The best and most promising track and field stars in the region take center stage when the 12th Southeast Asian Youth Athletics Championship goes full blast Monday at the sprawling Ilagan City Sports Complex in Iligan City.
A total of 18 gold medals will be at stake in the opening salvo of this prestigious age-group tourney that serves as appetizer for the 2017 Ayala Philippine National Open Invitational Athletics Championships on Thursday also at the same venue.
John Carlo Yuzon, a product of this region who plucked the gold medal in last year’s Palarong Pambansa in Legazpi City, lit the championship flame while fellow Palarong Pambansa gold medalist Cherry Mae Banatao led the oath of sportsmanship, much to the delight of close to a hundred delegates from Brunei, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Iraq, Malaysia, Sabah, Kota Kinabalu, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Timor Leste.
Spotlight will be trained on Veruel Verdadero and Jane Marie Cambonga, two prized members of the national pool who are looking to book a slot in the national track and field squad that would campaign in the 29th Southeast Asian Games in Kuala Lumpur this August.
A 15-year old student from Immaculate Conception in Dasmarinas, Cavite, Verdadero is looking for nothing but golden finishes in the all of his five events following a dominant performance in the Batang Pinoy National Championships in Tagum City, Davao del Norte last year.
He will compete in the boys’ 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter, 4×100 relay and 4×400 relay where he looms as one of the favorites.
“I am eyeing no less than the gold medal,” said Verdadero, who ruled the boys’ 100-meter, 200-meter, 400-meter and 4×100-meter run before crashing with a hamstring injury in the Batang Pinoy last December.
On the same note, 17-year old Cambonga of Paliparan National High School also in Cavite is tipped to dominate the throwing events.
She will vie in the girls’ javelin throw in the morning before marching back to action in the afternoon to compete in the girls’ discuss throw.