SINCE the National Private Schools Athletic Association (Prisaa) Games (NPG) was revived in 1991 at the Pampanga Sports Complex in San Fernando, Pamapanga, it has helped produce world class and international caliber athletes the likes of Rio Olympics 2016 marathoner Mary Joy Tabal of Central Visayas and Davao region’s Southeast Asian Soft Tennis Championships 2017 champion Mark Anthony Alcoseba and Bimp Eaga Friendship Games 2014 athletics double gold medalist Sonny Wagdos.
Tabal, 29, who was also SEA Games 2017 gold medalist in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, competed five times in the NPG although she started as a sprinter in 2007 and settled for three bronzes in women’s 100m, 200m and 400m.
She again saw action in the 2009 Naga City edition of the Games and went home with a 400m bronze and two fourth place finishes in 5K and 10K. But in the next three years, the Southwestern University varsity scholar from Barangay Guba, Cebu City reached her peak and gave Central Visayas three golds in Tagbilaran 2010 (400m, 5K, 10K), three golds in Zamboanga 2011 (3K, 5K, 10K) and three golds in Cebu City 2012 (3K, 5K, 10K) and a silver in 4X400m relay.
“National Prisaa gave me the opportunity to not just represent my school but also to represent all student-athletes who gave everything to academics and sports,” she said, adding, “It also serve as an avenue for me to play with other competitors not just to win gold but playing for the love of the game. I never forget where I started, a young sprinter who just loves to run turned into an Olympian.”
She said that she always looked forward to competing in the NPG, which according to her, gave her confidence to grow as an athlete and reason to dream bigger.
She also won a marathon silver in the 2015 SEA Games in Singapore.
Tabal aims to defend her SEA Games gold in December.
Rise of a ball boy
Alcoseba, who holds a Private First Class rank in the Philippine Army, recently captured two titles in the PPS-PEPP Escudero Cup tennis tournament held at the Aera Tennis Club in San Pablo City recently.
He has indeed come a long way from being a tennis ball boy at the Sandawa and Ecoland tennis courts before he started playing the sport when he was 11 in age-group competitions.
The former Jose Maria College (JMC) standout first competed in the NPG 2006 held in Lingayen, Pangasinan and won a team event gold for Davao then he followed that up with another team event gold in Iloilo 2007 and doubles gold in Zamboanga 2008.
After three years, he transferred to Brokenshire College where he annexed a singles gold for the region in the Zamboanga 2011 staging.
While he continued competing in tennis and reaping titles (Pinamalayan Mindoro National Tennis Open 2019, Pinta Flores National Tennis Open 2018, Calbayog National Tennis Open 2017, Cainta National Tennis Open 2016, Olivarez National Tennis Open 2015, Lanao National Tennis Open 2013-2014, Carascal National Open 2013, Isulan National Open 2011, 2012, 2013, Gensan Tuna Festival 2012), he also joined the national soft tennis team about two years ago. The 32-year-old father of two will make his SEA Games debut when Philippines host the biennial games on November 30 to December 11.
He helped the country win a team bronze in the Korea Cup 2017, a team silver in the 1st Southeast Asian Soft Tennis Championship 2017, a team gold in Southeast Asian Soft Tennis Championship 2018.
“Bilang student athlete, nakapag-eskwela ko sa college ug libre din nahasa ug maayo ang akoang pagdula tungod sa experience na makadula ang bawat laing school ug iba-ibang region sa Pilipinas, ug happy ko na ang Davao region akoang ginadala kay diri ko nagdako (As a student athlete I studied in college for free then I was honed in my game through the experience in playing against different colleges and regions. I’m happy to represent Davao region since I grew up here),” he said in a separate Facebook interview.
Long distance specialist
For four straight years since 2013 to 2016, Sonny Wagdos of Davao region dominated the men’s 5,000-meter run of the National Prisaa Games and brought home a total of four golds for the region. His consistency at the track also helped him harvest several 5K, 10K and 21K titles here and in other parts of the country before joining the Philippine Air Force about two years ago.
The 24-year-old Wagdos, a former varsity athlete of the University of Mindanao (UM) who hails from Prosperidad in Agusan del Sur, pocketed a gold and a bronze in the 2019 Ayala Philippine Athletics Championships in Ilagan, Isabela last March.
The enlisted personnel of the Philippine Air Force thanked all those who journeyed with him during his Prisaa years.
“Dako jud natabang ang Prisaa sa akoa kay niabot ko sa dagko nga mga competition ug nakatabang sa akong trabaho karon (Prisaa helped me so much in big races and helped me in my job today),” he shared.
Wagdos also won two golds, one silver and one bronze in the 8th BIMP-Eaga Friendship Games 2014 in Labuan, Malaysia.