By Melissa Choi (16S06B)
It was not your typical scene at Bedok Reservoir, with 121 Crossers all reared-up and ready to go at the start line. An electrifying atmosphere enveloped the race site as the audience waited in anticipation for the first runner to emerge. Punctuating the morning calm was the sound of cheers from the many impassioned supporters who came down to cheer for their schoolmates. It was the 56th National Inter-School Cross Country championships, and what a race it was. In total, there were six races spanning three divisions, and six titles for Team Raffles to clinch. Rafflesian dominance was strongly felt, with the Rafflesian family clinching four out of the possible six titles.
The A Division boys kicked off the first race at 9am, covering a distance of 4.6km. The Raffles team started strong as a pack, with pre-race favourite Chong Qi taking the lead. As the race progressed and the Crossers neared an uphill slope, a clear separation began to show. Some runners broke off from the pack, with Chester being one of them. Despite their exhaustion, many runners were determined to pick up their pace at the end, and even overtake close competitors such as the team from ACS(I).
Chester recalled that he “wasn’t confident that I could overtake Leroi [one of the runners from ACS(I)] at the start”, but in the last 400m, “the coach told [him] to go get [Leroi]”. This was the push that propelled him to overtake his competitor in the tense last 3 seconds of the race, giving RI a clean but narrow sweep for Top 3 for the Boy’s A Division.
Some even collapsed to the floor after passing the finish line, having given the race their all. It goes without saying that Cross Country is a physically demanding as well as mentally trying sport. However, akin to finishing 2.4km in NAPFA, there is immense satisfaction derived from scaling long-distances and pushing one’s boundaries. Larry (15S06N), the captain of the boys’ team, felt “tremendously proud of the team”, as “the team was always there for one another when it mattered – be it helping pace each other or encouraging each other during tough times”.
Following the close fight between ACS(I) and RI, team scores were tabulated based on the timings of the best four runners from the school. Shohib finished 1st, Chong Qi 2nd, Chester 3rd, and Larry 8th, securing a 13-point lead over our closest competitors Victoria Junior College. Our other two runners also finished in the Top 20, with Shammo finishing 12th and Willy 19th. For Shohib, this was his second straight individual gold; in 2014, he finished with a timing of 14:02.8 on the 4.3km course. Chong Qi was also 2014’s B Division Individual Champion, achieving a timing of 14:26.7; this year, he finished just 12 seconds after Shohib.
Our A Division girls too performed strongly, narrowly losing out to the VJC girls by only three points. The girls were a strong team overall, and “the race could have gone either way”, according to the coach, Mr. Joe Goh. While both girls and boys ran along nearly the same course, the girls took a shorter route of 3.6km, and began their race at 9.40am.
With the VJC girls establishing their lead 400m into the race, and extending it further as the race progressed, Natalie, the forerunner of the Raffles team, tried to keep up but was unable to. Eventually, she finished 3rd, followed closely by Yi Xin in 4th. Faye battled Xin Ying (VJC) for 6th place, but crossed the line 0.2 seconds after her to finish 7th. Edina came in 9th, bagging a team score of 23 points. Valarie and Shiying from the RI team also performed well, coming in 10th and 19th respectively.
It was a neck-and-neck battle though, as the runners who finished third through seventh all finished in close succession, varying only by 24 seconds. Natalie (16S03S) attested to the race being a very close fight, but that “there is nothing to be disappointed about” because “everybody put in their best effort.” Sporting a positive attitude, she remarked that the only thing the team can do is to train harder for next year. “Even though we didn’t get champions, they will still be champions in my heart!” she said.
When asked what she thought of the team, she said, “I love our team, it was super fun training with them up to this season, and they make training much better.” Her teammate Valarie (16S06I) echoes this sentiment, “Even though it’s tough, it’s fun.”
Shiying (15S03F), the captain of the girls’ team, told us, “Though we were unable to bring home the title this year, I can say with certainty that we’ve trained hard for it and given it our best shot.” Although she felt that “losing the title so narrowly was definitely a bitter pill to swallow”, she still remains optimistic and motivated “to train even harder for the upcoming Track and Field championships.”
Confident that the runners have given their best, the coaches are proud of Team Raffles and maintain that the results are secondary. Mr Goh remarked, “They did above expectations…For A girls especially, we had a very close fight with VJC. We [expected] them to give us a tough fight based on the past few races … It could [go] to anybody, just that today they did better than us.”
While many see Cross Country as an individual sport, the Cross team strongly believes in the importance of the team. Larry noted, “Although the nature of the sport is an individualistic one, it never felt this way in this team.” Training three times a week in paced groups, supported by teachers and parents who do all sorts of behind-the-scenes work, has enabled the Cross team to form bonds like no other.
Both Cross teams have shown great sportsmanship and team spirit, and we would like to congratulate them on a job well done. We wish the Cross Country team all the best in their future endeavours!