Marestella flashes vintage form, boosts Rio bid
Olmin Leyba (The Philippine Star) - April 7, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - Determined to make a strong case for a possible third stint in the Olympics, Pinay long jump queen Marestella Torres-Sunang dished her best performance in five years and handily grabbed the gold in the Ayala Philippine National Invitational Championships yesterday at the Philsports Complex.

The 35-year-old Sunang, whose performance somehow slowed down when she gave birth in 2014, leapt a solid 6.60 meters on her fifth try, receiving applause from an appreciative crowd that included Patafa president Philip Juico, to beat a pair of Malaysians, Noor Shahaditun Nada Mohd Suki (6.24m), and Kirthana Ramamsamy (5.80m).

“This performance is a good start for the Olympic qualifiers,” said Sunang, who is eyeing to meet the Olympic standard of 6.70 meters in succeeding competitions, beginning with the Singapore Open on April 28-29. “I was really targeting 6.50-plus or 6.60-plus here so I’m happy to meet it.”

After opening with 6.13, then 6.27, and 6.25, Sunang roared to a 6.52 on her fourth attempt, drawing claps from supporters, and followed it up with a 6.60, letting out a triumphant shout after the measurement was announced. She tried to better her mark one last time but stymied by an imperfect approach, managed only a 6.25.

“This is my personal best (record) since my pregnancy,” said Sunang, whose career high was 6.71 posted in the 2011 Southeast Asian Games. “The standard is within reach but I still have to improve more on technique.”

Juico personally congratulated Sunang.

“Our insistence that she continues to pursue is justified. In effect, it’s like a comeback; it’s her best since 2011 in Palembang when she hit 6.71-m, that’s five years ago. We remain confident that she’ll make it and we hope that in Singapore she can do it so that she can concentrate on preparing for the Olympics and so the pressure will be less,” said Juico.

Sunang’s fellow Philippine Army bet Richard Salano grabbed his share of the spotlight in the Day One morning sessions, ruling the men’s 5,000-meter run. Salano took turns setting the pace with long-time rival Rafael Poliquit then broke away in the last 300 meters to clock a winning 15:32.2. Poliquit of Air Force L-Time Studio Asics was 1.1 second off. Time Studio Asics’ Joe Marie Jorelo took third (16:09.7).

“I was only third last year having difficulty adjusting to my spike shoes last year so this time I used my regular rubber shoes,” said Salano.

Fil-Am Caleb Stuart, the reigning SEAG hammer throw record holder, did just enough to top his event.

Stuart threw the hammer to 61.46 meters on his second try before calling it a day to catch a flight back home. It was good enough to net the gold over Malaysian Jackie Wong Siew Cheer (60.84) and compatriot Arniel Ferrera (54.26).

Far Eastern U bets Joida Gagnao (11:53.7) led a 1-2 finish with Catherine Bistol (12:34.4) in women’s steeplechase, Joneza Mae Sustituedo reigned in girls’ steeplechase (12:34.3) and Kietmarjo Guilo topping boys’ high jump (2.01m).

Korean Jo Hey Lim became the first triumphant foreigner, capturing the women’s discus throw plum (48.19m) at the expense of Air Force-LTSA’s Reah Joy Sumagpong (41.50m).

Joining the winners’ rosters were unattached Francis Edward Obiena in boys’ pole vault (4.00m), La Salle’s Angel Carino in girls’ long jump (5.62m), UST’s Aira Teodisio in girls’ discus throw (37.25m) and La Union’s Fernando Reyes in boys’ 5,000 meter run (17:08.1)

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