TARLAC CITY. — Showing that her triumph in the last 30th Southeast Asian Games was no fluke, Christine Hallasgo reigned supreme anew on Sunday, clinching the national Milo women’s marathon crown in impressive fashion here.
Exactly 44 days after bagging the SEA Games women’s marathon gold in nearby Capas, Hallasgo crossed the finish line in front of the Tarlac City Hall with both arms pointing to the sky, ruling the 42.195-kilometer race in a personal best of two hours, 52 minutes and 23 seconds.
Underscoring her status as the new local marathon queen, Hallasgo actually finished second overall behind Kenyan Margaret Njugune, who clocked a winning time of 2:51.43.
Even more outstanding, Hallasgo’s winning time was faster than the 2:56.56 she posted in ruling the SEA Games women’s marathon while relegating top favorite and defending champion Mary Joy Tabal to runner-up honors in the local side of the race.
Tabal, gunning for a seventh straight Milo women’s marathon plum, was forced to play second fiddle to the sturdy Malaybalay, Bukidnon pride, finishing far behind in 2:58.49, good for third overall. Former Milo marathon titlist Christabel Martes clocked 3:05.40 and finished third in the local women’s race.
In contrast to the lopsided outcome in the women’s marathon, Jerald Zabala, who placed fifth in the SEA Games men’s marathon, scrambled in the last 50 meters to secure the local men’s marathon title.
Zabala, who finished runner-up to the late Rafael Poliquit in the 2018 national finals in Laoag, Ilocos Norte, surged ahead in the stretch, clocking 2:31.16 to nip Richard Salano (2:31.17). Jeson Agravante was third in 2:31.55.
The Cagayan de Oro City native also lopped off more than five minutes in his time of 2:37.20 that he logged in last month’s SEA Games, where he finished fifth.
Kenya, as expected, completed a 1-2-3 finish in the men’s open division, led by Stephen Muranbi (2:27.18). Jackson Chirchir (2:28.38) and Leonard Kemboi (2:28.57) were second and third, respectively.
“Salamat po sa Panginoon na nasa kondisyon ako at halos pareho po yong pinag-praktisan kong course sa Bukidnon na rolling din,” said Hallasgo, a late addition to the national team.
The newly-crowned marathon champions credited their improved forms to national coach and multi-titled marathoner Eduardo Buenavista, whom they claimed as their idol.
Hallasgo and Zabala each pocketed P150,000 and gained the opportunity to represent the country in an overseas marathon courtesy of Milo. The race was sanctioned by the Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association.
Athletics spokesman Ed Kho, who represented PATAFA chief Philip Ella Juico, said they would try to send Zabala and Hallasgo to international marathons serving as qualifiers to the Tokyo Olympic Games scheduled in August.