Story and photos by Iman Hashim/Red Sports
Choa Chua Kang Stadium, Tuesday, March 12, 2019 — Two new championship records were set on day three of the 60th National Schools Track and Field Championships when the girls took on the pole vault.
Hwa Chong Institution’s Mei Togawa went beyond even her own expectations as she vaulted to a new A Division girl’s mark of 3.19 metres en route to gold, while Lin Ziqi of CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls’ School placed 11th with a 2.30m jump to crack the C Division girls’ record.
While all female pole vaulters compete together in a girls’ Open format, records are kept by division.
Mei’s effort surpassed Jurong Junior College alumna Carmel Teo’s 2014 record by one centimetre, while Ziqi took down the previous C Division mark of 2.14m which was shared by both NUS High School’s Joy Low (2013) and Singapore Sports School’s Cherlin Sia (2014). Cherlin still holds the National Schools girls’ record of 3.33m which she set as a B Division athlete two years ago.
For Mei, who only picked up pole vault last year, the result came as a pleasant surprise.
“My last few trainings have been pretty consistent. But competition is very different from training, so like the atmosphere is very different,” said the second-year junior college student.
“I’m just very thankful for my teammates and my coach especially, for allowing me to train really hard and focus on my own drills, and I think that’s why I’ve gotten to this point.”
But at one point during the competition, the gold — let alone the record — did not even seem likely for Mei.
Mei faced stiff competition from eventual silver medalist Christy Robyn Chng of Nanyang Girls’ High School, who also started pole vaulting a year ago. Both girls, coached by David Yeo and Rachel Yang, had entered the competition with the same personal best of 3.00m.
But Christy seized the advantage when she sailed over 3.05m on her first attempt — while Mei took another two tries, sealing the top two positions.
“I’m just happy that I did my best,” said Secondary 4 student Christy. “So after this competition I don’t have any regrets or anything, because I already know that I went to a new level.”
With all pressure on her, Mei then snatched the gold when she cleared 3.10m on her final attempt, after Christy was unsuccessful in all three of hers.
“I was really happy for her,” said Christy of her training buddy, despite seeing the gold slip out of her grip.
Describing her thoughts at that point, Mei said: “For me, it was just like trying to apply what I’ve been doing in training to this competition. And before that, I already cleared 3.05m, so I was very satisfied with myself already.
“So at that point I had nothing to lose, I just gave it my all.”
With victory secured, Mei went on for her record-breaking attempt — and once again, came up clutch — only succeeding on her last try.
“I didn’t really think much about (breaking the record),” added Mei. “I tried to keep it at the back of my mind, because I didn’t want it to pressurise myself or anything. I just wanted to jump like I’ve always jumped during training.”
Mei and Christy’s 1-2 finish led a top four podium sweep for the Hwa Chong-Nanyang family of schools, with HCI duo Phoebe Choong and Tham Mei Shuen — who was the A girls’ high jump champion — placing third and fourth with 2.95m and 2.80m respectively.
In the postponed A Division boys’ pole vault which proceeded after the girls’ event, HCI also dominated with Low Jun Yu clinching gold and Kyler Ong the bronze, sandwiching Raffles Institution’s Heng Jee Kuan in second place.
Girls’ Open Pole Vault – Results
1st Mei Togawa (#526, Hwa Chong Institution) — 3.19 metres (A Div record)
2nd Christy Robyn Chng (#1035, Nanyang Girls’ High School) — 3.05
3rd Phoebe Choong (#503, Hwa Chong Institution) — 2.95
4th Tham Mei Shuen (#525, Hwa Chong Institution) — 2.80
5th Cham Jay Yin (#304, Eunoia Junior College) — 2.70
5th Maxim Tan (#903, Cedar Girls’ Secondary) — 2.70
7th Cayenne Goh (#881, Cedar Girls’ Secondary) — 2.70
8th Marie Leo (#312, Eunoia Junior College) — 2.45
8th Rachel Mack (#893, Cedar Girls’ Secondary) — 2.45
10th Tessa Tan (#678, CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls’ School) — 2.30
11th Lin Ziqi (#555, CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls’ School) — 2.30 (C Div record)
12th Kuan Xin Yi (#670, CHIJ St. Nicholas Girls’ School) — 1.90
A Division Boys’ Pole Vault – Results
1st Low Jun Yu (#251, Hwa Chong Institution) — 4.20 metres
2nd Heng Jee Kuan (#110, Raffles Institution) — 4.10
3rd Kyler Ong (#256, Hwa Chong Institution) — 4.10
4th Gareth Ong (#108, Raffles Institution) — 3.60
5th Chua Yuan Cheng (#106, Raffles Institution) — 3.40
Saciin Esan D Maran (#263, Hwa Chong Institution) — DNM
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