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NCAA caps off; Cardinals rise to the challenge

Article by: Therese Anne B. Cruz and Alexandra Isabelle G. Delavin

Graphics by: Albert Dylan David

After a two-month run, the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) marked the end of Season 96 through a ceremony broadcasted on GMA News TV last August 8, 2021.

Despite all the hurdles faced in the preparations due to the COVID-19 pandemic, NCAA pushed through this season and finally commenced the opening ceremony last June 13. Instead of the traditional parade of athletes, the association’s new media partner, GMA Network, hosted a star-studded opening along with the players from the 10 participating schools, namely Mapúa University, Arellano University, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde, Emilio Aguinaldo College, Jose Rizal University, Lyceum of the Philippines University, San Beda University, San Sebastian College-Recoletos, and University of Perpetual Help System DALTA.

Along with the safety protocols issued by the Inter-Agency Task Force, some adjustments were considered for this specialized season. Compared to the past years, the Season 96 featured graduating and alumni athletes to compete for their respective schools. It also allowed only two main sporting events–taekwondo and chess–in accordance to contact sports restrictions. Applying the “loose conference” format in the 1960s, this season did not name a general champion as well.

Historically, a season is kicked off through a basketball game. However, for this season, the NCAA opted to start with Taekwondo’s Poomsae, followed by the speed-kicking competition, which replaced the sparring category. Mapúa University (MU) representatives Ella Mae Ronquillo and Erson Macatangay each showcased their skills in the speed kicking competition but were slammed down in the knockout rounds.

Moving on to the next game, NCAA hosted its first-ever online chess competition where the athletes battled in a single-elimination style knockout system on, an online chess server. Mapúan wood pushers John Paolo Medina, Stephen Von Estavillo, and Christian Thompson competed for the Seniors Division, and Maynard Dela Fuente, Yureeh Panganiban, and Miguel Yvan Sioson represented the Juniors Division. Medina fell short in the quarterfinals against LPU’s Neymark Digno, while the rest of the Cardinal chess players fizzled during the elimination round.

While some sports were not allowed for the time being, NCAA came up with other programs, such as the “Rise Up Stronger Playoffs: Cheerleading Edition” which was held inside the network’s studio and broadcasted last June, with each school represented by a pair of their cheerleaders. Mapúa Cheerping Cardinals alumni Elli Dale De Guzman and Carelle Samantha Nantes handed MU its only gold this season from this playoff.

Meanwhile, graduating Cardinal student Christian Bhennz Soriano and alumna Mary Sanly Baladad showcased their charm and talents as they represented the University in the Mr. and Miss NCAA Season 96 competition. Soriano faltered in the elimination round while Baladad earned a spot in the Top 3 candidates of Miss NCAA joining other representatives from Jose Rizal University and San Beda University.

The NCAA also organized skills showdowns for basketball and volleyball in the final week of the season. The University’s representative, former Cardinal Spiker Katrina Racelis, folded before the semi-finals in the All-Star Spiking challenge.

During the closing ceremony, NCAA Management Committee Chairperson Fr. Vic Calvo shared how the challenges tested their creativity to rise stronger this season, but all this was for those who support the league.

Our mindset is really to give hope to the NCAA athletes and fans to push through this season,” he noted.

Ending the season on a high note, Colegio de San Juan de Letran, NCAA Season 96 host, passed the baton to De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde.

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