Cebu leads Batang Pinoy Visayas medal chase
By: Marc Anthony Reyes (Philippine Daily Inquirer)

MAASIN CITY, Leyte—Cebu City launched its bid for overall honors in the Philippine Sports Comission-Philippine Olympic Committee Batang Pinoy Visayas leg by picking up two wins in the centerpiece track and field event yesterday at Southern Leyte Sports Complex here.

Ivan Miguel Santos, a lanky 14-year-old who was a bit under the weather, became the meet’s first gold medalist by ruling the boys’ 5,000 meters in 18 minutes and 31 seconds.

Shantel Tanucan then captured the girls’ long jump for Cebu, nailing the gold with a leap of 4.56 meters.

National Finals double gold winner Lanz Jeremy Halongong of Iloilo Province grabbed the boys’ shot put title while fleet-footed Zandra Anne Marie Empino of Tacloban City prevailed in the girls’ 2,000m walk in this second of three qualifying legs of the 15-and-under competition leading to the Bacolod finals in November.

“I gave my best although I’m not feeling well, thank God the weather is not so hot,” said the 5-foot-9 Santos in Filipino, who had a cough and felt cold after an eight-hour ferry trip from Cebu.

A BP first-timer, Santos, a third year high at University of San Carlos, grabbed the lead midway in the race from Chester Gagnao of Iloilo Province, eventually finished second in 19:10.

Southern Leyte’s John Paul Mantilla came in third in 19:27.

Originally a top bet for the 3,000m steeplechase which won’t be held here, Santos will also compete in the 800m and 1,500m according to his coach Arvin Loberanis.

Fifteen-year-old Tanucan of University of Cebu beat Rose Marie Olorvida of Leyte Province (4.45m) and Nina Marie Antiola also of Cebu City (4.38m), who wound up second and third, respectively.

A 12-year-old 7th grader at Leyte National High, Empino clocked 15:06.05 to score the win over Maasin City’s Abegail Aguelo (15:09.01) and Leyte Sports Academy-Smart’s Kimberly Joy Gatela (15:09.52).

Empino, a first-timer here, was groomed as a thrower but coach Jessie Delbo said she can also excel on track because of her natural gait, long strides and 5-foot-3 frame.

The big-built Halongong, a junior at Iloilo National High School, threw 10.94m on his first try, and that was enough to beat teammate John Christian Capasao (10.80m) and Cebu City’s Jan Dean Durano (10:33m).

Halongong said he competed despite injuring his right hand in a basketball game weeks before the meet. Halongong was also in last year’s National Finals in javelin.

Mayor Maloney Samaco earlier thanked the PSC and POC for bringing the Games here, saying it will boost the city’s economy with more than 8,000 visitors coming in “aside from putting us in the country’s sporting map.”