Cray returns to action in Alabama

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    FOUR-TIME Southeast Asia Games men’s 400-meter hurdles champion Eric Cray hopes to boost his Olympic qualifying bid by competing in two track and field meets in Birmingham, Alabama later this month, according to athletics chief Philip Ella Juico.

    Cray, who has ruled the SEA Games men’s 400 hurdles since making his national team debut in the 2013 Myanmar Games, will compete in his first event of the year at the KMS Indoor Invitational at the $46-million Birmingham Cross Plex facility on Jan. 24.

    “We expect some elite athletes and Olympic aspirants to see action in the event,” the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association president said, adding that Cray’s next event will be the KMS Open on the same track hosted by the University of Southern Mississippi next weekend.

    Juico said Cray is lining up two to four indoor competitions in preparation for the US outdoor season where he hopes to compete in 12 to 15 events before the Olympic cut-off of June 29.

    “He intends to get into race shape early to qualify,’” Juico said of the Fil-Am runner, who must match or surpass the qualifying standard of 48.90 meters in his pet event to earn a slot to Tokyo.

    Based in El Paso, Texas, Cray’s national record for the distance is 48.98 seconds set in 2016 at the Meeting de Atletismo Madrid.

    Juico said Cray’s outdoor schedule is not certain due to the conditions caused by the COVID pandemic in the US, although among those being eyed is the Prairie View A&M Relays organized by the Prairie View A&M University set on March 26-27.

    The two-day event is set to be held at the track facility of the university campus located 1,111 kilometers southeast of El Paso and 77.25 kilometers north of Houston.

    Juico said Cray, 32, might also see action in the 93rd Clyde Littlefield Texas Relays, which will be overlapping with the PVAM Relays slated March 24 to 27 at the 20,000-seat Mike Myers Stadium, home of the University of Texas Longhorns athletic and soccer squads.

    Another meet being lined up for Cray is the 76th Pepsi Florida Relays tentatively set April 2 to 3 at the James G. Pressly Stadium at Percy Beard Track hosted by University of Florida Gators in Gainesville, Florida.

    Juico said the 30th SEA Games double gold medalist would also compete in an event organized by the University of Texas-El Paso as well as Mt. SAC (San Antonio College) Relays set April 15-17 in Walnut, California.