By Jean Malanum

10K WINNER. Gold medalist Sonny Wagbos (center) holds the Philippine Air Force flag during the awarding ceremony of the men’s 10,000m event of the ICTSI Philippine Athletics Championships at the Ilagan City Sports Complex on March 24, 2023. Also in photo are silver medalist Richard Salaño of Philippine Army (left) and bronze medalist Eduard Josh Buenavista of the University of the Philippines. (Photo courtesy of Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association)

ILAGAN CITY, Isabela – Sonny Wagbos of Philippine Air Force has proven his worth to represent the country in the forthcoming Southeast Asian Games in Cambodia after a brilliant showing in the ICTSI Philippine Athletics Championships at the Ilagan City Sports Complex here on Thursday night.

Seeing action for the first time in the 10,000m event, Wagbos clocked 31 minutes and 27.06 seconds to win the race over Richard Salaño of Philippine Army (31:34.29) and Eduard Josh Buenavista of the University of the Philippines (32:37.60).

The 27-year-old runner, who was born and raised in Davao City, also surpassed the gold medal performance of Nguyen Van Lai (32:17.34) in the Vietnam SEA Games in May last year.

“I am so thankful I won,” said Wagbos, who still managed to win the 5,000m bronze medal in Vietnam despite an injury. He also placed third in the Manila SEA Games in 2019.

Despite his impressive time, the Philippine Air Force runner admitted that winning in Cambodia is not a sure thing yet.

“The runners from Thailand and Vietnam are also strong. Of course, I will do my best to beat them,” he said.

Seven months after his victory in the SEA Games, Nguyen Van Lai registered 30:36.86 at the Vietnam National Games.

National coach Eduardo “Bertek” Buenavista, who has been training Wagbos for the past three years, praised his ward for a job well done.

“It was a good result because it’s his first time to run in 10,000m, and he was able to surpass the time of the gold medalist in the last Vietnam SEA Games,” said Buenavista, a two-time Olympian who holds the Philippine record for multiple long-distance events.

His son, Eduard Josh, will also compete in Cambodia, together with marathoners Salaño, Arlan Arbois, Christine Hallasgo and Ruffa Sorongon.

“Arbois and Sorongon are our second best in marathon so I chose them for the SEA Games,” said Buenavista, a SEA Games gold medalist in 3,000m steeplechase and 5,000m (2001), 10,000m (2003) and marathon (2009).

Meanwhile, 2021 Vietnam SEA Games silver medalist Sarah Dequina, representing City of Ilagan-National Team, tallied 5,220 points to win the women’s heptathlon, beating Malaysian Eng May Xin Winnie (4028).

Dequinan, however, settled for the silver medal in the javelin throw where she posted 42.41 meters. Evelyn Palabrica won with 45.92 meters, while University of Santo Tomas (UST) bet Lanie Carpentero was third (40.99).

In the Under-20 category, Teo Lou Papel of Tangub City, Misamis Occidental pocketed the gold medal in the men’s 5,000m with a time of 17:09.04. Samuel Manuel of Team Baguio (17:54.13) placed second followed by Rodmar Pulido of UST (18:13.86). (PNA)