LOS BAÑOS, Laguna – Ateneo de Manila University's reign in UAAP men's swimming is extended for one more year, after it staged a remarkable turnaround to sneak past De La Salle University, Sunday at the Trace Aquatics Center here.
The Blue Eagles' clinched their sixth straight championship in men's swimming.
Ateneo lost key cogs Jessie Lacuna and Aldo Batungbacal to graduation, but the Blue Eagles were able to keep La Salle from pulling away for the first three days of the competition.
They then staged a fourth day storm to emerge as champions, with a total of 353 points – just 10 points ahead of La Salle (343). University of Santo Tomas (UST) with 322 points and University of the Philippines (UP) with 193 points completed the cast.
"It was really one of our best championships. Sobrang daming naging roadblocks talaga, not just our MVPs graduating, but also meron kami swimmer nag ka-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.
Ianiko Limfilipino led the way for Ateneo registering a time of 17:27.56 in the 1500m freestyle to bring home the gold medal. La Salle’s Antoine Mendoza surprised everyone with a silver medal finish in 17:30.91, while UP’s Keane Ting finished third in 17:36.54.
While everyone expected Limfilipino to swim and rule the 200m breaststroke, he sacrificed participating in the said event to better help his team in the 200m butterfly which he finished in 2:13.51 and an all-important third place.
The favorite to win the 200m butterfly was none other than La Salle ace Sacho Ilustre who did not disappoint with his dominant swim of 2:05.65 en route to his seventh gold medal. UST’s Reynald Cullentas took the silver in 2:12.50.
La Salle also ruled the 200m breaststroke with their rookie EJ Jayme (2:27.31) keeping Ateneo rookie Jiron Rotoni (2:27.89) and UST’s Dyrham Palfry (2:27.92) at bay. UST also produced a gold medal in the 50m backstroke as Christian Anor ruled the event in 27.81 seconds, topping Ateneo’s Miguel Barlisan (28.36 seconds) and La Salle’s Christian Sy (28.41 seconds).
The Blue Eagles ultimately turned things around when they completed a 1-2 finish in the 50m freestyle behind Drei Buhain’s 24.06-second and 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 six-point lead and only needed a bronze medal finish to secure another championship. La Salle, on the other hand, needed a golden finish to have a shot at dethroning the defending champions.
UST’s Kevin Dagum, Jay Cabulit, Reynald Cullentas, and Renz Gawidan played spoilers to the Green Tankers, 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 lumabas or na-build 'yung championship character nila," said Lim.
It was also a down-the-wire race for the Rookie of the Year award as Rotoni’s 47 points squeaked past Ting’s 46 points.
La Salle did not go home empty-handed with Ilustre securing his first UAAP Men’s Most Valuable Player award, after going seven for seven in his events.
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