TARLAC CITY: Proving that her Southeast Asian Games victory was no fluke, Christine Hallasgo dethroned Mary Joy Tabal again as she ruled the 43rd National Milo Marathon women’s centerpiece 42k category on Sunday morning here in this city that was celebrating its Kaisa Festival.

MILO2 - Hallasgo new National Milo Marathon Queen
HER HIGHNESS Six-time National MILO Marathon Queen Mary Joy Tabal welcomes new 2019 NMM Queen Christine Hallasgo
(left). CONTRIBUTED PHOTOS

Hallasgo clocked a personal-best two hours, 52 minutes and 23 seconds to claim her first national Milo crown and end the six-year reign of Tabal, who finished a distant 2:58:49.

The 27-year-old Hallasgo’s triumph came a month after stealing the gold medal in the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games against 2017 winner Tabal.

Former Milo queen Christabel Martes came in third with a time of 3:05:40.

Hallasgo eclipsed her time of 2:56:56 in the biennial meet and also improved her third-place finish in the previous national finals.

“Whatever achievements that I had recently, I worked hard for all of them,” said Hallasgo, who has a lone child and a government employee-husband in her hometown Malaybalay, Bukidnon.

“There were hurtful comments saying that I just got lucky (in the SEA Games). But for me, I toiled for what I have now. I had to be away from my family to focus on my training and reach my dreams,” she added.

In the men’s side, last edition’s runner-up Jerald Zabala was crowned as Milo king for the first time after posting a personal-best 2:31:16 and beat Richard Salaño (2:31:17) in a photo finish.

The 31-year-old Zabala, who replaced the late Rafael Poliquit and finished fifth in the Southeast Asian Games, credited his idol and now his coach Eduardo “Vertek” Buenavista, who still holds the Milo race record of 2:18:53.

“I trained in Mindanao for this. This is my longtime dream to win the Milo Marathon. I’m very thankful to my idol and coach Buenavista,” the racer from Cagayan de Oro City said.

“He (Buenavista) told me to break his record. But I guess I still have to eat five sacks of rice,” Zabala added in jest.

Former Milo champion Jeson Agravante wound up third in 2:31:55.

Zabala and Hallasgo each took home the P150,000 top prize, with the latter also grabbing a P50,000 bonus for breaking Tabal’s record of 2:48:00.

Edward Kho, Philippine Athletics Track and Field Association (PATAFA) marketing and communications director, bared that the two Milo champs will join qualifying races for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics.

A total of 14,764 runners joined the prestigious event that was rescheduled from late 2019 to early this year to give way to the country’s staging of the SEA Games in November and December last year.

JEREMIAH M. SEVILLA

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