Freeman Cebu Sports

Team reunion

SPORT EYE - Raffy T. Uytiepo - The Freeman

The last time I met  former Nike marketing manager Auty Villarama, he suggested an idea of a Nike Team reunion.  The Nike Running Club was formed in 1988, when then Mondragon Ceo Tony  Gonzalez asked me if we could form a competitive team for the PAL Marathon.  I told Mr. Gonzalez, if given proper support we could even have a champion team.  After getting a list of my  requirements that included plane fares, hotel accomodations, food, vitamins and gears (we ordered our racing flats from Thailand). I also handpicked the all-Visayan team bannered by 3-time Milo Marathon and three-time Alay ng Pangulo champion Jimmy De La Torre.  Jimmy also won the 1981  Sea Games Marathon crown, 1987 Penang International Marathon and went to the Boston Marathon twice clocking 2:26:00 on both outings.  I also picked my  protege’ Herman Suizo from Sta. Barbara IloIlo.  Suizo won the Sea Games Marathon title in 1989 and represented the country in the 1992 Barcelona Olympics where he finished 51st among 116 participants from all over the world.  He later established the natioanl record of 2:19:50 in a Korean marathon.  The record stood until another Ilonggo, Vertek Buenavista broke it after 10 years with a new mark of 2:18:44.  The team also had 1987 Pilipinas International Marathon best Filipino finisher Arturo Angel and Magnolia International 20K Marathon champion Alvin Miraflores.  Our women team was anchored to nine-time Milo Marathon champion  Arsenia Sagaray.  I also scouted Jesusa Jose and  another eventual  Milo Marathon champion, Jona Gayumba Atienza.


We had a very good transition program.  After Jimmy died in 1989, we temporarily shelled the team for a year. Then I began rebuilding, bringing the likes of Roy Vence (my other protege from Bogo City) to the team. Roy won six Milo Marathon titles and went to the 1996 Atlanta Olympics.  The other members were former 10,000 meter national record holder Mario Castro, two-time PAL Manila Marathon champion Rey Antoque of Sipalay, Negros Occidental, 1988 Olympian Hector Begeo and another Sea Games champion, Allan Ballester.  Back up for the team was Cebu’s former king of the road Cristituto Canete.  The Masters team was likewise explosive with Ruth Banzon and the late Macoy Pelare. All told, we won a total of 12  consecutive team championships making the Nike Team, the winningest in Philippine marathon history.  Looking forward  to the reunion.

Cebu  athletics  hall  of  fame

Speaking of reunions, I’m tinkering with an idea of establishing a Cebu Athletics Hall of Fame.  It’s never too late to acknowledge some of Cebu’s best runners who brought some pride to the province.  Heading the list are 1977 Milo Marathon champion Exequiel Baisac, who also ran in Boston and Portland.  We also have javelin-thrower Marcela Bangot who represented the country in the Asian Games.  Also in the list are 1986 PAL Marathon Filipino finisher Elberto Banzon who also competed in the Honolulu Marathon and Minda Berro who won the distaff side (Filipino category) of the PAL Marathon.  By the way, my friend Sam, formerly of the Coast Guard is asking what happened to the  Cebu Hall of Famers.  Sam said he used to see the photos of awardees at the Cebu City Sports Center.  But it seems they have been moved somewhere else.  Don’t worry Sam, I’ll ask  Sherlock Holmes to check on this.

Did you know?

• Anna Kournikova left Russia for Florida at age nine, to live and train at Nick Bollestiersis Tennis Academy.  In 1997 she broke away from Bolletier and made the semifinals in her Wimbeldon debut and became the No.1  junior player in the world.  Her father was a Greco-Roman wrestling champion  while her mother ran the 400 meters.  In 1999 she teamed with Martina Hingis to win  the doubles title in the Australian Open.

• Sheryl Crow,  Lance Armstrong’s former girlfriend ran the hurdles while  in high school in a Missouri state track meet.  She sang back up for Michael Jackson’s 18-month “BAD” tour and later for Don Henley.  In the late 80s, she went through severe depression and didn’t get out of bed for six months.  Her song “All I Wanna Do” won a Grammy for Record of  the Year while also winning Best Pop Vocal (female).

• Oscar winner Bruce Dern, then a runner with the University of Pennsylvania two-mile relay team in February 1957, was suspended by his coach Ken Doherty, because Dern refuses to shave off his sideburns influenced by Elvis Presley.

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