Story by REDintern Nicole Lum. Photos by Lim Yong Teck, Clara Yuan and Jerald Ang/Red Sports

56th National Inter-School Cross Country Championships 2015

Nicole Low (#2094) of Victoria Junior College in action. Low clocked a timing of 12:55.3 to top the girls’ A Division field. (Photo 1 © Lim Yong Teck/Red Sports)

Bedok Reservoir Park, Wednesday, March 25, 2015 — Nicole Low bagged the girls’ A Division individual gold medal when she finished the 3.6km course in 12 minutes and 55.3 seconds at the 56th National Inter-School Cross Country Championships. The Victoria Junior College (VJC) student crossed the finish line more than 30 seconds ahead of her competitors.

Teammate Vanessa Lee was second with a time of 13 minutes and 24.9 seconds, while Raffles Institution’s (RI) Natalie Soh settled for third in 14 minutes and 3 seconds.

In the beginning, the two VJC runners found difficulty in establishing a clear lead in the midst of the congestion. Despite that, they eventually managed to break away after 400m, forming a lead pack with Tee Chun Ying of Anglo-Chinese School (Independent), while RI’s Natalie remained close behind.

As the runners headed for the hill climb, Natalie moved to overtake Chun Ying and tried to keep to her pace by following the VJC girls.

However, the front pack did not hold for long as Nicole and Vanessa started to extend the gap between their competitors halfway through the race. The two of them held on to their commanding lead, and not long after, Nicole began to break away.

The result was clear-cut when Nicole finished strong with a long kick when there was less than 800m to go. This left fellow teammate Vanessa to settle for second place and RI’s Natalie with third.

“I started sprinting too early. I was so exhausted but my coach was near the finish to encourage me to breathe and keep going,” said 17-year-old Nicole, who was competing in her maiden outing at the National Schools Cross Country Championships. “I am happy with my result and the fact that my team managed to clinch the team gold after a long time.”

Silver medalist Vanessa felt relieved that she completed the race right after her teammate, Nicole. “I kept repeating to myself – don’t slow down, don’t slow down, don’t slow down. I was running my own race afterall,” she said.

In last year’s edition, Vanessa came in fourth in the B Division category with a time of 14 minutes and 46.8 seconds. Her finish is a new personal best, beating her previous by more than 40 seconds.

RI’s Natalie was 2014’s B Division champion (14:28.7), but was unable to repeat her feat in the A Division.

“It’s definitely hard to swallow. But I managed a personal best (PB) this time and as long as I improve, I’m fine with it,” she explained. “Kudos to the VJC girls for doing well. They deserved the win.”

Ever since the new 3.6km route was used in 2012, no girl has ran below 14:11.0. This year, Nicole and Vanessa have surpassed the unofficial course record with their remarkable performances of 12:55.3 and 13:24.9 respectively.

Furthermore, Nicole and Vanessa only started training for cross country not long ago. Nicole was a netballer and Vanessa was involved in string ensemble. To see such new talent springing up every year, Natalie thinks that it injects a fun and new competitive edge, with new timings to beat.

The 1-2-6-11 finish awarded VJC the girls’ A Division team title, eight years after their last victory in 2007. In those eight years, RI and Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) have been taking turns to win the title, with RI doing so last year. This time, RI and HCI have stepped back, finishing in second and third place respectively with 23 and 60 points.

On their school’s long-awaited triumph, both Nicole and Vanessa hope that they will continue to win the title in the next few years to come.

At the upcoming National Schools Track and Field Championships, all three girls will be competing in two of the three stated events – the 1500m, 3000m and 2000m steeplechase.

A Division Girls – 3.6km (Top 20)
1st Nicole Low Sui Xuan (#2094, Victoria Junior College) — 12:55.3
2nd Vanessa Lee Ying Zhuang (#2096, Victoria Junior College) — 13:24.9
3rd Soh Hann, Natalie (#2068, Raffles Institution) — 14:03.0
4th Nah Yi Xin (#2067, Raffles Institution) — 14:11.3
5th Tee Chun Ying (#2019, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)) — 14:18.7
6th Lok Xin Ying (#2093, Victoria Junior College) — 14:27.5
7th Chiang AiTing, Faye (#2064, Raffles Institution) — 14:27.7
8th Lin YuXin, Kathleen (#2037, Hwa Chong Institution) — 14:35.6
9th Tan Yi-Qin, Edina (#2069, Raffles Institution) — 14:43.1
10th Lai Zi Qing, Valarie (#2065, Raffles Institution) — 14:47.3
11th Lee Quet Zhen (#2091, Victoria Junior College) — 14:53.8
12th Peck Hsiao Tying (#2015, Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)) — 15:04.3
13th Hor Wai Yin Dilys (#2036, Hwa Chong Institution) — 15:07.4
14th Liu YuJia (#2010, Anglo-Chinese Junior College) — 15:08.3
15th Awe Wan Qi, Valencia (#2053, National Junior College) — 15:13.7
16th Lim Jing Yun (#2092, Victoria Junior College) — 15:17.6
17th Mariana Ramos Branicio (#2026, Catholic Junior College) — 15:29.5
18th Crystabelle Wang Jia Yu (#2034, Hwa Chong Institution) — 15:31.2
19th Wong ShiYing (#2070, Raffles Institution) — 15:35.1
20th Fong Kar Yan, Vanessa (#2060, Pioneer Junior College) — 15:35.5

Team Category (Top 4)
1st Victoria Junior College (20 points)
1st Nicole Low Sui Xuan (#2094) — 12:55.3
2nd Vanessa Lee Ying Zhuang (#2096) — 13:24.9
6th Lok Xin Ying (#2093) — 14:27.5
11th Lee Quet Zhen (#2091) — 14:53.8

2nd Raffles Institution (23 points)
3rd Soh Hann, Natalie (#2068) — 14:03.0
4th Nah Yi Xin (#2067) — 14:11.3
7th Chiang AiTing, Faye (#2064) — 14:27.7
9th Tan Yi-Qin, Edina (#2069) — 14:43.1

3rd Hwa Chong Institution (60 points)
8th Lin YuXin, Kathleen (#2037) — 14:35.6
13th Hor Wai Yin Dilys (#2036) — 15:07.4
18th Crystabelle Wang Jia Yu (#2034) — 15:31.2
21st Hor Kar Yin Carys (#2035) — 15:39.2

4th Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) (68 points)
5th Tee Chun Ying (#2019) — 14:18.7
12th Peck Hsiao Tying (#2015) — 15:04.3
22nd Rachel Ng Shi-Hui (#2016) — 15:45.1
29th Yap Jia Hui (#2020) — :16:14.5

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