ELBREN Neri upset national team mainstay Mervin Guarte for the 800-meter run gold medal in the 2016 Philippine National Open Invitational Athletics Championship on Friday at the Philsports track oval.
Neri, a University of Santo Tomas varsity trackster, crossed the line in one minute, 52.56 seconds to beat fellow national team newcomer Wenlie Maulas of Philippine Air Force by the slimmest of margins - only 0.24 seconds.
Meanwhile, the longtime Philippine team member Guarte, a silver medalist in last year’s Southeast Asian Games, only placed third in his pet event with a time of 1:53.31, trailing the 21-year-old Neri by a little more than a second.
Neri made his final push in final 200 meters, admitting that he was motivated to finish strong by the thought of Guarte closing in on him.
“Sobrang hirap talaga. Dun lang ako nag-pick up sa 200 meters. Siya (Guarte) ‘yung nasa isip ko na dumidikit sa akin. Isa rin siya sa nagbigay ng lakas kasi ayoko rin magpatalo. Kaya nag-push po ako kahit ubos,” said Neri.
Neri, however, declined to say that there is now a changing of the guard in the 800m run after he beat Guarte.
“Na-inspire po ako dahil medalist siya pero hindi ko po sinasabi na mas malakas ako sa kanya,” he said.
In other results, SEA Games gold medalist Christopher Ulboc stamped his class by winning the 3,000-meter steeplechase with a clocking of 9:11.79.
National team member Elizer Sunang, husband of the country’s long jump queen Marestella Torres, won the men’s shotput gold with a throw of 15.31 meters, albeit well below his national record of 16.72 meters.
Fil-American Donovant Arriola ruled the men’s long jump with a leap of 7.48 meters, while Rosie Villarito won the women’s javelin throw with 45.83 meters.
Jessica Lynn Barnard topped the women’s 800-meter run with a time of 2:11.70, as UST ruled the 800-meter boys and girls events, won by Rojon Redoble (1:55.86) and Louielyn Pamatan (2:17.36), respectively.
On the other hand, Junnrel Bendoy of Rizal Technological University (57:49.57) and Krisha Sardenia of UST (1:02:58.32) won in the 10,000-meter run for men and women, respectively.