52nd National Schools Cross Country Championships 2011 — Boys preview

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By REDintern Soh Rui Yong

Track 3000m C Boys

Heng Yu Jie (left) on the way to beating Marcus Ng in the C Division Boys’ 3000m race at the 2010 Inter-School Track and Field Championships. Yu Jie had finished second to Marcus less than a month earlier in the 2010 Inter-School Cross Country Championships. They renew their cross-country rivalry again in the 2011 edition. (Photo 1 © Marvin Lowe/Red Sports archive)

As the school sports season heats up, one of the most anticipated national finals in our local sports scene lurks just around the corner.

Once every year for the past half-century, the fittest student-athletes from all across our nation come together to match their endurance, speed and wits against each other at the National Schools Cross Country Championships. This year’s competition will be held at Bedok Reservoir, with the first race starting at 9am.

With less than a week to go before the championships, let us have a look at the potential title contenders, and the mouth-watering clashes that lie ahead.

C Division Boys — Good things come in pairs

The front runners for the C Division Boys team championship this year appear to be the team from Raffles Institution (RI).

The saying goes, “Good things come in pairs”, and RI must certainly believe in that, being blessed with the talented duo of Mohamed Imran Jashiruden and Shohib Marican (not related to last year’s A Division 1500m silver medalist Mahdi Marican, also from Raffles). The two 14-year olds have swept all before them this season, finishing first and second respectively both at the Singapore Athletic Association (SAA) and Wings Athletic Club cross country meets.

Imran and Shohib led their team to convincing victories over traditional powerhouses and defending champions Victoria School (VS) on both occasions, and will be hoping to do it again at the nationals.

History is, however, not on their side. Despite constant success in the A Division, the Raffles boys only have a sole title to their name in the junior divisions. Their B Division crown won by the team consisting of Teo Ting Zhang, Yong Shi Kai, Lim Zhi Ming, Kevin Mark Lee, Araunah Wei, Soh Rui Yong and reserves Timothy Tan and Matthias Chia was back in 2007.

Their number of C Division titles stands at a grand total of zero, compared to Victoria’s 17 wins. With RI’s impressive form this season, though, it would take a brave soul to bet against them writing a chapter for themselves in the record books.

B Division Boys — Victoria again?

Last year’s B Boys race was the centrepiece of the competition, featuring a clash of titans which was ultimately won by Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)’s Zachary Ryan Devaraj. This year’s race will be no less exciting, with at least three candidates all having an equal chance to win the individual crown.

Karthic Harish Ragupathy of Saint Joseph’s Institution (SJI) won the SAA cross country championship U-18 title with a mid-race surge that dropped the rest of the field. He clocked 17 minutes 17 seconds for the five kilometre-long course and beat his closest competitor, Catholic Junior College (CJC)’s Aldrich Lim, by a whopping 21 seconds.

As if that winning margin was not impressive enough, what makes his run even more amazing is that Aldrich is not eligible to run in the B Division at the nationals, and will compete in the A Division instead. The bronze medalist in that race, Victoria’s team captain Bryan Yong, who will compete in the B Division, finished in 18:03 – 46 seconds behind Karthic.

Karthic chose to skip the Wings meet to focus on his training instead, and in his absence, 2010’s 1500m and 3000m double gold medallist Heng Yu Jie of Catholic High School used his feared finishing speed to tear past Bryan and Marcus Ng, also of Victoria School, to win the gold medal in the U-17 category. Yu Jie’s sprinting power is arguably the strongest of the main contenders for the title, and if he is fit enough to hang with the leaders till the end, he is definitely the one to look out for.

One should not forget Marcus’ brilliant performance at the nationals last year, where he put in an extraordinary display of front-running, crushing the rest of the field and beating Yu Jie to the C Division crown by 44 seconds. If Marcus does manage to conjure up another such performance, he will have all opponents at his mercy.

