Mighty Kong saves UC-A A +A
Sunday, September 2, 2012
IN A YEAR of upsets, the University of Cebu (UC) managed to avoid what could have been the biggest upset in Milo Little Olympics Visayas history and held on to the overall title in the secondary division for an unprecedented 17th time.
UC, behind its swimming team, had a last- minute surge to finish with 176.25 points arresting gritty advances from the Univresity of San Carlos, which finished with 161.5—its best in years.
USC is the only school that rendered the biggest surprise not just for UC but for the league.
“This is by far the season that gave us the biggest scare for the overall title. I did not have a good sleep this whole time,” said UC athletic director Bernard Ricablanca.
This year, several defending champions were dethroned, including those in athletics, tennis, volleyball, scrabble, football and even gymnastics.
There were also several surprises of first-time contenders winning the title.
“This is a very exciting team that will compete in the nationals. It is very varied and the fact that some of the toughest teams lost to new teams, it means we have a stronger lineup now. We now look forward to the national as we seek to win a fourth straight title,” said organizer Ricky Ballesteros.
The national finals will be in October in Marikina.
Everyone was on their toes yesterday as USC came to within four points after sweeping the chess competitions in the secondary and elementary divisions.
USC’s Jazelle Villarin, Keithclaire Morala, Sharon Pacres and Laila Nadera won the girls title, while Rhenzi Kyle Sevillano, Felix Shaun Balbona, John Francis Balbona, Glexan Derotas and Jeff Dorog won the boys title that gave USC the needed to points to slice UC’s lead to just four.
“Waiting for the swimming results seems like forever,” said Ricablanca, who believes he has an extraordinary set of athletes for getting past USC’s defenses.
“UC has become really strict about academics so for these kids who are dependent on their scholarships to still help us win the Milo title, I believe they are exceptional. And do I dare say, not normal at all,” he said. “Regular students just study and pray to God they pass their exams. My athletes study and train. And they train really hard. So for them to come up with this performance is very much admirable.”
Finally, when the swimming event finished, UC earned 50 points from winning the girls’ overall title and placing second in the boys event. USC came up with 40 points with its boys team taking the title and only finishing third in the girls division.
UC’s saving grace was most probably swimming stalwart Michael Ichiro Kong, who was the team’s workhorse, competing in 15 events and winning nine golds and four silvers in the process.
He also posted three record-breaking feats.
“I am pretty tired but I am glad I helped the team out,” said Kong.
Kong was fielded in as many events as possible to help UC earn points especially in the boys division, where they expected to be overpowered by USC.
UC swimming coach Lando Alvarez’s gamble paid off as Kong sealed his Milo rampage with his record-breaking swim in the 200-meter butterfly, posting 2:28.76 to improve his record of 2:29.03.
“It is very humbling to have accomplished these. However, I know that I will do better in the nationals. Some of my times aren’t my best. That is because my body got tired because I joined so many events. I needed to compete in a lot of events because we need to earn points for my school.
In the nationals, I might be giving some of the slots to other swimmers so I could focus on the events that I am strong in and also give others a chance,” said Kong, who also won the 100m and 800m freestyle.
The other gold medal winners for USC in the pool was the secondary girls 400m relay team of Trina Caneda, Beth May Arellano, Annita Monterola and Danielle Mae Ballesteros.
USC’s Cynthjune Goden also helped the boys team by breaking an 11-year-old record by Marlon Galo in the 100m breaststroke. Goden clocked in 1:14.01 to erase Galo’s 1:15.54.
The USC boys team of Goden, Tristan Kirk Ebon, Aaron Embuscado and Joshua Beltran posted a new record in the 200m freestyle relay with 1:53.34, beating its 2010 record of 1:57.69.
St. John Institute Bacolod’s Ellene Grace Dewara also posted a record in swimming yesterday in the girls 100m breaststroke. She replaced Yon Academia’s 2010 record of 1:28.15 to 1:26.44.
Ballesteros said he takes his hat off to USC, which he described as a silent stalker.
“It’s like they were just waiting in the shadows and suddenly, there they are, threatening UC’s 16-year reign,” said Ballesteros.
USC- Basic Education principal Sister Remedios Socorro Aunzo, SSpS, said she credits the players’ dedication for this year ‘s achievement.
“I have been watching the kids play and all of them gave their hearts out. One player came to me and said he was saddened because they lost but I told them, what is important is they tried their best and they get to experience this,” said Sr. Aunzo.
USC athletic director Saturnino Mayormita continues to downplay their achievement by saying that their secret to this is dedication, hard work and lots of prayers.
“For the past years we just slowly built up an athletics program. We made sure the kids get to study and play at the same time because we believe that education is not limited in the classrooms. We have seen how these kids tried and we are very proud of them,” said Mayormita.
USC has been slowly building itself up in the ranking.
“They started from placing in the Top 10, then the Top 5, the Top 3 and now Top 2.
What they have done to their sports program is very commendable. If UC will not make any changes, then it is very possible that they will be overpowered next year. USC is definitely a huge threat,” said Ballesteros.
USC earned points in all events except for football. UC, on the other hand failed to earn points in football, gymnastics, scrabble, sepak takraw, tennis and volleyball.
Ricablanca admitted that USC’s edge is having entries in all of the 12 sporting events. For next year, Ricablanca said it will be hard to come up with teams in events that they do not have a scholarship program.
“Building a new team will take time and resources. And to make a team that is competitive, will take about three years. Maybe for next year, what we intend to do is just strengthen the teams that we do have,” said Ricablanca.
Meanwhile, Ballesteros said training for the national finals will start right away.
“The tournament directors will be on hand to check on our athletes’ trainings,” he said. The national finals will be next month in Marikina.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on September 03, 2012.