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Santos, Torres-Sunang in Baguio-hosted Ayala backed Ph athletics open

COUNTRY’S BESTS. Six of the national team members, past and present, try to retain their slots in the Philippine athletics team who are training at the Baguio athletic bowl including the best female long jump athlete Marestella Torres-Sunang, second left and her former number two, Katherine Santos, 3rd right. From left: Ronnie Malipay (triple jump), Torres-Sunang, Evalyn Palabrica (javelin throw), Santos, Mark Harry Diones (triple jump) and Melvin Calano, who won the gold in javelin in the 2019 SEAG. Pigeon Lobien Photo

Katherine Santos hopes of making a return to the national team and the Southeast Asian Games in two events may have been raised after the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (Patafa) announced that it will be staged here instead at the Philsports Track and Field Oval in Pasig City.

Santos will be among the 180, 50 of them present and former national athletes like her, seeking spot in the national squad in the Ayala Philippine Athletic Championship that will be held at the Baguio athletic bowl on December 16 and 17.

Patafa has earlier slated the event on December 9 and 10 in Pasig City but the venue is still undergoing renovations prompting the body to move the Philippine qualifying event to Baguio whose winners will be sent to Hanoi, Vietnam for the Southeast Asian Games.

“I wish to go back to the national team and compete some more,” said the 2011 bronze medal winner in the SEAG, who studied at the nearby Baguio City High School, and will have locals cheering for her.

She will be making the leap with the country’s top long jump athlete Marestella Torres-Sunang, who at 40 opts to still compete until new athletes will be discovered.

“Thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic I still have to compete since all athletic events have been cancelled like the UAAP (University Athletics Association of the Philippines) and other events where new athletes can be discovered,” said the four time SEAG gold medal winner and the 2009 Asian Games champion.

It will be the seventh SEAG for Torres-Sunang, whose 6.72 meters effort is best in the region, since joining the 2005 edition held in Manila.

“So here I am again,” the three time Olympian said in Filipino with a smile.

Santos said she needs to clear at least 6.17 meters to qualify for the national squad, which is way below her personal best of 6.4 meters, and higher than the six meters set by Patafa.

Santos last saw action in the 2017 SEAG to give birth to her only child, a son, who is now three.

“As long as it is near six meters, the Patafa will consider since we have not gone 100 percent in our preparation and we still have more competitions to join in (before the May SEAG),” said the 31-year old earlier.

Santos is also eyeing a slot in the 4 x 100 meter team where her personal best is 11.99. The Philippine record is 11.27 set by Kristina Knott, who is in the United States where she will join in a similar tryout, along with other Fil-Am athletes.

“Mas pursigido ako ngayon na ibigay ang best ko to prove my capability as a national athlete before,” she said in an earlier interview over a local radio station.

The Patafa is hoping to send its best team to the 11-nation biennial sports meet which has been delayed by a year due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

The Philippines had a best showing in decades at the 2019 SEAG in Clark New City in Capas, Tarlac where it won 11 gold, eight silver and eight bronze medals.

Patafa head Philip Ella Juico said earlier that none of the current athletes, both locals and eight Fil-Ams based abroad, are assured of a slot unless they qualify in the tryouts.

Juico said that at least 30 athletes will be enlisted as members of the national track and field team after the national open trials.

Meanwhile, City Sports Development Office head Gaudencio Gonzales said that locals will join the Philippine open.

“They have been in the freezer for some time and it will be good for them to compete and gauge their time against the country’s best. Exposure for them,” said Gonzales in Filipino.

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