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Evaluation set for national athletes

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Triple jumper Mark Harry Diones and the men’s 4×100-meter relay led by Fil-American sprinter Eric Cray are expected to be medal threats in the country’s participation in the 2017 Malaysia Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in August.

Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association President Philip Juico made this quick assessment shortly after the four-day National Open in Ilagan, Isabela where Diones, Cray and his teammates stunned the audience with record-breaking performances.

“They can be serious medal contenders in the SEA Games,” said Juico.

Diones, who landed fourth in the previous biennial edition in Singapore, showed some promise after beating reigning SEA Games champion Muhammad Ismail of Malaysia with a record-breaking feat of 16.70 meters, while the hastily-formed relay team of Cray, Anfernee Lopena, Jomar Udtohan, and Fil-Am Trenten Beram shattered the 12-year-old PH mark in their debut appearance as a squad with a time of 40.29 seconds.

Though Juico refused to make medal predictions in the biennial meet, the PATAFA chief said with more training and practice these players can snatch the gold medals.

PATAFA officials are expected to evaluate each athlete’s performances at the National Open over the next few weeks, who are candidates for the SEA Games-bound PH team.

They are also looking at upcoming tournaments for the SEA Games candidates, particularly the Singapore Open slated next month as well as the three-leg Asian Grand Prix.

The first two legs will be held on April 24 and 27 in Jiaxing and Jinhua, China, respectively, while the third leg will be on April 30 in Chinese Taipei.

“We have a lot of catching up to do in terms of training our athletes, and it is important that these SEA Games candidates be exposed to tournaments prior to the SEA Games,” Juico said.