THE 72nd University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) drew to a close Thursday night at the Far Eastern University (FEU) Auditorium leaving one promise: to get better each year.

Witnessed by hundreds of students and attended by athlete awardees and school officials from the eight-member league, season host and UAAP president Anton Montinola said the league became more popular due to increased competitiveness of the schools and media mileage.

“We would like to thank everyone in making this possible… we have seen that the eight schools were very serious in improving their sports programs, looking forward to the next season's championship,” he said.

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The FEU official added that the partnership with broadcast giant ABS-CBN has been very pivotal to the league's huge following.

As a sign of confidence, the UAAP board last year unanimously granted another five-year contract to the network for the exclusive coverage of the games.

ABS-CBN bested other bidders GMA Network Inc. and Solar Entertainment as the men's basketball games were notably viewed in high-definition, a first in the history of Philippine sports.

The two-hour program also looked back on the highlights of Season 72 through an audio-visual presentation. The event was also peppered with impressive performances from the FEU Dance Company, FEU Chorale, and 2009 cheerdance champions, the FEU Cheering Squad.

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The UAAP feted with plaques and trophies those who have participated and won in different overseas competitions, and athletes who excelled in academics.

“UAAP speaks of a continuing tradition of being a prime source of national athletes,” said FEU President Dr. Lydia Echauz.

Montinola commended the athletes for their respective feats and for learning the core values of sportsmanship, perseverance, humility, and discipline.

But the night certainly belonged to University of Santo Tomas (UST) after bagging their 12th straight and 37th overall championship crown.

Headlining for the Tigers are taekwondo fighter Marlon Avenido and tanker Gian Daniel Berino who took the Athlete of the Year awards in the junior and senior divisions.

The 21-year-old Zamboanga native beat fellow Tiger and basketball standout Dylan Ababou, Sulu trackster Serenata Saluan, La Salle's swimming pride and actor Ernest Lorenzo “Enchong” Dee, and FEU woodpusher Sheider Nebato.

Avenido, a welterweight, is the season's most valuable taekwondo player. He also won a silver medal in the Southeast Asian Games in Laos last December and participated in the Asian Martial Arts Games in Bangkok, Thailand in August 2009.

He also saw action in the World Taekwondo Championship in Copenhagen, Denmark in October last year and the Southeast Asian Taekwondo Championship three months prior.

Three-time MVP Berino meanwhile took part in the Arena Feeding Frenzy Invitational Meet in Thailand last December.

“I never dreamed of being an Athlete of the Year of the UAAP but to only to be a good swimmer,” Berino said, while thanking his parents, friends, and UST for keeping his scholarship.

UST also romped off with a huge trophy after displaying a dominating presence this season.

The Tigers swept the men’s and women’s volleyball tournaments, men’s badminton, men’s taekwondo, men’s beach volleyball, men’s tennis, and softball.

UST also scored runner-up finishes in finishes in men’s and women’s table tennis, men's and women's judo, women's taekwondo, women's tennis, women’s fencing, women’s athletics and men’s and women’s football. Completing the school’s triumph are third place honors in men’ swimming and men’s chess.

Aside from UST, loud cheers went to 21-year-old Dee who graced the event to receive his second swimming MVP award. Fans and schools officials alike took the opportunity to join the rising young actor in photo-ops.

Dee took the MVP honors courtesy of his seven gold medals in September last year.

At the end of the ceremonies, Montinola passed the UAAP banner to Bro. Bernie Oca of La Salle, the host of the 73rd season.

“We take this as an honor and privilege to host this prestigious league,” Oca said, adding that the reason behind collegiate sports is to build heroes who will unify the country.

“Our divided country needs people who will unite make us one and great again (as a nation). We thank you (student-athletes) for the inspiration...We want to continue to get the best out of you and inspire the Filipino people to unite,” he added.

La Salle will be hosting the season for the second time since joining the league in 1986. Starting next season as well, the men's basketball finals will be aired live over ABS-CBN Channel 2. (Virgil Lopez/Sunnex)