Story by REDintern Fang Yiyang. Additional reporting and photos by Iman Hashim/Red Sports.
Choa Chu Kang Stadium, Monday, March 25, 2019 — Last year, Elaine Quah of Raffles Institution (RI) pulled away early from the A Division Girls’ 2000m steeplechase field to clinch gold way ahead of her nearest competitor. In that race, Clarice Lau of Hwa Chong Institution (HCI) finished third in 8:25.06.
This year’s race played out in almost exactly the same way, but with Clarice in Elaine’s shoes this time, finishing over 30 seconds ahead of her nearest competitor in a timing of 8:04.28, a new personal best by over 20 seconds.
Racing ahead of the pack the moment the gun sounded off, Clarice — who also won the 3000m final two weeks ago — established a gap of over 50 metres by the end of the first lap of the five-lap race.
Lim Xin Hui of RI and Ng Yu Ching of National Junior College (NJC), along with Clarice’s teammates Tanya Kang and Shawna Tay, formed the main pack fighting for the remaining three medals. However, Clarice’s lead would only extend throughout the race, with the gap soon expanding to over 100 metres.
“I did not expect to gain a lead so early, but when it happened I just continued sticking to the pace my coach and I had decided on,” said Clarice.
On whether there was any pressure to achieve a double gold from the 3000m and 2000m steeplechase races, Clarice insisted that it was not on her mind.
“I just came to this race wanting to do my best and break my personal best, so I was not too focused on the broader implications,” she said.
The steeplechase saw its usual share of drama with many runners tripping at the water obstacle, a pit 3.6-metre long and 70 centimetres at its furthest depth.
Ng Yu Ching of National Junior College (NJC) tripped once near the start of the race, but regained momentum to be in second place for most of the entire race, before another fall — head-first into the water jump in the penultimate lap — caused her to drop to fourth position.
In a remarkable comeback, she still managed to outsprint Tanya Kang of HCI in the final 50 metres of the race to snatch the bronze. HCI, however, still had something to cheer for as their third runner, Shawna Tay, displayed a similar show of speed in overtaking Xu Ziqian of RI after the final hurdle.
“At the start of the race, I was quite nervous and I think that may have prevented me from clearing the first steeple,” explained Yu Ching.
“The second fall happened because I was not prepared for the water jump. After that I just told myself not to give up because I had to do well for my team, and not let down my coaches and teachers who had put in a lot of effort in training me,” she added.
The race was only the second attempt at the steeplechase event for the Year 5 student, with her maiden attempt being at the Singapore Athletics Schools Meet Episode 3 in February where she clocked 9:11.28.
“I think I ran my best and I’m happy with the outcome. It would have been better without the falls but I’m still glad I managed to push through with the help of my teammates and coaches,” Yu Ching concluded.
The results of the A Division Boys’ 3000m steeplechase final, held later in the same evening, were nullified after a mistake committed by the officials. The pack of Armand Mohan of RI, Ruben Loganathan of Anderson-Serangoon Junior College (ASRJC) and Joshua Rajendran of HCI were neck-and-neck for nearly the entire race, with Joshua dropping from the pack only after the bell indicating the last lap sounded.
Armand narrowly outsprinted Ruben for that lap, only for both to realise that the bell was sounded a lap early. Ruben and Joshua struggled through the last lap to finish first and second respectively, while Armand quickly dropped out. After appeals, it was decided that the race would be re-run on the afternoon of Thursday, March 28 at the Singapore Sports Hub.
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A Division Girls’ 2000m Steeplechase Final Results
1st Clarice Lau (#504, Hwa Chong Institution) — 8:04.28
2nd Lim Xin Hui (#402, Raffles Institution) — 8:36.55
3rd Ng Yu Ching (#382, National Junior College) — 8:42.64
4th Tanya Kang (#512, Hwa Chong Institution) — 8:43.40
5th Shawna Tay Le Xuan (#520, Hwa Chong Institution) — 8:51.89
6th Xu Ziqian (#411, Raffles Institution) — 8:52.02
7th Ang Jia Yi (#446, Victoria Junior College) — 9:22.38
8th Charmaine Sew Fan Ning (#451, Victoria Junior College) — 9:22.66
9th Tan Hwee Min Shirley (#387, National Junior College) — 9:24.14
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