CITY OF ILAGAN, Philippines – The competition was formally opened on Wednesday evening, March 29, here at the City of Ilagan Sports Complex with two super athletes seen joining the grand parade – Olympian long jumper Maristella Torres-Sunang and Fil-Am track and field star Eric Cray.
The spectacular lighting of the championship torch sitting atop a 30-foot corncob was complimented by an electrifying fireworks display and a star-studded evening show featuring Erich Gonzales and Sam Concepcion.
The city government welcomed hundreds of athletes representing Southeast Asian neighbors such as Brunei Darussalam, Indonesia Athletics Federation, Hongkong, Malaysia, Malaysia (Kinabalu Montana, Sabah), Malaysia (Sabah), Singapore Team, Singapore (Sports School), Sri Lanka, and Timor Leste.
Mayor Evelyn C. Diaz and former Mayor Dr. Josemarie L. Diaz, the brains behind the twin athletics championships, warmly greeted the delegates in their separate speeches.
Philippine teams seen in action on the first day includes Team RP-City of Ilagan, Team Mammangi, Mapua Institute of Technology, Jose Rizal University, San Beda College, Team Baguio, University of Baguio, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Tuguegarao City, Don Bosco Greywolves, Bulacan, Lucena City, TOJ-One Cainta, San Fernando City La Union, South Cotabato Athletics Association, Cantafa-Camarines Norte, CLSU Science City of Munoz, Philippine Army, Philippine Air Force, Team Titus, Polytechnic University of the Philippines, and Team ISU.
Team Baguio bagged the first gold medal in the 10,000-m women as Christabel Martes clocked 38:40:52 to stay on top of the race. She failed to beat her own record 34:40:30. The race started as early as 5:00 A.M.
Team RP-Ilagan City team hauled their first gold in Shot Put men with Albert Mantua’s 14.90-meter winning throw.
Mapua’s Christian Dave Geraldino snatched the gold in High Jump boys, clearing 1.89 meters.
Timor Leste bagged its first gold in 3,000-m Steeple Chase boys with Felisberto de Deus clocking 9:45.83 seconds.
Fil-Am celebrity athlete Eric Cray was presented during the press conference. Joining him are Olympian long jumper Maristella Torres, SEA Youth silver medalist Wally Gacusan and bronze medalist John Carlo Yuzon.
Asked what events he would participate, Cray said “I will just run in several relays.”
“I decided to participate to inspire young athletes. Matanda na ako at naghahanap na ng kapalit,” Torres told members of the media.
Homegrown John Carlo Yuzon expressed his joy as he finally meets his idol Eric Cray in person. They were seated next to each other during the press conference.
The 2017 Philippine National Open Invitational Athletics Championships will be played in accordance with the IAAF competition rules, where about 88 events are scheduled from March 30 to April 2.
This competition marks the first partnership between Ayala and the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA).
“Team RP-City of Ilagan includes 32 homegrown athletes, including two medalists in the recently concluded 12th SEA Youth games,” said Paul Bacungan of the City Information Office. -Abe Almirol/Northernforum.net