Athletics National Open Attracts Top Athletes
Anticipation for the 2016 Ayala Philippine National Open Invitational Athletics Championships is reaching fever-pitch. Over 1,000 athletes have already signed up for the annual athletics meet organized by the PATAFA.
This year’s version of the National open is unique in many ways. First, this year’s championships year marks the forging of a long-term partnership between Ayala Corporation and the PATAFA, after long hours of comprehensive discussions. Hence, the 2016 edition is billed the Ayala Philippine National Open-Invitational Athletics Championships. In addition, this year’s National Open returns to the Philippine capital, the hub of athletics in the country. The three-day scorching, live, action-packed competition will be held on April 7, 8, and 9 in PhilSports (formerly ULTRA) in Pasig. It will be open to the public.
The competition will kick off at daybreak on April 7 then culminate on April 9 by 5:00pm. On each day, competitions will start at 6 AM and then have a 6-hour mid-day break and resume at 4 P.M. to end at 8 P.M. The six-hour break is to give the competitors and technical officials a respite from the extreme summer heat and to follow international conventional practice
The 2016 Open is anticipated to be a tightly contested championships as the July 11 deadline for the submission of Olympic qualifiers draws near. The championships will showcase the athletic prowess of current members of the national athletics team pitted against the best of the best across the archipelago. This year, expected to provide tough competition are over 1,000 up-and-coming and powerhouse track and field athletes all over the Philippines plus invited young and top-notch athletes from neighboring Asian countries such as South Korea, Malaysia (expected to field teams from Peninsular Malaysia and Sabah), Singapore, Hong Kong, Guam, Brunei and Mongolia. The Philippines will, on the other hand, field entries from the national team, the national training pool and collegiate leagues like the UAAP, NCAA, SCUAA.
Interest will also be focused on Fil-American standouts from the national team and a new batch of crack Fil-heritage athletes, who have served notice of their desire to participate in the three-day event as part of their plan to join the national team. As members of the national team they will have a shot at competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics and succeeding competitions like the 2017 SEA Games in Malaysia, the 2018 Asian Games in Indonesia, the 2019 SEA Games in the Philippines and the 2020 Olympics in Japan.
Leading the Fil-Am charge are Rio Olympics qualifier Eric Cray who will see action in the 100m and 400m Hurdles and currently ranks 38th in the world; Caleb Stuart, the 2015 Southeast Asian Games Hammer Throw record holder; and, Donovant Arriola, bronze medalist in Long Jump in the Singapore SEA Games. A returnee to the Open is Brandon Thomas who has joined Eric Cray as the latter’s training partner in Texas. Thomas, who competed in the 2015 National Open in Sta Cruz, Laguna, can run a time good enough to qualify for the 7th Asian Indoor Championship in Doha, Qatar, and hopefully, the World indoors (in Eugene, Oregon). Thomas will compete in the 100 and 200 meter runs.
Hopes are high that a good number of Philippine athletes, with its formidable squad of young and experienced home grown and overseas-trained athletes, will spring surprises in delivering record setting performances in this year’s Open.
A host of crack tracksters from across Asia and the Pacific are expected to mount stiff opposition to the Philippine athletes. Worth anticipating are the performances of Lee Gyu Hyeong and Kim So Yeon from South Korea, and Shanti Pereira of Singapore for the sprints, and Muhd Mat Hasan, Rayzam Wan Sofian, and Raja Azhar of Malaysia in the hurdles event.
Who to watch out for in the 2016 APNOIAC
Aside from Cray and Stuart, local athletics stalwarts may spring some sizzling athletics performances in the upcoming championships. Marestella Torres, at 35, and probably maybe one of the oldest contenders in the competition, is still expected to perform creditably. Torres holds both the RP and SEA Games records in Long Jump at 6.71m. She will compete in the same event on April 7 in pursuit of a Rio Olympics slot. This may also be her swansong to top-level athletics.
At the other end of the age spectrum is Ernest John (EJ) Obiena, one of the youngest members of Team Pilipinas Athletics. EJ, at 20 years old, now holds the distinction of setting the year’s best in Southeast Asia for Pole Vault with a record of 5.60m, 10cm short of the 5.70m Olympic qualifying mark. EJ recently barged into the top 100 pole vaulters in global tanking. He is expected to meet strong opposition from his Thai nemesis in the 2015 SEA Games. Also worth anticipating is Christopher Ulboc, reprising his 3000m Steeplechase SEA Games winning run. In a dramatic fashion, Ulboc pulled off a last minute finishing kick in his bread-and-butter event to cop the fifth gold medal for the Philippines in the Singapore SEA Games last year. Ulboc competes in the 3000m Steeplechase on April 8.
The 2016 Ayala Philippine National Open-Invitational Athletics Championships is title-sponsored by the Ayala Corporation, co-presented by Milo Nutri-up and the PATAFA supported in part by the Philippine Sports Commission and the IAAF with major sponsors Foton Philippines, PCSO, Summit Natural Drinking Water, Appeton, Asics Watch, L TimeStudio, and media partners Business Mirror, Business Mirror Health & Fitness Magazine, and the official radio station Mellow 94.7.