Athletics: Uy still No. 1 female vaulter in PH trackfest

Manolo Pedralvez

Posted at Mar 25 2023 07:13 PM

Natalie Uy held off Alyanna Nicolas to remain the country's top female pole vaulter. Patafa photo
Natalie Uy held off Alyanna Nicolas to remain the country's top female pole vaulter. Patafa photo

ILAGAN, Isabela - In her first meet since suffering a knee injury last December, Natalie Uy was keenly aware of one rival to look out for in her vulnerable position: upset-conscious compatriot Alyanna Nicolas. 

Bucking both immense physical and psychological pressure, the comebacking Uy was clutch on Saturday to reassert her status as the country's premier female pole vaulter in the ICTSI Philippine Athletics Championships here.

After waking up in the wee hours of the morning for the event that began at 7 a.m., Uy shook off early jitters before taking a huge risk, rewarding herself with the gold with a single jump of 3.85 meters at the Ilagan Sports Complex.

She bested Nicolas, who wrested the lead at the 5.70-meter mark, but then made what she later described was a "rookie mistake" that cost her bid in beating the 2019 30th Southeast Asian Games women's pole vault champ.

A bronze medalist in the 31st Vietnam Games in 2022, Nicolas, who was aiming to clear 3.80 meters, overlooked the fact that Uy, who had failed twice at the height, had requested the upright be adjusted in her attempt at 3.85.

Apparently unaware of the change, she failed on all 3 tries at 3.80 and had to settle for silver once again. Ateneo's Jiamari Yzabelle Kawachi bagged the bronze (3.30) in the meet organized by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association.

Later in the afternoon, Kristina Knott handily won the women's 100-meter dash in 11.87 seconds after her showdown with Kayla Richardson fizzled when the former suffered leg cramps and failed to qualify for the finals.

Richardson, who won the women's 200-meter run two day ago, slowed down in the first 30 meters in the second heat, limping home in a time of 16.40 seconds to miss the cut.

Father-coach Jeffrey Richardson disclosed later that her daughter strained her right calf but it was not that serious, and the reigning SEA Games 100-meter queen would recover in time for the Cambodia Games in early May.

"It was tough, conditions being so hot and so early. I'm coming off an injury so just getting into the mental game, it was the most mentally tough that it has been for a while. I am proud for fighting through it but it was definitely difficult," noted Uy, who took a bad fall last December that slightly tore her posterior cruciate ligament on the left leg. 

"It seems like I was shaking off the rust. It's been a long time since I have competed. And so really getting back in that rhythm is really what I need to do."

Nicolas, who had arrived over the weekend, could only rue of her muffed chance of beating Uy for the first time in the competition supported by the Philippine Sports Commission and CEL Logistics.

"It was a rookie mistake. Had I known that Natalie had asked for the adjustment, I think I could have easily cleared 3.80," said Nicolas, who has a personal best jump of 4.06 meters. 

Nicolas and Uy began their attempts at the height of 3.50 meters, when the rest of the field had already been out of the contention. 

After both cleared the height, they skipped 3.55 meters then raised the bar to 3.60, which Uy cleared with one atttempt while Nicolas needed to two jumps to do it.

They passed 3.65 before Nicolas surged in front in jumping 3.70 on her second try while Uy needed the third and final attempt to stay in the running.

Then came the turning point after Uy, who had failed to clear 3.80 in two attempts, went for broke and requested to raise the bar at 3.85 for her third attempt.

Cheered on by the early morning crowd, the Kettering, Ohio native soared high and cleanly cleared the bar to land on the pit smiling from ear-to-ear, as if a huge weight was lifted on her shoulders

"There is a lot of pressure coming in from the US, to come across the world and compete with the jet lag and the weird timing. Mostly mentally tough I would say," added the comely athlete, who arrived in the country last Monday.

"It was good. I am super grateful that I was able to run two healthy races since this was my competition back after my injury and that was 11 months ago. I am super blessed and grateful to be out here," Knott said after her win.

"I would have loved my training partner (Richardson) to be with me. It is kinda sad that she is done right now but she still has time to recover since the SEA Games is in May," she added.

In overnight results, national team Memer Janry Ubas, a silver medalist in last year's 31st Vietnam SEA Games, enhanced his gold prospects in the Cambodian edition in May in ruling the men's long jump in a personal best of 7.84 meters.

His jump surpassed by 4 centimeters the gold-medal distance of 7.80 of Vietnam's of Hoang Nguyen Thanh, who took the gold in last year's regional meet held in Hanoi.

Fellow national teammate Melvin Calano threw the spear to 66.31 meters in securing the men's javelin mint.