Ateneo swimming overcomes 'roadblocks' to extend UAAP reign

MANILA, Philippines – With the graduation of key cogs Jessie Lacuna and Aldo Batungbacal, Ateneo still managed to prove everyone wrong as it extended its dominance in UAAP swimming with another golden double

"It was really one of our best championships. Sobrang daming naging roadblocks talaga, not just our MVPs graduating, but also meron kamingswimmer nagka-appendicitis, meron went into depression, and other problems na for a time we almost lost that belief na we could still win,” shared Ateneo swimming program director Archie Lim.

(It was really one of our best championships. There were so many roadblocks, not just our MVPs graduating, but we also had swimmers who had appendicitis, there were those who went into depression, and other problems that for a time where we almost lost the belief that we could still win.) 

As the UAAP Season 82 swimming championships came down to the wire, the Ateneo men's swimming team rallied back to sneak past erstwhile leader La Salle to cop its sixth straight title on Sunday, October 20, at Trace Aquatics Center in Los Baños, Laguna. 

The Blue Eagles were able to keep La Salle from pulling away for 3 days before unleashing a fourth-day storm like no other to emerge a mere 10 points ahead of La Salle and celebrate another UAAP title.

The defending champions ultimately turned things around when they completed a 1-2 finish in the 50m Freestyle behind Drei Buhain’s 24.06-second and Miguel Barlisan’s 24.11-second performance. UST’s Renz Gawidan rounded out the podium with his time of 24.92 seconds.

Entering the 400m Medley Relay, the final event of the tournament, Ateneo was already sporting a 6-point lead and only needed a bronze medal finish to secure another championship. La Salle, for its part, needed a golden finish to have a shot at dethroning the defending champions.

While everyone expected Ateneo's Ianiko Limfilipino to swim and rule the 200m Breaststroke, he sacrificed participating in this event to better help his team in the 200m Butterfly which he finished in 2:13.51 and an all-important third place.

UST’s Kevin Dagum, Jay Cabulit, Reynald Cullentas, and Renz Gawidan played spoilers to the Green Tankers' bid for the elusive gold by topping the event in UAAP record fashion erasing Ateneo’s old mark of 4:03.49 with their own time of 4:01.13. Ateneo finished second in 4:04.93 while UP took third in 4:06.33.

"Obviously, the swimmers stepped up big time. So, super happy and satisfying not only for winning the championship, but more importantly, their championship character came through," said Lim.

Ateneo was able to amass 353 points against La Salle’s 343 points while University of Santo Tomas (UST) (322 points) and University of the Philippines (UP) (193 points) completed the cast.

It was also a down-the-wire race for the Rookie of the Year award as Ateneo's Jiron Rotoni’s 47 points squeaked past UP's Keane Ting’s 46 points.

La Salle did not go home empty-handed with Sacho Ilustre securing his first UAAP Men’s Most Valuable Player award, sporting a flawless seven for seven performance.

Chloe Daos sweeps for a 3-peat title 

Chloe Daos helped make it a golden double for Ateneo as her perfect seven-medal haul propeled the Lady Eagles to their third straight UAAP women's swimming title.

Ateneo added 115 more points on Sunday, to end up on top of the meet with 458 points to win the school's fifth overall crown in the competition.

But besides another flawless campaign by Daos, Ateneo swimming program director Archie Lim credited the school's rookies for delivering.

"We were lucky a lot of freshmen came, at the same time the MVP and our leader swimmers are still there, so it's just a matter of maintaining the culture and hoping the new swimmers catch the spirit," Lim said.

Daos clocked in a UAAP record time of 2:19.03 in the 200m Butterfly to reset the 5-year-old 2:19.71 mark of Hannah Dato and complete her third straight sweep for another MVP finish.  

The Lady Eagles displayed their depth and dominance of the league with a sweep of the said event after Suzanne Himor (2:27.26), Raegan Gavino (2:28.57) and Kristine Santos (2:32.24) occupied the second to fourth positions.

UP’s Cindy Fernandez (31.51 seconds) and La Salle’s Nikki Pamintuan (31.70 seconds) rounded out the podium in the 50m Backstroke while Ateneo’s Andrea Ngui (27.65 seconds) and UP’s Angela Villamil (27.89 seconds) did the same for the 50m Freestyle.

On the other hand, UP’s prized recruit Erin Castrillo ended her maiden season with a golden double, claiming the 50m Backstroke (30.98 seconds) and 50m Freestyle (27.23 seconds) titles.

The sprint queen thus captured the Rookie of the Year award with 96 points.

The Lady Eagles had a rookie ace of their own in Nirel Ibarra who produced a golden performance in the 200m Breaststroke by finishing in 2:50.63 ahead of teammate Jazmin Chua (2:51.72) and Lady Maroons’ Pricila Aquino (2:52.16).

In the tournament’s final event, Courtney Gray, Chua, Himor, and Marjorie Manguiat teamed up for Ateneo to capture the 400m Medley Relay gold in 4:41.08. UP was a distant second in 4:46.33 while UST took the bronze in 4:50.38.

"Yun na, naging challenge for the MVP swimmers namin, to inspire the new ones by showing them to never stop improvement and setting higher goals in spite sa achievements nila or ng team," added Lim.

(It was a challenge for our MVP swimmers to inspire the new ones by showing them to never stop improving and set higher goals in spite of their past achievements, both individually and of the team) 

UP tallied 395 points for second while La Salle completed the podium with 203. UST had 96 points. – Rappler.com