STA. CRUZ, Laguna , Philippines – Calabarzon's Zeanne Faith Cabrera ended a string of lopsided and heartbreaking setbacks to Jorremay Rubias of Western Visayas as she finally captured the elusive secondary girls' javelin crown to become the first gold medal winner in the Palarong Pambansa that started at the Laguna Sports Complex here yesterday.
Through sheer hard work and determination, Cabrera found a way to beat Rubias, heaving a 40.31m throw in her fourth attempt to pocket her first-ever gold medal while ending her rival’s domination that included a gold medal romp in last year’s Palaro in Dumaguete City where she wound up sixth.
Cabrera also finished second to Rubias in the Batang Pinoy in Iloilo last year.
Monica Louise Andaya of the National Capital Region took the silver with a 39.36m throw while relegating Rubias to third with a 38.06m effort.
“Lagi akong talo sa kanya (I always lose to her),” said Cabrera, a graduating student at St. Michael’s High School in Biñan, referring to Rubias.
“Pero nagsikap ako, maski nga nung Mahal na Araw tuloy pa rin ang pagsasanay ko para lang manalo ako dito (But I worked hard for this, so hard that I kept training even during the Holy Week just to win here),” added Cabrera, who trained under the tutelage of national team mainstays Rosie Villarito and Henry Chaneco.
Moments later, Jose Gerry Belibestre, 15, came through with a golden performance in the secondary boys’ long jump (7.08m), besting a pair of Central Luzon bets in Mark James Esteban (6.70m) and Erson Jay Osotezo (6.55m).
In football, last year’s titlist Mimaropa edged Bicol, 1-0, and last year’s runner-up Central Visayas, a team from Don Bosco Cebu, slammed Cagayan Valley, 9-2, to put in motion their respective title campaigns.
In secondary boys basketball, Central Visayas, represented by Ateneo de Cebu, needed a strong second half surge to blast Caraga, 93-49, to kick off its title-retention bid.
Calabarzon, last year’s bronze medalist composed of NCAA champion San Beda, routed Zamboanga Peninsula, 80-56, Socsargen thumped Cagayan Valley 97-55, and Central Luzon turned back Mimaropa, 77-69.
In secondary girls basketball, defending champion NCR edged Davao, 90-80, while Eastern Visayas and Northern Mindanao got off to impressive start with 64-56 and 46-41 romps over Cagayan Valley and Calabarzon, respectively.
In secondary girls volleyball, Western Visayas walloped Zamboanga, 25-20, 25-14, and Central Luzon smashed Caraga, 25-18, 25-11.
Meanwhile, the annual games for elementary and high school student-athletes will be formally opened today with boxing champion Manny Pacquiao and former President and now Manila Mayor Joseph Estrada gracing the elaborate rites that will be attended by over 11,000 athletes and coaches plus a thousand more technical officials.
Pacquiao and Estrada will be joined by host Gov. ER Ejercito-Estregan and Technical Education and Skills Developmnent Administration (Tesda) chairman Joel Villanueva.
An adopted son of Laguna, who also lives in Biñan, Pacquiao will also serve as anchor in the torch relay along with Olympic figure skater Michael Martinez, young actor Enchong Dee, cager James Yap and Jericho Estregan – the son of Gov. Ejercito who skippers the track and field team of De La Salle University.
Television personalities Dyan Castillejo and Ginger Conejeros will join basketball brothers Jeric and Jeron Teng as hosts in the opening ceremonies that will be preceded with a colorful float parade and the opening of trade fair and parade of athletes at the Laguna Sports Complex track oval.