RUNNERS at the 42nd National Milo Marathon were being blown away.
One reason was the howling monsoon winds which stayed after a torrential downpour drenched Metro Manila only a couple of days back.
The other? A pep squad from Taguig resolute in reclaiming their crown.
“Kailangan namin mabawi kung anong dapat sa amin,” said Mark Darwin Cebullino, captain and acting coach of the Taguig City University, which last won the Milo Marathon Cheerdance competition two years ago.
Due to conflict of schedules and a team in disarray, they had to give up their crown and skip the contest last year. Now they’re back, hungrier and more determined as ever.
“Kailangan talaga namin maibalik ang kampeonato sa TCU,” Cebullino vowed.
Somersault after somersault they wowed the crowd. Judges scrutinized every toss and pyramid. Photojournalists bobbed and weaved, not sure if the flying legs captured on their viewfinders may appear too close for comfort. But the squad from Bicutan impressed with every landing. Everyone was their audience now.
Though there had been a lull in the competition beforehand after some trickle brought by the wayward winds rendered the mat temporarily unplayable, their feet seemed to flutter above the slippery canvas, their movement like clockwork. It’s hard to ponder they had little time to prepare for their ascent back to the throne. An arduous climb at that.
“Two weeks ago lang may napilayan sa amin, pero ‘di namin siya pinabayaan at lumaban siya ngayon kahit may injury siya,” explained Cebullino, a first time captain of the varsity cheer team, who said he had doubts if they’ll be able to compete on the heels of another grueling competition just weeks ago.
“Two months ang balak, pero naging one month preparation lang. At nu’ng time na nabalian ‘yung isa, madami sa amin ‘yung pinanghinaan ng loob, kung kakayanin ba namin sa ikli ng time. May naputukan pa nga ng labi at nabasagan ng ngipin, gaya ko (laughs). Pero ‘di kami nagpatalo sa doubt,” added the 22-year-old, who chipped his front teeth while rehearsing a toss.
A trio of fliers flirt with gravity, their hurdlers waiting below, squinting at the peeking mid-morning sun. Basket catch done to perfection. The girls flaunt their arabesque, while the boys their bananas. Another mount is ready in the offing. Again the ladies embrace the sky. Earlier, they had seen what the defending champions from Pasay were to offer. Now, they lay their own wares at the table.
“Ginanahan kami. May kaba pero determinado talaga kami manalo,” said the BS Education junior, who had to act as leader and mentor to a band of ‘overachievers’ after their coach left to permanently reside in Davao just a week ago.
“’’Di man namin siya nakasama dito pero ‘yung mga turo niya nag-stay. ‘Kayang-kaya niyo manalo’ sabi niya sa’min bago umalis. Wala siyang doubt sa’min.”
They had won their first title in 2013, said Cebullino, a third is close at hand. Teams from the elementary and high school divisions egged on the former champions. They had only prepared not to get things wrong, but they were doing everything right.
The pyramid held strong and the choreography was impeccable. The routine is at its penultimate stage. Here they were--a young pool of raw talent, who only a few weeks prior were losing the will to compete.
“Kailangan as a leader, i-motivate mo ‘yung mga kasama mo. Sabi ko sa kanila bago ‘yung laban ‘ang Milo Cheerdance title para sa TCU,’ gawin natin lahat para mabawi ‘yun!”
Mark Darwin planted a perfect tuck after twisting in the air. The routine was done, orchestrated to perfection. The audience erupted and even the defending champs couldn’t hide their awe. They knew there was a clear winner.
The 41st Milo marathon cheerdance trophy has returned to Central Bicutan.
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