Ed’s Note: Greg Banzon is the Team Head of the Century Tuna Triathlon Team. A seasoned veteran and a big supporter of our sport, Greg, together with his brothers Rene and Jomari have been inducted to the De La Salle Sports Hall of Fame. In this article, Greg tells us the unique story of growing up as an athlete, the discipline and dedication needed to succeed and the pride of achieving it with his brothers and for their alma mater.
This is probably the biggest honor and recognition I will ever receive. I, along with my brothers Jomari and Rene, have been inducted to the De La Salle Sports Hall of Fame for the glory we brought to the school as runners in our youth.
Jomari, Rene and I started running in grade school at the Taft campus under Coach Mario Lamigo. But it was in high school at La Salle Greenhills under the legendary Coach Antonio “Tatang” Mendoza that we started to excel as athletes.
Our years at LSGH is where the Banzon Dynasty started. We each rose to become Team Captains for Track & Field in our Senior Years and were conferred the MVP Award as we graduated from High School. We dominated the track meets using an overdose of that La Sallian Animo Spirit as we won medal after medal for the Alma Mater. Jomari set the record in 1,500m that took years to break thereafter. This immortalized him as indeed one of the NCAA greats in Juniors Track & Field.
Jomari, or Baby as we called him was not only the star of the track team, he was a supernova. He ran with the grace of a gazelle and the power of a thoroughbred. His athlete status allowed him to sport long hair which added to the dramatic aura of his athletic prowess and the elegance of his presence in the track. He could run the 3,000m in under 9 minutes, do a sub 4:20 minutes in 1,500m and slightly above 2 minutes in the 800m even as a high schooler. Jomari was our ring leader and made sure we woke up at 4am to catch the 4:45am bus ride to LSGH each morning. He also pushed us in training to put in more work than the rest of our teammates. Jomari won the Gold in all the events he joined.
Rene was the most gifted runner among us. He has a body built for running. Long powerful legs and a lean built which he used to power through his favorite events, the 800m and 1,500m. His matinee idol looks earned him a big fan base among all genders and even among the athletes from competing schools. Rene is famous for his very strong finishing kick no matter the distance. Many a race he stole victory from well accomplished athletes whose morale he crushed by sprinting past them in the final 25 meters. Rene’s 800m as a high school senior was also close to 2 minutes. More importantly, you could hear the collective sigh of the large gathering of teenaged school girls who all came to see him compete which he did with a good mix of elan and determined effort.
I had the burden of following the exceptional achievements of my brothers. I did not have the flowing locks of Jomari and his powerful, horse-like stride. Nor did I match the long, efficient “cinematically perfect” stride of Rene. I was shorter in stature but had a very strong and muscular built plus surprisingly long strides despite the disadvantage in height. Moreover, I had the heart that could never be beaten. I used my strength and determination to excel in the power events of 400m and 800m, purposely avoiding head on battles in the longer races against my more gifted brothers.
We continued our educational and athletic journey at De La Salle University under Coach Romy Sotto. Jomari excelled the most and was awarded the MVP for Athletics for three straight years and overall sports MVP upon graduating. He matured as a runner in college and could do a sub-2 minute 800m and go below 4:10 in the 1,500m. Rene also garnered the MVP award for two years. He continued to get stronger and matched his good looks with devastating race performances that left competition in a daze.
Collectively as the Banzon Brothers, we gave De La Salle a total of 58 medals from various competitions, 33 of which were Gold plus 6 NCAA Championships. We also received 9 MVP awards between us and set several league records, one of which stood for many years thereafter
Considering the demands of De La Salle’s high academic standards, it was a wonder how we as student athletes consistently ‘held that green and white banner high and bright” in our sport while fulfilling our academic obligations?
I believe we were able to do this because sports is truly the other half of education.
Reflecting back on our lives as athletes, I realize that the lessons learned from sports goes far beyond the games and competitions we participated in. Sports taught us about work ethic, discipline, dedication and what it means to set a goal and achieve it as individuals and as teams.
All these helped us in the classroom as this shaped our personalities and held us accountable for the results of our academic efforts. Sports taught us to commit ourselves to continuous improvement so we could eventually impact beyond the walls of the University.
This may be because we were driven by a greater purpose much bigger than ourselves. The inspiration to bring La Sallians together as one community in victory.
We are today repaid by the recognition of being inducted to the De La Salle Alumni Association Sports Hall of Fame.
Thank you to the De La Salle Alumni Association for this most treasured honor.
Animo La Salle!