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Short-handed Mapúa Tracksters shine with Silver Finish

Article and Photo by: Albert L. Dela Cruz

June 20, 2024

The undermanned  Mapúa Tracksters defied expectations as they stormed their way into the podium to land in the first runner-up spot with an overall score of 584 points in the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Season 99 Senior’s Track and Field Championships held from June 6 to 8 at the PhilSports Track and Field Oval. 

Despite entering the point-based tournament short-handed, the red and gold roster maintained its competitive spirit. “We are only having 14 strong athletes [...] na mag lalaro ngayon season, pero lahat yan magcocontribute,” Team Captain Ariel Legaspi shared. The team remained relentless throughout the three-day competition, crossing the finish line with silver for the second consecutive year in the post-pandemic era of the league. 

Storming the Competition 

Amidst the thunderstorm and abrupt delays on the opening day of the tourney, the Cardinals remained steadfast to their goals as they took flight with sensational performances. Leonard Grospe soared to new heights with a 7.23-meter leap (Personal Best) in the Long Jump Event to snatch the Tracksters’ first gold of the tournament. The winning streak continued for the red –and gold as Vince Jayson Buhayan and Team Co-Captain Algin Gomez hauled in more medals for Mapúa University (MU) as they sprinted their way to silver and bronze, respectively, dominating the podium in the 100-meter dash.   

"Hindi ko inaakala na makakuha pa ako ng bronze [...] pero iba talaga kapag ang Diyos ang pinagkakatiwalaan." John Lloyd Batalla shocked everyone, including himself, as he propelled his way to a bronze finish in his Pole Vault event debut. “Iniisip ko lang po talaga is makatulong sa team kaya nilaro ko ang pole vault, kahit ilang araw lang ang training ko.” Batalla reflected on his preparations for the event “kaya sobrang saya sa feeling na bronze, like a gold.”   

Adding to the tally, Cristian Ote garnered more points for MU with a fourth-place finish in the Discus Throw event.  

Unbreakable Spirits 

On the second day of the tournament, rainy weather ensued, but the Cardinal avalanche continued. Built on the momentum they set on the inaugural events, Grospe and Gomez displayed their impressive forms once more, clinching the gold and silver medals, respectively, in the Triple Jump event. The former also snatched the bronze accolade in the 110-meter hurdles, while Ote celebrated his silver plaque in the Javelin Throw after narrowly missing on the Discus Throw podium the day prior. Meanwhile, Ritchie Estampador earned his first laurel in the tourney after capturing bronze in the 5000-meter Long Distance Running event. 

With nine medals by the end of day two, the Cardinals stayed on course for the podium. They overcame every hurdle in front of them, impressively breezed through the thunderstorm, and doubled their efforts to make up for the reduced roster. 

Destined for Glory 

The Tracksters never yielded their podium running in the contest, despite the tough competition and bad weather they faced. Putting an exclamation to their statement performances, Grospe went on to set the NCAA record for the High Jump event, as he leaped a historic 2.05 meters en-route to claiming all gold medals in the Jump Category except for Pole Vault. Following his lead, fellow Trackster John Lloyd Razon secured bronze in the same event. Persistent to record another MU historical mark, Estampador reached the NCAA pinnacle as he set a record-time of nine minutes and 12.13 seconds in the 3000-meter steeplechase to snag the gold medal, while also grabbing bronze in the 1500-meter Middle Distance Run. 

In the same vein, Aron Rich Cuenca displayed a true Mapúan’s tenacity as he went against all odds, fighting through a hand injury, to grab the gold medal in the Shot Put event.  “Siguro po kaya ko na overcome [...] gusto ko po talaga makuha yung gintong medalya, The Cardinal hurler added regarding his motivation to win. 

The Trackster Sprint Quartet of Grospe,Buhayan, Kennard Molinos, and John Ver Oczon bolted to a bronze finish in the 4x100-meter relay. Buhayan additionally attained a bronze medal in the 200-meter dash.  

Nearing the end of the three-day journey, the red and gold squad huddled together in the closing hours of the competition. Despite the team’s smaller numbers compared to their collegiate rivals, the Cardinals’ faces radiated with pride and joy after a culmination of sweat, dedication, and perseverance delivered them to secure the overall silver plaque, with Grospe named as the Most Bemedaled Athlete after sealing three gold medals and two bronze. 

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