michael Tan of UP will then hand the league flag to incoming Season 79 president Fr. Ermito de Sagun of University of Santo Tomas, who will also deliver the acceptance speech.

The season saw FEU ending a 10-year title drought to annex a record 20th men's basketball crown, La Salle regaining the women's volleyball throne and winning its first-ever women's beach volleyball championship, and UP achieving a golden double in football.

Adamson University also shone by winning its sixth consecutive softball crown, Ateneo ruled men's volleyball for the second straight year, and National University completing another sweep of the lawn tennis titles. 

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