The Fil-Heritage Program (Part 1 Early Days of Eric Cray in Philippine Athletics)

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Eric still recovering from an upset stomach. Spaghetti safer than spring rolls.

I will share with you quickly how i initially came into contact with Eric Cray. This is before i was working for the PSC. There is this guy reading my blog (then and then he starts emailing me his name is Eric Cray. Apparently he had been trying to contact PATAFA through there multiply blog at the time for over a year and they had been ignoring his messages.Well anyway the guys got lots of questions and mainly he just wants to run for the Philippines. This is back in early 2013. Anyway i ask him for his performances the guy gives me his times, i do a background check. As the Philippines has had a lot of duds before. This guy is pretty good he has ran a 50.46 the Phi Record is 51.26. This time is nearly a whole second faster than the winner of the 2011 SEA Games 51.45.

Then i saw his photo the guy does not look Filipino he’s a black dude. But he assures me his mother is Filipino and he loves Adobo and Filipino dishes. So i said ok Eric, get a phi passport and then we will talk. So here we are now Eric dealing with some guy he doesn’t know who he is probably thinking is doing some dodgy identity theft, and me hoping he can deliver a phi passport.

So what do i get he sends me a US Passport. So i say Eric phi passport if we are going to proceed? what do i get he sends me the red cover of the Phi Passport scanned. By this stage I’m getting pissed. Eric that’s not what i meant?. At the same time he has a lot of questions about Phi Athletics which is another reason he is hesitant. I do my best with my contacts and connections to assure him of everyone but he is still half convinced. Then he submits the phi passport finally, i’m informed his 50.46 wont count and he has to do it again. A few days later he runs 50.74, erasing Unso 51.26 record.

Eric Cray at the 2013 PNG

Then Cray comes to the 2013 PNG, with an anonymous private sponsor (not me). Probably some of the worse culture shock i’ve ever seen but he is ok now after about 4-5 trips out here.

Cray comes to the Nat Open in 2013 joining Team Run for Change. I had started talking with Eric Pasion the head of this group about a month after the 2012 nationals in Dumaguete. At that this stage im still with Team Hypersports. As Run for Change started making earlier preparations i decided to go with R4C in 2013 as one thing i do appreciate with a company or individual is someone who is an early planner. I am an early planner and hate leaving things to the last minute.

Here we were me and Eric Pasion preparing Team Run for Change six months or more before National Games when other teams just leave it until a month or even a few weeks before. Well anyway i brought in four Fil-Heritage athletes that year which was the most so far Cray, Sarah Vitug (distance), Julio Alorro (Pole Vault) and Caleb Monticalvo (Pole Vault). Of the above only Cray is still active. Vitug decided to focus on her medical studies, Alorro lives in the Philippines now but is focusing on work, Caleb was not able to get a Phi Passport.

Cray anyway got put into a room at Ultra, and the guy can eat he can really eat. It was not uncommon for him to eat four family sized pizza’s or a Jollibee bucket of chicken for one meal.

At this time i wasn’t working for the PSC, I was just doing this Fil-Heritage Program thing on my own. Anyway as Cray wasn’t comfortable this being is first time in Manila i was staying with in the room as a guide and someone he could go to if he needed anything sorted. PSC Toby Mijares the assistant to Com Jolly Gomez found out and tried to boot me out of the room, but i refused to leave. And Mijares stormed off. Ironically later Mijares would recommend me to Commissioner Jolly and i ended up working for Jolly at the PSC and becoming friends with Toby.

Anyway at the national championships Cray ran in the 110 Hurdles in the first round he broke the record in the heats with a run of 14.22 tying his all time best, and beating Pach Unso who also broke the record with 14.45. Prior to this Pach record was 14.49 at the ASEAN Uni Games.

It was an epic battle in the finals with Pach not wanting to give anything away running neck to neck with Eric. It was only the fact Eric was the better sprinter where he was able to hold Pach off sprinting to the line. Eric won 14.17 to 14.21, again both men broke the 14.22 established in the heats. Till this day one of the greatest races in the history of the National Games and the 14.17 is still the national record.

The thing about Eric is he wants to see things better. Eric helped Pach (Patrick Unso) with some technique stuff before the final. “The boy can hurdle, i reckon he can run 13.6 and get a scholarship in the States” Eric said of Pach.

“Im going to tell them before the final to let all of us warmup a the track, that concrete area is no good for the athletes” said Cray referring to the organization of the meet.”

Again this is a common thing me and Cray shared and still share. The need to improve things in the sport for the benefit of all the athletes.

Anyway things didn’t go so well, Cray ate a spring roll from the teams food. He ran the 400 Hurdles heats and qualified for the finals first in 53 something but it didn’t look good at all, he didn’t feel so good the next day. Me and EJ Obiena who were sleeping in the room observed Cray slept the whole day he hardly got out of bed always tired and then he was throwing up and going to the toilet the whole night.

Regrettably Cray had no choice but to pull out of the 400 Hurdle Finals bringing his national games campaign to a close.

For me this was where i actually first met Commissioner Jolly Gomez. Me and Cray were able to talk to him there. Gomez was happy that Cray had broken the 110 Hurdles record at his event. He was a long time fan of the sport, i wont forget the words i was given that day.

In sport sometimes its not the leaders, but people like you who make the difference.”

I took Eric back to the airport, and he was telling me we need to get this this and this sorted. Above all i had to make sure he got included in the Asian Champs. There was alot of paper work to be done.

At the coaches meeting, i wasn’t attending these ‘yet’ Cray was easily added to the roster for Asian Champs to be held in India.

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