Story and photos by Iman Hashim/Red Sports
Bukit Gombak Stadium, Thursday, May 5, 2022 — As Harry Irfan Curran crossed the finish line first in the C Division boys’ 4 by 400 metres relay final, he raised his arms into a heart shape directed at his Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) teammates. That gesture stemmed from relief more than anything.
A day earlier in the 4x100m relay final, the same quartet — the favourites having qualified fastest — got disqualified when second runner John Tan, the 200m hurdles champion, fell in the exchange zone and outgoing runner Sean Russell Tay picked up the baton before his teammate did.
“I had some bruises (from the fall), but after a few hours, I managed to recover… then our coaches talked to us, and they told us not to think about the 4 by 1, and focus on the 4 by 4,” said John, crediting the ACS(I) team of coaches which consists of Hamkah Afik, Tang Ngai Kin, Khairyll Amri and Yusman Jamil.
“After the disqualification from the 4 by 1, I think we still managed to keep a very positive mental attitude within the whole team… and then got ready for the 4 by 4,” Sean Gerard Yoo, first runner for both relays, pitched in.
“We were trying our best to get gold for both relays, but I mean… all our coaches talked to us, motivated us and told us that we shouldn’t actually focus on the 4 by 1 now, and focus on the race that is upcoming,” added Sean Yoo, who clinched a bronze in the C boys’ 100m hurdles earlier in the meet.
With the disappointment of the 4x100m behind them, there was never any doubt that the boys in red, blue and gold would claim victory in the 4x400m, with the team consisting of 1-2-3 podium sweepers in the individual one-lap sprint: Harry (52.56s), John (56.89s) and Sean Tay (58.34s).
Harry, whose 400m gold-winning time is the quickest in the C Division since ACS(I) old boy Joshua Lim’s 51.65s meet record in 2014, ran a sub-52s split on the relay anchor to bring the gold home in 3 minutes 46.88 seconds.
They finished more than four full seconds ahead of second-placed St. Patrick’s School (3:51.16), who clinched their first National Schools relay medal in 13 years, and Catholic High School who took bronze in 3:54.49.
“I just feel very happy, and I’m glad all the hard work has paid off,” said Harry of his three-gold tally this season, which included another win in the 200m (23.90s).
One-third of triplets, whose brothers Jake Aryan and Daniel Raihan compete for brother school ACS (Barker Road), Harry admitted he had his eye on the 400m C boys’ championship record but was still satisfied with his showing.
“Unfortunately (the record) didn’t happen, but I’m still happy with my time because it was a new PB and I’m also happy that we got 1-2-3 on the podium for ACS(I),” added Harry, who mainly trains under club coach Benber Yu of Team Cicada Trackers.
Sean Tay, who ran the second leg in the 4 by 4, was also beaming from his performances this season.
“I was a bit surprised that I could get into the 400m final because I’m only in Year 1, but I’m glad I made it… my timing last year was 1:05, so I’m surprised that I dropped it to 58 (seconds),” said Sean, who clocked a personal best 57.99s in the semis.
The ACS(I) A Division seniors, meanwhile, swept both boys’ relay finals to ensure a three-gold relay haul for the school, one shy of their tally in 2018.
Mark Lee, Xavier Tan and Julian Chew, all three of whom won the C Division 4x100m relay four years ago for ACS(I), joined forces with Luke Tan this time to grab victory in the A boys’ final, crossing the line in 42.95s ahead of Hwa Chong Institution (43.39s) and Raffles Institution (44.26s).
Still trailing on the third leg, there was no doubt after Mark — newly-crowned fastest schoolboy in National Schools history in the 100m (10.59s) and 200m (21.62s) — took the baton on the anchor.
“I felt relieved… because I think we were the favourites coming in, so it was quite scary when we were quite far behind… but just relieved and happy,” said Mark, who mentioned that the baton exchange between him and third runner Luke was “a bit shaky”.
“Our pass could have been much better, but I had trust in my teammates,” said Luke.
Lead-off runner Xavier, silver medalist in the 100m with a personal best 10.93s, admitted that the possibility of baton mishaps crossed their mind after witnessing their C Division juniors do just that.
“We were all just very scared that we would drop the baton, seeing our C Div (juniors) drop the baton… so we just made sure that we didn’t drop it and we were quite confident that we would win,” said Xavier.
A day later, Mark and Julian teamed up with Jaren Yap and Pranav Jagatheeswaran to take gold in the 4x400m relay in 3:31.16, getting the better of silver medalists RI (3:34.59) and bronze medalists HCI (3:36.25).
“I feel very happy and relieved,” said Julian after the 4x400m.
“We didn’t have much time for relay (training), but in the end we pulled through… and even though there were many changes here and there for heats and semis, we managed to adapt very quickly as our team spirit is very strong,” he added.
First runner Jaren said it was “stressful” leading off the relay, but was glad to have the trust of his teammates, all of whom are in their final year in the school.
“What kept me going was really the dependence of my teammates, because we’ve been training together for quite a period of time, and I’ve known them since six years ago… so I had a lot of faith in them,” Jaren said.
Julian added: “It was a very long season, and it was quite fun to be experiencing everything again… but it feels good that all the hard work over the years has paid off.”
For Mark, a quadruple gold-medal haul was a fitting end to his “overwhelming” final National Schools meet.
“I feel a sense of completion, I guess. It’s just very overwhelming, this past week… it really, really felt like a dream,” said Mark.
“I’m just happy that we were able to achieve our goals in both relays, but also sad that it’s over, because it was my last race for ACS, my last NSG… but at the same time, I’m very happy and satisfied with everything we’ve achieved together.”
63rd National Schools Track and Field Championships 2022
Selected Relay Results
C Div Boys’ 4x400m Relay Final
1st Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) — 3 minutes 46.88 seconds
2nd St. Patrick’s School — 3:51.16
3rd Catholic High School — 3:54.49
4th Hwa Chong Institution — 3:56.82
5th Singapore Sports School — 3:57.02
6th Victoria School — 4:00.76
7th Tanjong Katong Secondary School — 4:03.34
8th North Vista Secondary School — 4:17.22
A Div Boys’ 4x100m Relay Final
1st Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) — 42.95 seconds
2nd Hwa Chong Institution — 43.39
3rd Raffles Institution — 44.26
4th Victoria Junior College — 44.51
5th Yishun Innova Junior College — 45.03
6th St. Joseph’s Institution — 45.91
7th St. Andrew’s Junior College — 45.94
8th Eunoia Junior College — 46.41
A Div Boys’ 4x400m Relay Final
1st Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) — 3 minutes 31.16 seconds
2nd Raffles Institution — 3:34.59
3rd Hwa Chong Institution — 3:36.25
4th National Junior College — 3:38.44
5th Victoria Junior College — 3:39.46
6th St. Andrew’s Junior College — 3:44.81
7th Millennia Institute — 3:44.89
8th Yishun Innova Junior College — 3:46.71
Story on the B girls’ 4x100m, C girls’ 4x100m and C girls’ 4x400m relay finals here.
Story on the A girls’ 4x100m, A girls’ 4x400m and C boys’ 4x100m relay finals here.
Story on the B boys’ 4x100m, B boys’ 4x400m and B girls’ 4x400m relay finals here.
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