PASAY CITY – Youth was served at the 38th MILO Marathon National Finals Saturday (December 13) at the SM Mall of Asia as reigning Queen Mary Joy Tabal retained her throne while a new King arose in the person of Rafael Poliquit. At 25 years of age, both champions bring the promise of more titles in the years to come.
Tabal negotiated the 42.195-kilometer course in 2:51:55, a far cry from her record-setting performance of 2:48:00 last season. The petite Cebuana actually finished second overall in the Open Female Category to Kenya’s Rose Nyangacha (2:47:33) while edging out Third Place Immaculate Chemutai of Uganda (2:52:49).
It was a major upset to say the least for Tagum City’s Poliquit, who dethroned defending champion Eduardo “Vertek” Buenavista. As they were dueling for the lead, Poliquit made his move in the final 10 kilometers as Buenavista faded on the stretch of Gil Puyat Avenue going back to MOA.
Poliquit clocked 2:32:29 ahead of Buenavista’s 2:33:56 and Third Placer Ireneo Raquin at 2:35:50 in the Local Male Category. It was a podium sweep for Team Kenya in the Open Male Category led by 2012 MILO King James Tallam at 2:21:09 followed by a photo finish between Josphat Kiptanui and Joel Kiplimo Kemboi who both submitted similar times of 2:21:32.
The Local Female Category was a star-studded showcase that saw former MILO Queens battle it out and try to unseat Tabal. Four-time winner Cristabel Martes was tops at 3:03:49 followed by two-time winners Mary Grace de los Santos (3:05:34) and Jho-An Banayag (3:07:59).
“I was not satisfied with my performance because I had big expectations,” admitted Tabal who pocketed PHP 250,000.00. “I tapered too much after the race was rescheduled and this is a different course from last year.”
Nevertheless, Tabal joined the elite circle of multiple MILO Marathon Queens. It capped a good 2014 that saw her capture 17th Place at the Schneider Electric Paris Marathon while dominating local races in her native Cebu and all over the Philippines.
Meanwhile, Poliquit was all smiles over his unexpected first MILO Marathon victory as his prize of PHP 150,000.00 will mean a merry Christmas for his mother, a market vendor back in Tagum, and their family. Poliquit, a member of the Philippine Air Force, finished in Third Place at this year’s Manila 42-kilometer qualifier behind Raquin and Jeson Agravante.
Aside from their cash prizes and trophies, the MILO King and Queen will represent the Philippines in an international race, most likely the Los Angeles Marathon on March 15, 2015. The Tokyo Marathon was originally announced but the plan was scrapped after the Japanese organizers could not guarantee the Filipinos’ slots.
Race Director Rio de la Cruz announced that 19,242 runners signed up for the various categories of the National Finals, a drop from last season’s 26,681. However, MILO Sports Executive Andrew Q. Neri quickly point out that the 2014 season saw a new overall attendance record of over 228,000 total runners from all 18 regional legs.
Originally calendared for December 7, organizers made the tough decision to move the race in light of the threat of Typhoon Ruby (Hagupit) less than 24 hours before the initial gun start. Based on initial results, around 8,500 runners answered Saturday’s starting guns including only 373 of the over 1,000 qualifiers in the centerpiece marathon.
In other distance categories, honors in the 21 kilometers went to Kenya’s John Samoei (1:09:39) and Susan Chepkwony (1:29:50) in the Open Category and Limuel Camino (1:16:05) and Ellen Tolentino (1:36:39) in the Local Category. Kenyans also excelled in the 10 kilometers through Aburaham Cheruyot (31:56) and Our Lady of Fatima University exchange student Patroba Kembol (44:25).
Southeast Asian Games 3,000-meter steeplechase champion Christopher Ulboc ruled the five kilometers in 16:03 together with teenager Mary Anne Crishelle Perez of Gen. Ricardo Papa Memorial High School (19:20). The three-kilometer kiddy race for those aged seven to 12 years was won by Modrick Cuyom representing the Calaca Road Runners in 10:52, beating out Girls Division winner Tara Borlain by a mere two seconds.
“Since our two champions this year are quite young, we hope this will encourage more youth to join next year,” said Coach Rio. As part of the MILO Marathon’s advocacy, public school children will continue to receive athletic shoes.
The 38th MILO Marathon was made possible by Timex, Asics, Gatorade, Manila Bulletin, Lenovo and Bayview Park Hotel Manila. The Department of Education, Philippine Olympic Committee and Philippine Sports Commission have also thrown their endorsements to the country’s oldest and most prestigious footrace.
Complete results of the 38th MILO Marathon Nationals as well as those of this season’s 17 regional qualifiers are available at www.milo.com.ph. Check out MILO’s official social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for latest information and promos.