SAN JOSE de Buenavista, Antique—Late bloomer Jay Ann Labasano flew to the Palarong Pambansa with little expectations but would be returning to her home in Bukidnon a champion.
Labasano, 17, ran barefoot in her first Palaro stint but comfortably breezed to the secondary girls’ 3,000 meters gold medal, setting her up for a potential two-gold medal haul as she competes in the 1,500 meters in two days.
One of eight children raised by a cassava farmer and plain housewife, Labasano clocked 10 minutes and 32.67 seconds to handily clinch gold for Northern Mindanao. Jie Anne Calis of the National Capital Region (NCR) was a far second in 10:41.15 and Marian Junaliza Abutas of Ilocos region was further back in third in 10:44.68.
“I really didn’t expect to win,” Labasano said in Visayan dialect as reporters crowded her after her feat at the newly refurbised Binirayan Sports Complex here.
Labasano finished second in the Camiguin Regionals behind Camila Tubiano to qualify for the Palaro. But Tubiano, the Northern Mindanao champion, could only finish fourth.
Caught inside the lead group with two laps remaining, Labasano made one solid burst to practically bid her rivals good-bye.
Western Visayas’s James Lozañes also excelled under the intense summer sun on Monday and heaved the javelin to a record-breaking 59.46 meters in his third attempt in the boys’ secondary category, erasing the 57.81 standard Bryan Pacheco set in Dumaguete City four years ago.
Ronald Lacson did 57.30 meters to make it 1-2 for Western Visayas. Manny Maquiling Jr. of Northern Mindanao completed the podium with 54.66.
In secondary boys high jump, Cesar Fernandez of Negros Island Region snatched gold from Kent Celeste of Ilocos Region while Ernie Calipay of Eastern VIsayas and Lorenz Sediarin of NCR tied for bronze.
Fernandez and Celeste booked identical 1.90 meters in the finals, but Fernandez won because he cleared the bar in his first try. Celeste made 1.90 meters in his second attempt.
Maria Sally San Jose of Calabarzon, meanwhile, claimed top honor in elementary girls’ shot put with 10.70 meters Rhealyn Decosta (9.98 meters) of Western Visayas and Juweliza Sarabosing (9.43 meters) of Northern Mindanao finished second and third, respectively.
Central Visayas’s Daniella Reggie de la Pisa, meanwhile, emerged as the most bemedalled athlete so far with three golds in secondary girls’ rhythmic gymnastics. She topped the rope, hoops and ball events, but yielded the clubs gold to NCR’s Divina Sembrano.
NCR’s Breanna Labadan outclassed the field in the elementary division freehand event also of rhythmic gymnastics. Marmeil Audrey Capayas of Bicol Region won the ball gold medal, while Negros Island’s Kiana Marie Alagaban and Jenny Marie Eusebio topped the rope and clubs events, respectively.