SHE steered Team Southern Mindanao in the 2002 Palarong Pambansa by copping the coveted gold medal of the girls elementary javelin throw.
Ailyn "Bong" Lumayaga Manero was then 12.
That Naga City feat came only within a year of getting involved in athletics, thus, showing that she had the makings of a champion.
Fresh from her pole vault silver medal finish in the just-concluded 2010 Commission on Higher Education (Ched) National Games at the Rizal Memorial Sports Complex, Bong shares to this writer her life as a student-athlete.
The 20-year-old Computer Engineering senior student at the Holy Cross of Davao College (HCDC) was born in Malagos, Baguio, Calinan.
Her father Jose is a retired soldier while her mother Helen is deceased.
She recalled, "It was in 2002 that I got into javeline throwing and I became a Davao City champion in elementary then I also won the gold in the SMRAA Meet. I also got my hands in pole vault. But I did not expect to win a Palaro gold medal on the same year I started learning my sports."
In my Google search, Bong indeed made the news with her golden performance. She heaved a distance of 34.4 meters beating Fairodz Usman (32.52m) of the Autonomous Region for Muslim Mindanao (Armm) and Elizabeth Tura (31.21m) of Western Mindanao.
"I was so happy that time because I made my parents proud. They're my inspiration. Just seeing them happy made me happy too," she said.
She said she learned to play javelin throw and pole vault with her friends in Calinan during her childhood.
"I enjoyed playing them and later continued to play both events competitively. I'm so thankful to my family and friends for their support in my sports over the past years. I thank God for giving me the talents," the five-foot-two ace said.
When she reached High School though, Bong only managed to win the javelin throw gold in the 2004 Davraa Meet but placed fourth in the 2004 Palaro in Iloilo City.
She defended her Davraa gold in 2005 and 2006 but she took the fourth and sixth spots of the Palaro in Naga and Iloilo, respectively.
She, however, persevered in college. She swept the golds in pole vault and javelin throw in the Regional Prisaa Meet 2007. She captured the pole vault silver and the javelin throw bronze in the 2007 National Prisaa in Iloilo.
She retained her Regional Prisaa golds in 2008, 2009 and 2010. In the 2008 National Prisaa, she salvaged a bronze in pole vault.
Bong said sports have truly made a difference in her life, saying: "The discipline I learned in sports motivates me in my studies. I learned to manage my time and focus on the tasks at hand. I know my priorities and responsibilities as an athlete and as a student."
Her day starts as early as 4 a.m. for a time of prayer and review of her lessons. She jogs by 5 a.m. and do her training routine before she goes to school for her 8:30 a.m. to 7 p.m. classes.
"I go home straight, eat dinner and study or work on my assignments before I sleep at 12 midnight," she added.
She said she is happy with what she had already achieved as an athlete. She may still be competing in a couple of years but she said she looks forward to gaining success in her field after she graduates.
She continued, "I want to have a company to lead."
It is interesting to note that among the many sports icons, she chooses to be a fan of world boxing champion Manny Pacquaio.
"He is a Filipino. He was poor when he started believing that poverty was not a hindrance to be successful. We both came from humble beginnings and I want to also be successful just like him," she ended.