It was another breakout year for Cebu sports and its athletes. The year 2015 saw Cebu athletes and teams making their mark in various sports, from running, triathlon to boxing and basketball. The year saw dramatic finishes in collegiate games in basketball and football.

It was also in 2015 that we were witness to standout performances from athletes like Mary Joy Tabal, without a doubt Cebu’s and the Philippine’s running queen, and Donny Nietes, the longest reigning Filipino boxing champion.

Here are our picks for the top sports stories in 2015:

USC ends 58-year title drought

Cesafi USV vs UV
USC WARRIORS ran away with its first collegiate crown in 58 years by outscoring powerhouse University of the Visayas. (Photo taken from the official CESAFI Facebook Page)

After coming close twice in previous seasons, the University of San Carlos Warriors finally won its first collegiate crown in 58 years, beating the vaunted University of the Visayas in 5 games to win the 2015 Cesafi crown.

Even the superstitious Samsam Gullas, the UV team manager, couldn’t stop USC’s date with destiny. UV was 2-0 with Samsam away and 0-2 with him at the venue, so the manager who is also the first district representative, looked for someone to play ball with as he waited for the results of the game.

It could have swung UV’s way but Shooster Olago single-handedly changed the tempo of the game, scoring 10 straight points to open the fourth quarter in USC’s Game 5 win.

Mary Joy Tabal’s year

Mary Joy Tabal
RUNNING QUEEN Mary Joy Tabal won her 3rd straight Milo Marathon national crown in 2015. (Photo taken from Mary Joy Tabal’s Facebook page)

Mary Joy Tabal made the national team this year and also embarrassed the national team. After winning a silver medal in marathon in the Southeast Asian Games, she got invited to the Great Eastern Women’s Run as a representative of the Philippines. But weeks before the event, the Philippine Amateur Track and Field Association decided to “uninvited” her and sent Mary Grace delos Santos and Christabel Martes.

Thanks to some sponsors, Tabal was able to join and she set a personal best of 1:19:32 in the 21K to finish at fourth place among Asia’s elite. The two official PHL representatives finished at sixth (Delos Santos, 1:24) and eighth (Martes, 1:26).

Tabal, who has left the national team, ended the year with another milestone, winning her third straight Milo Marathon national crown in 2:48:24, beating Delos Santos (3:02:21) and Martes (3:02:29) again. As an incentive, Tabal gets a trip to the Boston Marathon, where she will try to crack the 2:42 barrier and qualify for the Rio Olympics.

Donnie Nietes continues reign

Donnie Nietes
KING OF THE RING. Donnie Nietes is the longest reigning Filipino champion, beating the record of the legendary Flash Elorde. (Photo taken from Donnie Nietes’ Facebook page)

The diminutive boxer from Murcia, Negros started the year as the longest-reigning Filipino champion, beating the record of seven years and three months of Flash Elorde. He’s going to start the year still as the longest reigning Filipino champion after a busy 2015 that saw him defend his WBO world light flyweight crown three times.

He forced Gilberto Parra to call it quits in the ninth round on March 28 in Manila, and earned a unanimous decision win over Francisco Rodriguez at the Waterfront Hotel and Casino on July 11. On October 7, he introduced himself to the US audience and beat Juan Alejo by unanimous decision to extend his reign and record to 37 wins, 1 loss and 4 draws with 21 KOs.

Central Visayas wins Milo Little Olympics

Milo Little Olympics
NATIONAL TITLE. Central Visayas won the Milo Little Olympics national finals by the smallest of margins, 2.5 points over the National Capital Region. (Photo taken from the Milo Little Olympics Facebook page)

Visayas was destined to lose to the National Capital Region in the race for the overall title in the Milo Little Olympics national finals for the fourth straight time but thanks to the attention to detail of Lyle Larida, Visayas got the crown by the smallest of margins, 2.5 points. Before the final tally, Larida noticed Visayas was only given five points for their victory in gymnastics, instead of fifteen. After a quick huddle and a long meeting later by the organizers, Visayas was handed the crown for the first time in four years, earning 577 points to NCR’s 574.5 points.

Host Cebu caught cheating

Host Cebu City Sports Commission got caught in a controversy at the tailend of the year when one of its boxers was discovered to have used a different name to compete in the Batang Pinoy, which was co-hosted by Cebu City, Mandaue, Danao, and Cebu Province.

Boxing patron Antonio Aldeguer, whose team of amateur fighters play for Mandaue City, discovered the discrepancy when he found out John Mark Lariosa, a CVIRAA veteran, was fighting under the name of Mark Canoy. Lariosa was kicked out of the competition and an embarrassed Ed Hayco, the CCSC chairman, asked for coach Andy Tabanas’ resignation after the incident.

Cheating scandal hits Cesafi

Cheating also hit Southwestern University but thanks to the eagle eye of the screening committee, the Southwestern University was save from the humiliation of having fielded players as old as 31 in the high school division. One of those caught with tampered documents was discovered to be 25 and he was going to play in the high school division.

Members of the screening community also said one of the players was 31, while some were in the late 20s. The coach and the players have all been banned for life in the Cesafi.

Ironman fever in Cebu

Cobra Ironman Cebu
IRONMAN IN CEBU. The province’s hosting of the Cobra Ironman got rave reviews that it was chosen to host a bigger event: the Asia Pacific Championships this year. (Photo taken from the official Cobra Ironman website)

Cebu seems to have perfected the process in making the Cobra Ironman better than the previous editions that it was given the chance to host an even bigger one, the Asia Pacific Championships in 2016.

This year, more than 2,500 athletes from all over the world trooped to Cebu to swim, pedal and run under the warmth of the Cebuano hospitality.

Tim Reed won the men’s pro crown over Tim Van Berkel, while in the Filipino elite division, Augusto Benedicto and John Philip Dueñas had a down-the-wire finish with the two collapsing at the finish line after giving it their all. Benedicto won on his 31st birthday, relegating Dueñas to second.

CCSC attempts another world record

CCSC arnis world record
WORLD RECORD TRY. Close to 5,000 athletes attended an arnis class at the Cebu City Sports Center last Dec. 2 to attempt to set the world record. (Photo taken from the CCSC Facebook page)

The CCSC, which owns the world record for the largest dance class and had world-record attempts for the largest chess tournament and archery tournament, attempted another milestone this year in arnis.

Close to 5,000 athletes had an arnis class at the Cebu City Sports Center last Dec. 2 to attempt to set the record, the latest in CCSC’s move of using world record attempts to spread the awareness for a sport.

UC pulls another surprise

UC-USJ-R shootout Cesafi
SHOOTOUT. UC won the Cesafi 2015 title in dramatic fashion with a 6-5 penalty shootout win over USJ-R. (Photo by Eric Nacorda, taken from Mike Limpag’s blog)

Five years after surprising the field with a Cesafi crown as the lowest ranked team, the University of Cebu did it again this year, surprising eight-time champion University of San Jose-Recoletos to win the Cesafi college crown via shootout.

Arvin Perez set the stage with a save on Jason Calunsag, the sixth kicker for USJ-R, and captain Ralph Plaza sealed the deal after converting his spot kick for a 6-5 win on penalties. The shootout came after UC held a simulated shootout in practice a day before the final.

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