Barefoot wonder leads Laguna's gold rush
Laguna's Rocena Chua bags her sixth gold medal of the Batang Pinoy qualifier in the girls' 14-15 4x400-meter relay.

CALAPAN, Oriental Mindoro — Laguna scooped 10 gold medals in the pool and dominated athletics even as Calapan City struck hard in taekwondo in Day Three of the Philippine Olympic Committee-Philippine Sports Commission Batang Pinoy Games.

Hurdler Rocena Chua capped her stint in the Southern Luzon qualifying leg with a sixth gold medal in the girls' 14-15 4x400-meter relay where the 14-year-old helped Laguna clock four minutes and 53.6 seconds over Oriental Mindoro's 5:28.3 and Calapan City's 5:55.1.

The sophomore high school from St. Michael College, Binan, Laguna also won the 400m hurdles and triple jump yesterday after capturing gold medals in the 100m hurdles, high jump and 4x100m relay.

Chua, daughter of a truck driver assistant, was the runaway winner in the 400m hurdles after clocking 1:15.9. Mary Jane Mantilla, also from Laguna, settled for silver (1:24.5) and Palawan's Ercel Santelices Oiga placed third (1:27.4).

“Magiging masaya ang mga magulang sa mga medalyang ito. Ready na ako sa national finals,” said Chua, who began her track and field career at 10 years old.

Chua and her teammates also contributed heavily to Laguna's 30 gold medals in athletics. Dasmarinas City, Cavite grabbed 20 gold medals at the Jose Leido Memorial High School here and Palawan brought home eight.

Swimmer Nicole Mean Pamintuan also made Laguna, last year's national overall champion, proud in the talent discovery regional qualifier for 15 years old and below. Top performers in the regional legs will advance to the national championship in Iloilo on December 5-8.

The 13-year-old lass from Sta. Rosa, Laguna pocketed three medals in the girls' 13-15 400m freestyle, 100m freestyle and 200m medley relay.

Pamintuan, a Grade 7 pupil from St. Michael College, finished the 400m free in five minutes flat to defeat Antipolo City's Gwen Bryne Prejula (5:07.68) and Elaine Joy Manalang (5:14.18).

She later registered 1:05.21 in the 100m free, beating Laguna's Marie Pauline Robles (1:08.53) and Beatriz Ocampo of Lucena City (1:12.03) before anchoring the province in the 200m medley relay (2:22.93).

Tanker Gabriel Velasco of San Pablo, Laguna grabbed two gold medals from the pool along with Pamintuan's teammates Aura Aquino and Carla Mae David. Justine Ann Abastillas of Lucena City also clinched two golds in the girls' 11-12 400m free and 100m free.

Silent in medal-rich swimming and athletics, Calapan City drew inspiration from its taekwondo jins as the host city got six gold medals.

The gold winners from Calapan were bantamweight Vince Andrei Philippe Panahon, lightweight Ives Christian Manceda, heavyweight Rainier Rivera, middleweight Roxanne Roa, heavyweight Louise Kristia Concepcion and flyweight Samantha Melgar.

Action in badminton resumed yesterday with Lucena City leading the way in the preliminaries. Marinella Delos Santos defeated Oriental Mindoro's Angelica Jacolbia, 21-5, 21-4, in the second round of the girls' singles while Carmela Capistrano edged Laguna's Jaira Joyce Mendoza, 23-21, 23-21, to advance into the quarterfinals.

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