BATANG PINOY

Cotabato 7th grader gains tennis finals

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DAPITAN CITY—Alliah Elline Ragunton of Cotabato Province strung up three wins to barge into the lawn tennis girls’ singles finals even as hometown bet Jason Saavedra pulled through in the boys’ division at the start of competitions in the Mindanao leg of the POC-PSC Batang Pinoy 2012 here yesterday.

Ragunton, a 13-year-old 7th grader from Alameda, edged Rosuel Anne Binondo of Davao del Norte, 8-7 (7-1), and will fight for the title against the winner between Kiezl Kyla Diaz of Zamboanga City and Diadem Sasota of Cotabato Province, who were playing at presstime.

A student at Notre Dame of Genio Edcor, Ragunton was a bronze medalist during the Palarong Pambansa held in Lingayen last summer. Using a superior net game in the tiebreak, she wore down Binondo, who was the Palaro girls’ doubles champ.

But the crowd at the Rizal Memorial State University tennis courts were drawn to the 12-year-old Saavedra, who takes pride in bearing a striking resemblance to Cecil Mamiit, and playing like the former Philippine team stalwart.

Dubbed “Junior Mamiit” by the crowd that lined up the sun-baked courts, he outsmarted a taller Steve Centennial Maghanoy of Zamboanga Sibugay, 8-3, to make the second round.

Saavedra, who had to earn money as “pulot boy” on the same tennis courts to buy racket strings, was a silver medalist in boys’ doubles when the Palaro was held here last year.

In badminton, Art Villanueva of Zamboanga Sibugay advanced to the second round with a 21-11, 21-17 victory over Dapitan City’s Paul Tacbayan.

Swimming and athletics are on tap today in the fourth qualifying leg of the competition initiated by the Philippine Sports Commission and the Philippine Olympic Committee for athletes 15 years old and below.

But PSC lawyer Jay Alano said they have decided to cancel the track events after conducting ocular inspection at the RMSU sports complex oval showed the track was torn and ripped due to the recent severe weather.

Alano, who explained the decision as a “force majeure,” said the PSC will give out a maximum of six slots per local government units in track events for the National Finals in Iloilo City on Dec. 5-9.

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