THE UST Male Tracksters’ shot at redemption in the upcoming UAAP season will be without top pole vaulter EJ Obiena.

Obiena, who was also sidelined last year after suffering a left anterior crucial ligament injury, opted to skip the tournament this season due to personal reasons. He is a sure-fire gold medalist for the Male Tracksters in the pole vault category.

“EJ is a one-man team and a potential gold-medalist but due to unexpected situations, he won’t make it this season,” UST Tracksters head coach Emmanuel Calipes told the Varsitarian, saying there are things they could not handle.

Last year, the Male Tracksters slipped to fifth place with only two silver and two bronze medals.

It was the first time since 2010 that the men’s team failed to secure a podium finish.

The Male Tracksters were runners-up to defending champion Far Eastern University (FEU) in six of the last eight years.

The Male Tracksters will now lean on the performances of veteran players Kevin Capangpangan, Jhon Lloyd Lamaclamac, Ronjon Redoble, Andre Bardos, rookies Erick John Villasan, Ronnelle Marquez, Karry Paelmao and Johnrey Magallanes.

Calipes added that the Male Tracksters’ roster this season consists of multi-event athletes who will help them take advantage of the UAAP pointing system.

“Last year kasi the team lacked manpower so nag-struggle kami maka-earn ng points and every individual score is important dahil iyon ang basehan ng overall team points,” he said.

Calipes also listed FEU, the University of the East and the University of the Philippines as constant hurdles in the Male Tracksters’ UAAP campaign.

The Male Tracksters started training in April to get their bodies in tiptop shape just in time for the competition.

In October, the Male Tracksters finished at third place in the 2018 University Games in Dumaguete and collected three gold medals in the men’s division.

With roughly one month left before the tournament, Calipes is confident of his team’s chances of a podium finish.

“We are focusing more on the maturity of the players which they have already. We’re just here to help them peak on the right time,” Calipes said.

Team captain Capangpangan also said the team is more determined to compete this season after slipping to fifth place last year.

“Naging lesson sa’min ‘yong pagkatalo last season kaya ngayon, gagawin namin ang lahat para umangat ulit kami,” the sports and wellness management senior said.

The Male Tracksters’ last UAAP championship run was in 2002. They have a total of eight titles in the men’s division.

UAAP athletics action will start on Nov. 28 to Dec. 2 at the Vermosa Sports Hub in Cavite.