Fil-Am aims for PATAFA tryout
Joaquin M. Henson (The Philippine Star) – November 14, 2020 – 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines — Marquette University middle and long-distance specialist Paolo Tiongson is setting his sights on competing for the Philippines, where he was born, with the prospect of running alongside another US Division I athlete Yacine Guermali, a Fil-Moroccan, an enticing possibility.
“Competing for the Philippines would be an honor,” said Tiongson, an only child who migrated to the US with his Filipino parents when he was two. “I think it’s always motivating to compete for something bigger than just yourself. The Philippines is associated with my roots and most of my family members grew up there so competing for the Philippines would make them proud and that means a lot to me. My uncle on my dad’s side lives in Valle Verde I and my lola and tita on my mom’s side live in Quezon City. I’m open to try out for the Philippine team. I can see myself training in the US but I’d also like to visit the Philippines sometime soon to get a feel of the national team, what the training atmosphere is like and establish more relationships and connections.”
Guermali, who is 21 like Tiongson, is in line to join the Philippine team. He’s from Gonzaga University in Spokane, Washington. “It’s the first time I’ve heard of Tiongson,” said PATAFA president Philip Juico when recently advised of his interest to try out. “Yacine is a potential national team member and has a time of 14:02:64 in 5,000. Paolo runs cross country which we don’t do but we should. Cross country makes a big difference because of terrain which isn’t flat like the track oval. We’ll check Yacine’s cross country times so we can compare apples to apples even if each cross country course is different.” Guermali’s father Adam is of Moroccan descent and Filipina mother Juliet Quilban is from Nueva Vizcaya. A brother Said, 23, is also a runner.
Tiongson’s personal bests include 15:09.56 in 5,000 indoor, 15:06.57 in 5,000 outdoor and 31:11.12 in 10,000 outdoor. The SEA Games records are 14:04.82 in 5,000 and 29:19.62 in 10,000 set by Filipino Eduardo Buenavista in 2003. “I’m currently in the process of applying for my dual citizenship because I’m hoping to compete in the 2021 SEA Games and represent the Philippines,” he said. “I have all of my documents which just need to be approved.” His parents Ron and Luni were born in the Philippines. Since leaving for the US in 2000, Tiongson has been back to visit Manila in 2008 and 2018.
“I think my times compare competitively with Filipino athletes in my events,” he said. “It would be fun to compete with those guys. My favorite events are 5,000 and up. I haven’t done a marathon yet but I would open to race one. I think the longer the distance, the better I can compete. I’m more competitive in cross country because the distances are longer.” Tiongson, an economics and marketing major, said his running heroes are Buenavista, Steve Prefontaine, Matt Centrowitz, Jakob Ingerbregstein, Eliud Kipchoge and Mo Farah. During this pandemic, he logs 60 to 70 miles each week and runs every day in school with teammates. An Illinois all-state selection as a high school senior, Tiongson was recruited by Loyola, DePaul and Butler but chose Marquette because of coach Sean Birren.