By REDintern Romaine Soh
Last year, Zachary Ryan Devaraj of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) (ACS(I)) achieved a rare feat when he won the A Division 1,500m at the National Schools Track and Field Championships on April 10 — it was his sixth consecutive 1,500m win at the National Schools level across all three divisions since Secondary One.
Then, Zachary finished first in a time of 4 minutes 19.91 seconds. Freeman Aw of Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) was second in 4:21.57 while Sean Lim of ACS(I) stopped the clock at 4:22.35 for third place.
On his six-gold record, Zachary said: “I’m proud of my achievements. I think that the first few gold medals were the hardest to get, especially my first one in Secondary One. My proudest achievement was my 1,500m final in 2010 (Secondary Four, B Division) when I won by 100m.”
His winning margin of more than one second in every National Schools 1,500m race was proof of his dominance, and this same reputation made his wary opponents allow him to take the lead the moment the gun sounded.
By the second round, however, his opponents decided that the whopping 50m gap between them and Zach was too big, and increased the pace to catch up. Sean Lim, Zach’s teammate, led the charge, with Freeman Aw of HCI, Everest Yeow and Justin Surin, both of Raffles Institution (RI), following him closely.
Zach, sensing that his lead was being cut, snuck a look back at the 600m mark to assess the situation. Upon seeing that his opponents were posing a challenge, he increased his pace slightly and completed his second 400m in 71s, making it clear that he was not gunning for a championship record; just a win.
As the bell sounded for the last lap, everyone stepped up the pace in a bid for a podium finish. Sean, who had been leading the pack that was hunting down Zach, now switched to top gear in an attempt to shrug off the others. Freeman responded quickly, and kept pace with him.
During the last 100m, Zach was seen looking over his shoulder multiple times to ensure that both Freeman and Sean were unable to catch up to him. The lead that he had established over them proved too much for either of them as Zach eventually stopped the clock in 4:19.91.
“I felt good about the race, even though I didn’t clock a personal best (PB),” said Zach, whose personal best for the 1,500m is 4:06.
Zach seemed to be remorseful at the fact that he would now have to compete at the more demanding national level. “After graduating from the A Division, I don’t think I’ll ever be able to beat a field of competitors by more than 23.31s, unless I’m running against girls!”
His passion for running will not end there, though. He declared: “I will continue to run after I enlist for National Service in May!”
Runner-up Freeman also expressed his desire to continue the sport after graduating from the school scene.
“My most memorable race is definitely 800m last year! I was so close to breaking the two-minute barrier, but still it was my first medal in track, so I’m still happy!”
Freeman also acknowledged that while track and field is more of an individual event, training with his teammates helped break the monotony of the demanding sport. “Maybe in the future, I would run longer events such as marathons, but first I want to try breaking the two-minute barrier (for 800m) and hopefully become the fastest 800m runner in university!”
2012 National Schools 1,500m A Division Results
1st Zachary Devaraj (#71, ACS(I)) – 4 minutes 19.91 seconds
2nd Aw Xin Sheng Freeman (#258, HCI) – 4:21.57
3rd Sean Lim Yi Fang (#61, ACS(I)) – 4:22.35
4th Everest Yeow Qiyue (#117, RI) – 4:24.70
5th Justin Gang-Xi Ong (#156, SAJC) – 4:31.69
6th Benjamin Tang Hao Zhe (#259, HCI) – 4:32.88
7th James Iau Nan Hoong (#238, ACJC) – 04:32.89
8th Justin John Surin (#120, RI) – 4:34.67
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