By Rae Marielle Bayanin
Basketball is arguably one of the biggest, if not the biggest, game that most people watch out for season after season in the University Athletic Association of the Philippines (UAAP) games. This is probably due to the high affinity us Filipinos have for the sport. But we often forget that the UAAP is not just about the basketball games.
Last Saturday was indeed a historic day for the UP Fighting Maroons as the Men’s Basketball team make their first appearance in the UAAP finals after 32 years. But today, we put a spotlight on a team which has already brought home the bacon for UP, bagging the UAAP championship in the Men’s Track and Field division!
Ending 36 Years of Drought
The UP Men’s Track and Field team led by Team Captain Cholo Puno and Coach Rio de la Cruz officially ended 36 years of drought when they closed the season with a total of 426 points. Far Eastern University (FEU) on the other hand finished with 262 points, and the University of the East (UE) finished third with 185 points.
UP Track and Field student-athlete Jaime Mejia played his final year in the UAAP in the recently concluded match. He shares that up until today, the feeling is yet to fully sink in. Not only did they end an eight-year reign from the FEU Track and Field team, but they now officially hold a new UAAP record for relay race with a time of 41.77 seconds!
“Sobrang saya! Ang astig lang na naka-set din kami ng record. Matagal-tagal na rin yung record na ‘yon eh bago ma-break kaya naagpapasalamat din ako na naging teammates ko sila ta’s naging part ako ng team na ‘yon,” says Jaime who played in the relay race alongside teammates JC Yuzon, Jomar Udtohan, and Lionel Tigtig.
The UP Track and Field Women’s division, led by Team Captain Bianca Ramos, on the other hand is not far behind, closing the season in third place.
Despite being stereotyped as UP students who only do well in academics and not so much in sports, student-athlete Jaime responds with a positive attitude, “Para sa mga nangsi-stereotype, hindi nila alam gaano kahirap maging isang student-athlete. Ang mga SA ginagawa nila ang best nila to excel both in acads and in sports. Siguro panahon lang din talaga ng UP ngayon to rise above the rest.”
The Struggles of an Iskolar-Atleta
Jaime’s love affair with Track and Field started 11 years ago. He dedicated 9 years of his life as a student-athlete playing for UP–4 years in high school and 5 years in college. He shares that in the 9 years that he played, he was able to take home a total of three championships, 3 of which from high school matches. So when asked how he would imagine his life without Track and Field, he simply said, “11 years ko na ‘tong ginagawa eh, so kung matigil ito, sobrang parang maninibago ako.”
Jaime emphasized that it really was not easy to become a student-athlete especially when you’re close to completing your program. “Since fifth year is optional, ako po, parang nag-training lang ako on my own. So pa-minsan ko lang nakasama ‘yong mga teammates ko. Iba na kasi ‘yong schedule ko sa kanila,” he shares.
He also mentioned that he had to give up joining other extracurricular actives for his Track and Field training and academic responsibilities, “Focus lang talaga sa track. Walang extracurricular. Pero no regrets kasi it’s the life I chose.”
One UP Community
The beauty of the support system of the UP community is that you see not only students and alumni supporting the different games; you also see a lot of student-athletes supporting each other in their respective matches.
“Nakakatuwa din. ‘Yon nga noong Saturday ang daming nanood. Tapos ‘yong galing pang ibang sport, nando’n. Ang astig na nare-recognize din nila kami. Syempre compared to ibang sport, ‘yong Track and Field naman, ‘di siya gano’n ka-publicized kaya nakakatuwa,” says Jaime with regards to the support he and his teammates are getting from the UP Community and the other iskolar-atleta.
Even though they were fighting their own battle, the players from the UP Men’s Basketball team also showed their support for the UP Track and Field team through these Twitter posts.
A Message for Aspiring Student-Athletes
Jaime shares that he loves the sport because it gives him a feeling that he’s free and in control. “Unang una, acknowledge pain sa lahat ng workouts na magpapalakas pati magpapatapang sa’yo. Enjoy every moment of it kasi ‘di mo naman ito gagawin habang buhay. Kung nada-down ka, isipin mo lang bakit ka nga ba tumatakbo. ‘Why do you love the sport,’ always go back to that reason and never settle.”
With the immense support the Track and Field team is getting, this is Jaime’s message to the entire UP community who got their back throughout the season: “Sobrang maraming salamat talaga. Bago ako tumakbo, kapag nakikita ko ‘yong crowd sa grand stand, as in, naggu-goosebumps ako kasi parang grabe naman ‘yong support. Sobrang nakakalakas ng loob.”
Show your support for the UP Track and Field team through the nowheretogobutup Foundation by following this link.
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