BORN and raised in Tampakan, South Cotabato, Ernesto Canta Alsa had become an asset to the University of Mindanao in Davao City as a track and field varsity scholar.

The 21-year-old Erning, as he is fondly called by family and friends, started late in his sport though.

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"I was 17 when I became an athlete. My coach back then in high school, Allan Villarosa, encouraged me to run. I was very interested and I began to have goals in life," he told this writer.

This fourth child among six children of Alfonso, a farmer, and Fe, a housewife, is now a junior student taking up Bachelor of Science in Human Resource Management.

His late involvement in running, however, was not really a setback. He made his competition debut in the 2005 regional qualifying for the Palarong Pambansa in 2005 where he swept three gold medals in 400-meter hurdles, 200m dash and 400m dash at the South Cotabato Sports Complex.

He also won the 400m gold in the 2006 regional meet in his last year at the Tampakan National High School.

"I was nervous in my first competition but I got used to the pressure. When I compete, I just focus on achieving my goals," he said.

As a UM varsity athlete, Erning bagged an individual bronze in 400m in the 2007 National Private Schools Athletic Association (Prisaa) Championships in Iloilo City. He helped the Davao Region team to win the golds in the classical and 4x200m relay events and a bronze in 4x400m relay.

He copped 400m silver in the National University Games in Bacolod City.

In 2008, he and his teammates salvaged two bronzes (4x400m and 4x200m) in the Zamboanga National Prisaa Championships. He followed it up with a 400m bronze in the National Uni-Games in Dumaguete City.

He took 400m silver in the 2009 National Prisaa Championship in Naga City and another bronze also on the same event in the Iloilo National Uni-Games.

In the coming Commission on Higher Education (Ched) National Meet at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex in Manila, Erning will again represent the region in 100m, 200m, 400m, 4x100, 4x200, 4x400 and classical relay events.

Thus, he resumed rigid training right after the Ched regional qualifying was held at UM Matina recently.

He shared, "Training is tiring. Sometimes it really affects my studies. But I really work extra hard and manage my time. I sleep early at night and wake up at 3:30 a.m. the next morning so I can jog before going to my classes."

Being the team captain, Erning said he takes responsibility with his teammates.

"I won't be running forever. I think I will just share my talents and my knowledge to other athletes. But I sure dream of being a part of the national team," he said.

Erning, who takes inspiration from his girlfriend, parents and present coach, also said that he wants to be a "good law enforcer' in the future.