SINGAPORE - Returning to the National Stadium for the first time since winning the 100m SEA Games title in 2015 at the same venue, Eric Cray had been hoping to "recreate some magic" on Friday (March 29).
Although he failed to do so after finishing eighth in the 100m final of the Singapore Open Track and Field Championships, the US-born Filipino was upbeat.
Chuckling as he acknowledged he was not happy with his time of 10.76 seconds, the 30-year-old told The Straits Times: "I was hoping to get close to my personal record (of 10.25sec). It's still early, I'm nowhere in shape yet and it's a long season, so I've got a lot of time."
Japan's Kirara Shiraishi won the race in 10.46sec.
The Texas-based Cray is aiming to make a splash at his home SEA Games at the year-end by retaining his 400m hurdles title, and reclaiming his 100m crown - he finished second to Malaysian Khairul Hafiz Jantan at the 2017 Games.
The Singapore Open was the first time he did the blue-riband race this year, and Cray added: "I'm pretty confident (of taking back the 100m title). At the end of the year, I'll be ready."
"I just need some more base training - I'm trying to get in some nice speed work and fix my mechanics... I still need some work on it, but I feel like I did pretty good," added Cray, who also anchored his team to victory in the men's 4x100m relay in 39.72sec on Friday.
Beyond the biennial Games, he is targeting a place in the 400m hurdles final at next year's Olympic Games in Tokyo.
"At the last Olympics, I was in the semi-finals and I hit hurdle 10 and it broke my heart, so I'm (also) getting prepared for the Olympics," said Cray, who was seventh in the first of three semi-finals at Rio 2016, and 17th overall.
Meanwhile, Singapore's new-look 4x100m women's relay quartet of Clara Goh, Shanti Pereira, Kugapriya Chandran and Haanee Hamkah were second in the final in 46.30sec, which qualified the team for next month's Asian Athletics Championships in Doha. Japan won in 44.89sec.
National women's relay coach Melvin Tan was pleased with their performance as the team bettered the 47.20sec they clocked at a time trial earlier this year.
"This is a completely new combination... it's an improvement by almost a second even though they had only one practice," he said, adding that their ground speed and baton passing need fine-tuning. "They kept to the basics of baton passing and that worked."
Singapore finished the two-day meet with one gold and four silver medals.