DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Anthony Nerza finally pulled one over his longtime rival Brian Lupio yesterday to rule 21K race and book a return ticket to the 36th National Milo Marathon Finals.
The 23-year-old Nerza, who finished second and less than a minute behind Lupio in last year's Davao City leg, made sure this time he'd cross the finish ahead of everybody else.
He threw his arms up in the air as he breasted the tape, amid blaring music and under cloudy skies, after one hour, 12 minutes, 34 seconds. Lupio came in next at 1:13:56.
In the post-race interview, the third-year college student of Brokenshire College here said he already lost track of the number of times he lost a race to Lupio.
"Madami na. First time ko siya tinalo," said Nerza, holding on to his glass trophy.
With the win, he towed the rest of the qualifiers to the 42K National Finals at the SM Mall of Asia grounds on Dec. 9 where P300,000 awaits the men’s and women’s champions.
It will be his third stint in the finals. In 2010, he finished fifth in the race won by the illustrious Eduardo Buenavista, and the following year he slipped to 12th place.
"It will depend on my condition. But I've been training hard this year. I've been running two hours a day for months now," said Nerza, who left Lupio behind in the final five kilometers.
Nerza said he never looked back and focused on the road ahead although his instincts told him that Lupio must be easily 50 meters behind. As he crossed the finish, he knew he was right.
Nerza said he will be back on the road first thing in the morning today.
In the women's side, 2010 National Milo Marathon champion Flordelisa Donos left everybody behind and crossed the finish fronting the Ateneo de Davao with a time of 1:26:55.
She already looked rested when her closest pursuers came in almost 10 minutes behind – Cellie Jaro (1:35:31), Emely Avergonzado (1:37:36) and Joy Mawalic (1:52:40).
The 25-year-old Criminology graduate from Palawan said it was her best run this year but doubts if she could once again pull it off in the National Finals due to a recurring hamstring injury.
Rounding up the men's side were James Castillo (1:14:24) followed by Ronald Dagaang (1:20:41), Joselito Dugos (1:24:24), Nestor Madula (1:26:21), Pedro Pojas (1:26:48), Felicito Gitacay (1:30:34), Lloyd Jacosalem (1:32:11) and Alexander Mohammad (1:33:27).
Only the top 10 finishers in the men's side qualified to the National Finals, and only the top three in the distaff side, based on the cut-off times set by organizers led by Milo's Robbie De Vera, Pat Goc-Ong and John Montalvan, and Davao's Kenneth Sai.
Cose to 14,000 runners answered yesterday's starting gun, 10,000 of them for the 10K race. Aside from the 5K and 3K races, a cheerdance competition among different schools here spiced up the day.