By REDintern Soh Rui Yong
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.
Go to next page for the rest of the story