The team title seems set to go to Victoria. Their dominance was epitomised at the Wings Cross Country Championships, where Marcus, Bryan, and 2010 B Division 2000m Steeplechase champion Venuraam s/o Selvan came in second, third, and fourth respectively. Abdul Tsaqif, a new addition to the Victorian team after transferring over from ACS(I) at the start of the year, placed 16th to give Victoria a grand total of 25 points, less than half of Catholic High’s 51. In cross country, team score is determined by the total of each team’s best four runners’ positions, and the team with the lowest score wins.

To put things into perspective, Tsaqif was not even the fourth Victorian finisher on that day. That was Joel David-Wong, who finished in 12th place but was representing Victoria’s second team. At meets such as the SAA and Wings cross country, schools are allowed to send as many teams as they wish, unlike the nationals where schools are limited to one team each.

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Discussion47 Comments

  1. In 1993, VS was strong favourites for B Div team title. Their rivals were ACS n Chinese High. In the end, Remy Gan of Bartley not only won the individual title but helped Bartley to beat VS by a mere 1 point to win the team title!!

  2. ehh mohd marican and oonshuikun graduated alr isit? cos they only appeared in racing last year and then disappeared in the blink of an eye lol…

  3. Anyone knows what happened to T. Haarishankar and Ruben Galen Demetrius? Just 2 years ago, they were the most crushingly dominant duo in B Div. They won everything from 800m to 5000m (along with Zachary Devaraj). I know last year both took part in X-Country but didn’t perform well…were they dropped this year? Or they didn’t go JC? They should be in J1 now…

  4. I think, from evidence at SAA X-Country and Wings, the C Div and B Div team champs are quite a foregone conclusion. RI (C Div) and VS (B Div) have been completely dominant. Can’t see anyone seriously challenging them.

    This year, the A Div is the one to watch. RI are definitely nowhere near as strong as the last 2 years. HCI, on the other hand, has gone from strength to strength under SG’s marathon record holder M. Rameshon. It is worth noting that HCI only lost to RI in SAA X-Country this year because Jeevaneesh was nursing an injury (and finished outside the top 50). If he had been anywhere near his normal form, (ie top 10), HCI would have claimed the title.

    Furthermore, RI do not have strength in depth as compared to previous years. While all 6 runners of RI in 2010 finished in the top 20, this year it seems like RI only has 4 runners who can do so. On the other hand, HCI’s backup runners (freeman, joo ern) are almost as fast as their top 4. Thus , if one of RI’s top 4 (wilbert,benjamin,guanlin,yiyan) gets injured or is off form on that day, HCI will be strong favourites to clinch the title.

    Will be an extremely interesting race to watch for sure.

      • marc amiruddin’s problem is that he starts off too fast. same thing with last year’s C Div, he was clearly straining himself to lead the pack. it was no surprise when he dropped out before the end. i think he’s talented and definitely on for a top 10 finish, but looking at how the trio of karthic, marcus and yujie are performing, i don’t think he will be able to cause any major upset.

  5. Watch out for Hwa Chong too in the ‘C’ Division. Their team finish in 2nd position, behind RI, in the SAA Cross-Country. Im thinking they will create a major upset in the National Cross-Country. Juz thinking.

      • they are, bt HCI might juz cause an upset, though chances are low, bt its possible. Juz behind them is a HCI runner in the SAA X-Country. And they’re team finished second overall in the SAA X-Country. its unlikely, bt possible. HCI is probably the only challengers to RI for the C div title.

  6. C Div Boys title likely to go to RI. Their top 4 runners are better than VS best runner.

    B Div Boys title likely to go to VS. VS top 4 runners are very strong.

    A Div Boys – RI seem to take in the best cross-country runners from the secondary schools every year – VS, CHS, SJI besides RI (secondary). Still strong favourites.

    • Soh Rui Yong

      true about raffles A boys, but it must be said that for this year, Guan Lin, Ben, Wilbert, Hong En, Yi Yan and Cheng Lu who were their six top performers this year at wings and SAA are ALL rafflesians born and bred. all six joined the school in secondary one.

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