MAASIN CITY, Leyte -- Ivan Miguel Santos of Cebu City ran away with the first gold medal of the Philippine Sports Commission-Philippine Olympic Committee Batang Pinoy Visayas qualifying leg after ruling the boys 5,000-meter event Wednesday at the Southern Leyte Sports Complex here.
The 14-year-old Santos, whose father Lt. Col. Michael Santos is now based in Cotabato City, kept his pace from start to finish in dominating the event despite nursing cough and colds.
“I thank God for letting me win because I'm not really feeling well,” said the 5-foot-9 Santos, a high school junior at University of San Carlos who is guided by coaches Arvin Loberanis and Ilde Banson. He finished the race with a time of 18 minutes and 31 seconds, slower than his 17:36 personal best.
Santos' main event is the 3,000 steeplechase but was not included in the sports calendar here so his coaches instead decided to field him in middle and long distance events.
The Batang Pinoy novice will still see action in the 1,500m and 800m events, respectively.
Joining Santos in the spotlight was teammate Shantel Tanucan, the big-boned girl who handily won the long jump event. Tanucan made her gold-medal jump of 4.56 meters on her fourth try.
Last year's Visayas leg gold winner in high jump, Tanucan said she looks forward to a sweep of all three jumping events as she gears for the triple jump and high jump competitions, respectively.
Sandra Anne Marie Empino, a 12-year-old first-timer, put Tacloban City in the gold medal column right on opening day after topping the girls 2000m walk with a time of 15:06.05.
The lean, 5-foot-2 Empino was actually training for throwing events but her coach Jessie Delbo saw her potential in walking event owing the 7th-grader's long limbs and strides.
Her victory denied Maasin City's attempt at a breakthrough gold as local bet Abegail Aguelo settled for second with a clocking of 15:09.01, while Leyte Sports Academy-Smart's Kimberly Joy Gatela finished third with 15:09.52.
Also turning in gold medal performance was shot put thrower Lanz Jeremy Halongong of Iloilo Province. The burly, 5-foot-7 Halongong, a junior at Iloilo National High School, had a winning throw of 10.94 meters but admitted being disappointed with his effort.
Last year's double gold winner in the Batang Pinoy National Finals, Halonghong said his throw was far from his personal best of 12 meters, but admitted he was bothered by a wrist injury he sustained after playing basketball.
His teammate John Christian Capasao threw 10.80m to settle for silver, while Cebu City's Jan Dean Durano bagged the bronze after a 10.33m effort.
Most of the 20-sport calendar also held its elimination matches Wednesday, including boxing which drew throngs of fans at the Maasin City bus terminal during its first round preliminaries.