June 23, 2024

Benguet will definitely be the center of attention during the upcoming 2020 Cordillera Athletic Association (Caraa) meet, according to Department of Education-Cordillera Director May B. Eclar when she graced the opening ceremonies of the Provincial Athletic Meet in La Trinidad.
The good director has a valid point considering the dismal fourth place overall performance of Benguet during the 2019 Caraa meet in Apayao, which caught many by surprise because the province used to be the only major threat to Baguio City. As to how Benguet will recover from this debacle in the biggest regional sporting event will certainly be the headlines in next month’s Caraa.
Years back, there was a joke that other divisions had actually no interest of becoming overall champion in the Caraa meet because of the belief that Baguio could never be beaten at all. Instead, they reportedly had only one aspiration – to dislodge Benguet as the overall second placer. What happened during the 2019 Caraa meet in Apayao became the sports story last year. It was a mere joke before. And it did happen.
In fact, Apayao nearly toppled Benguet as the overall first runner-up as early as 2013 when the former hosted the regional event. By a mere difference of 15 points, Apayao already posed serious threat during that time. Since that year, Benguet became vulnerable but failed to level up in its preparation while other divisions like Apayao, Abra, and Ifugao kept on improving.
Benguet sports officials actually held an assessment conference together with officials from the grovincial government after the 2019 Caraa meet. Strengths and weaknesses were identified and recommendations were raised. Judging from the results of the conference, Benguet actually did a SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis. There are internal strengths as there are also internal weaknesses which must be considered. Like in strategic planning, there are also opportunities as there are threats. Yet one thing is clear: Benguet has the capability to regain its glory.
Benguet needs to exhaust other means to avail of high-level training, tune-up games and exposures of athletes within and outside the region. The traditional way of training athletes by housing them at the Benguet National High School for a two-week training prior to the regional meet may not be effective this time. Instead, sports officials should look into other opportunities that would ensure the preparation of their athletes. For instance, Benguet could maximize the presence of several training centers for world-class athletes in La Trinidad by tapping them for no-nonsense training like the famed Team Lakay and Highland Boxing Gym. These training centers gained prominence of producing world-class athletes including several medalists during the 2019 SEA Games.
With proper preparation and training coupled with support from all stakeholders, Benguet is expected to reassert itself as a force to reckon with in our region. If this will happen, Benguet will indeed be the talk of the town during the 2020 Caraa meet. — Macarthy B. Malanes