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ILAGAN, Isabela – National team members will be put to test in their bid to compete in the 2017 Southeast Asian Games when the Ayala-National Open Invitational Athletics Championships fires off today at the City of Ilagan Sports Complex here.
A total of 17 gold medals are at stake in the opening day, which starts on 6 a.m., with Fil-Am Olympian Eric Shawn Cray seeing action in the 100 meters and 400m hurdles.
The 28-year-old Cray, the reigning SEAG medalist on both events, arrived here late in the afternoon and is expected to display his worth to earn a slot in the SEAG-bound national team.
Athletics chief Philip Ella Juico stressed that the meet will serve as a qualifier for the SEAG slated in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in August where they will impose a “no participation, no SEAG slot” for athletes.
“We require all our national team members to take part in this meet because we don’t want to rely on submitted best performances alone,” said Juico.
Apart from Cray, Fil-Canadian Zion Corrales-Nelson had also arrived to compete in the women’s 100m where she is expected to eclipse her personal best of 11.76 seconds she posted last year.
“Hopefully, she’ll give it a run and give her personal best,” said Corrales-Nelson’s father, Stephen, adding that his daughter plans to also join in the 200m and 400m in the SEAG.
Reigning 3000m steeplechase champion Christopher Ulboc, and national record holder in the 400m and triple jump Mark Harry Diones are also expected to see action in their respective events with hopes of proving their worth in the PH squad.
Pole vaulter EJ Obiena, however, has been exempted from PATAFA’s policy as officials have already seen his performance at the recent UAAP track and field meet.
Obiena, also a national record holder, is currently training in Europe.
The annual event also hopes to discover potential national team members and serves as a gauge to veteran PH team members on their respective performances en route to the SEAG.
PH team members are pitted against entries from the national training pool and collegiate leagues like the UAAP and NCAA, among others.
Local athletes are also expected to compete against invited athletes from neighboring Asian countries such as Sri Lanka, South Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Chinese Taipei, Hong Kong, Guam, and Brunei, to name a few.
Apart from women’s 1000m, men’s shotput and women’s high jump, final matches will also be competed in the men’s and boys’ 3000m steeplechase, boys’ discus throw, girls’ and women’s 100m hurdles, men’s pole vault, women’s shotput, men’s and boys’ 110m hurdles, boys’ and girls’ 5000m, men’s long jump, girls’ 2000m steeplechase, and women’s 3000m steeplechase on the first day.