ANGELES CITY – Defending champions Mary Joy Tabal of Cebu City and Raphael Poliquit of Tagum City successfully retained their titles at the conclusion of the 39th MILO Marathon National Finals Sunday morning (December 6) at the SM City Clark. Aside from claiming spots among the event’s immortals, the fleet-footed pair will represent the Philippines in the coming 120th Boston Marathon set for April 18, 2016 in the United States.
Tabal became the third woman after Arsenia Sagaray and Christabel Martes to score a three-peat in the marathon’s four-decade history. Her winning clocking of 2:48:24 was 24 seconds slower than her personal best of 2:48:24 but it hardly mattered as she prevailed in a battle with a pair of former multi-titled MILO Queens eager to reclaim the throne.
Actually, the duel for Second Place was more interesting with Lucena City champion Mary Grace de los Santos coming in Second Place at 3:02:21, edging Dagupan City winner Martes who came in at 3:02:29. De los Santos ruled the MILO Marathon for two years before Tabal’s ascent while Martes has four titles tucked in her belt including a treble from 1999 to 2001.
Clearly way ahead of her fellow Filipinos, Tabal instead tried to challenge the Kenyan visitors but Elizabeth Rumokol proved too fast in taking the Women’s Open title in 2:43:45. Still, Tabal salvaged Second Place over Third Place Kenyan Margaret Njuguna who timed 2:49:32.
“My goal in the Boston Marathon is to hit the qualifying time of 2:42:00 in order to make the 2016 Rio de Janeiro Olympics,” said Tabal, who also topped this year’s General Santos qualifiers. “I had a good race today but the early rains and wet roads affected my first kilometers.”
Benefiting from a new rule this year, Tabal also emerged as the day’s biggest winner by pocketing PHP 400,000.00 on top of a trophy and gifts from sponsors. She earned PHP 250,000.00 for Second Place in the Open Division and now is also entitled to PHP 150,000.00 as the fastest in the Filipino Division – the old rules would have prevented her from collecting the latter.
Poliquit was very relieved after crossing the finish line in 2:36:12, holding off the late challenge of General Santos leg champion Juneil Languido who checked in at 2:36:21. Bacolod City champion Maclin Sadia claimed Third Place at 2:37:43.
“I did not finish the Davao City qualifiers due to cramps so I challenged myself, focused and prayed since we have a month left before the Finals,” said Poliquit, a member of the Philippine Air Force. He is also looking forward to Boston with his new coach and 2012 London Olympian Rene Herrera.
Kenya’s James Tallam, the first and only foreign MILO King in 2011, took the Men’s Open title in 2:20:10. He was joined at the podium by countrymen Josphat Kiptanui (2:20:49) and Julius Keprotich Seurei (2:21:54).
Tallam and Rumokol took home PHP 300,000.00 each for their feats. Poliquit was awarded PHP 150,000.00.
MILO’s Andrew Neri was very pleased over the outcome of the race. “No doubt, we are greatly considering holding the 40th MILO Nationals outside of Metro Manila again and we could do it again here in Angeles,” said Neri who also lauded race director Coach Rio de la Cruz for designing a very fun and challenging course that was well received by the participants.
“The best runners deserve the best route,” said Coach Rio. “We have fresh air and no vehicular traffic and the roads are well-secured.”
Not to be forgotten is MILO’s continuing advocacy of providing free athletic shoes to poor but deserving public school pupils in partnership with the Department of Education. In Sunday’s race, some of the Top 10 finishers in the special three-kilometer kiddie race for runners aged 12 years and under lined up to receive their prizes on stage clad in their new green and white shoes.
As another MILO banner season comes to a close, the running community is already looking forward to a very exciting 40th season in 2016. For sure, the country’s most prestigious footrace has built a new batch of champions ready to move forward!
Other Winners: Hillary Kipchumba Imutai and Judith Jepchirchir (21 kilometers Open), Immuel Camino and Nhea Ann Barcena (21 kilometers Filipino), Richard Salano and Lovely Joy Cordovilla (10 kilometers), Rullit Matin-ag and Mary Ann Crishelle Perez (five kilometers), Modrick Cuyom and Rayya Gwen Abellar (three kilometers).