LAGUNA set the pace in athletics with six gold medals at the start of the Southern Luzon qualifying leg of the Philippine Olympic Committee-Philippine Sports Commission Batang Pinoy Games on Wednesday in Calapan, Oriental Mindoro.
Gilbert Rotaquio, a 15-year-old junior from Siniloan High School, clocked 18 minutes and 28.5 seconds in winning the boys' 14-15 age group 5,000-meter run at the Jose Leido Memorial National High School oval.
Mark Adrielle Galve of Dasmarinas City placed second in 18:52.1 and Calamba City's Eal Kim Russel Lerezo was third in 18:55.9.
Rotaquio is seeking more medals in the 1500m, 800m, 2000m walk, 4x100m relay and 4x400m relay in the sports meet for athletes 15 years old and below.
Jordan Montemayor of Pila, Laguna ruled the boys' 14-15 shot put with a 10.48-meter throw. Montemayor, winner of the discus throw in the same leg last year, hopes to score back to back wins this year. The third-year high school student at San Antonio De Padua College will also compete in the javelin.
Aaron Smith Buenaseda, who also hails from Laguna, settled for the shot put silver (9.42) and Calapan City's Jhon Carlo Brotonel copped the bronze (9.40).
Rocena Chua (girls' 14-15 high jump), Chaimo Panteriore (boys' 13-under 2000m run), Marjorie Limos (girls' 14-15 2000m walk) and Charies Mae Violanta (girls' 14-15 shot put) also delivered gold for Laguna, last year's national champion in athletics.
Panteriore, 13, had a chance to score a second gold medal but was disqualified in the boys' 13-under 2000m walk for apparently breaking into a run on the final stretch. Panteriore clocked 13:36 but the gold was awarded to Christopher Ecija of Dasmarinas City (13:37.1).
Laguna sprinters also topped most of the heats in the 100m and 400m dash.
John Albert Del Mundo (boys' 13 under 100m), Ashley Salazar (girls' 13 under 100m), Edwin Cabalfin (boys' 13-under 400m), Rudy May Barandoc (girls' 13under 400m) and Jacob Delos Santos (boys' 14-15 400m) advanced to the finals.
Palawan clinched two gold medals in the girls' 13-under division.
Allysa Nicole Abin Amado shared the top spot in the high jump with Zykie Omalde of Dasmarinas City with matching marks of 1.25 meters.
Palawan's Roxanne Agustines Narciso ruled the long jump with a 4.25-meter leap, Joyce Cabaneros of Laguna placed second (4.15) and Amado took the bronze (4.10).
Felix Libo-on seized Dasmarinas City's second gold in athletics with a leap of 5.60 meters in long jump. Julhayne Ramos Karaan of Palawan picked up the silver (5.36) and Sean Dela Vega of Dasmarinas placed third (5.34).
The start of competitions in swimming and other sports was moved to Thursday as organizers entertained more entries from participating local government units.
Other sports to be played in the five-day meet are arnis, badminton, boxing, chess, lawn tennis, karatedo, taekwondo, table tennis and wrestling.
The Southern Luzon leg is the third regional qualifier of the Batang Pinoy Games, which will culminate in a national championship in Iloilo City on Dec. 5-8.