The sky was a pleasant expanse of azure blue, plentifully bestrewn with magnolia white clouds. The morning sun was just beginning to rise, illuminating the environment and bestowing warmth onto the earth below. A slight breeze gently caressed our faces as we stepped into Bedok Reservoir at eight in the morning.

Perfect conditions for running.

It was the 22nd of March 2017, D-Day for Victoria Junior College’s cross country runners. After achieving sterling results the previous year (A Division Boys and A Division Girls achieving third and first respectively), VJC looked to be a strong contender for the title and the athletes were poised to bring glory back to the college. However, it seemed that the competition would prove to be particularly stiff this year as an influx of strong runners into other colleges such as Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) and Hwa Chong Junior College (HCJC) put them in good stead to contend for the victory. In light of such fierce competition, the teams from VJC were very much underdogs coming into this year’s race.

Bearing witness to this red-letter day were the ardent supporters from the various Junior Colleges in Singapore who had lined the race route. The atmosphere was electric — the student supporters of their respective colleges from all over Singapore stood in rapt anticipation, eagerly awaiting what was to come. The fact that there were no clear powerhouses this year only added to the excitement of the supporters, fuelling a palpable tension in the atmosphere.

(Student supporters ready to support VJC’s athletes)

Amidst all the excitement before the race started, we took the opportunity to interview two members of the VJC Track and Field team, Nicholas from 17S42 and Bryan from 16S52, who had taken time off their lessons to support their fellow athletes. When inquired about what they thought were going to be imperative in determining the outcome of the race, both opined that the mentality of the athletes was crucial — the will and determination of the athletes to carry on despite the pressure mounting upon them were key if they were looking to come out on top. Also, to the Track and Field team, winning the title would mean a lot as traditionally, VJC’s Cross-Country team is strong but for the Boys’ team, the title had been just out of their reach in the previous years. Nicholas also felt that emerging as champions this year would bring glory to what the school stood for — performance excellence and striving to perform to the best of our ability.

Enter the runners; whose apprehension was reflected by their grim countenances. The race they were about to run was far from easy; the A Division boys and girls were to cover a gruelling 4.75km and 3.8km respectively, and it would not be an understatement to posit that their competitors were neck and neck. However, the disciplined and focused manner in which the runners from VJC carried out their stretching and warm-ups prior to the race belied their resolute determination to surpass their limits in order to emerge victorious. The runners had put in their blood, sweat and tears over the months prior to the competition and they were not about to let their arduous journey in preparing for the run go to waste.

The sound of a horn blaring pierced the air.

Finally, the race had begun. Invigorated by the rush of adrenaline, deafening cheers erupted from the spectators as an ostentatious display of support for the athletes from their respective colleges. Student supporters from VJC, comprising of the 33rd Student’s Council and the nominees of the 34th Student’s Council, as well as the Track and Field team, were no exceptions, screaming at the top of their lungs, wishing for the athletes to ace the race. The runners surged forward at an incredible pace, covering distances in just a matter of a few strides, leaving those at the starting line in the dust.

At the finish line, the air was abuzz with suspense as the spectators attempted to ascertain who was in the lead. Lo and behold, Syed Hussein of VJC (17S63)  was leading the race! One would expect the runners to be enervated after running such a long distance but, on the contrary, there was not a modicum of exhaustion on Hussein’s face. He ran with a blithe spring in his step, his strides growing increasingly longer and faster as he approached the finish line while basking in the energy and the support of the spectators — the impetus driving him forward. With his entire being brimming with strength, he propelled himself past the finish line. A look of sheer exuberance and relief washed over his face as he crossed the finish line, emerging as champion amongst the A Division boys with a stellar timing of 16:29.

(Syed Hussein leading the pack)

(Desmond Chia in the midst of the race)

Prior to the start of the A Division Girls’ race, we interviewed Mr Seet to glean his thoughts on the upcoming race. Mr Seet also shared the sentiment that this year’s race would be down to the wire as all of the colleges were of equal strength and it would come down to who would run the better race. He commended the athletes for toiling for almost a year in hopes of winning the title, but felt that the outcome was inconsequential as long as each and every athlete strived to achieve their personal best. However, as this was the very first competition that VJC was participating in 2017, he commented that winning the title would certainly be a good start to the sporting season and would come as a boost to the college’s morale.

With the A Division girls lined up at the starting line, the blaring horn sounded yet again, signalling the start of the girls’ race. Carrying the ambitions and dreams of their respective colleges on their shoulders, the stream of competitors bolted forward. The student supporters were roused, and began belting out cheers, eager for the athletes to bring glory back to their colleges.

At the finish line, it was Phoebe Kee (17S33) of VJC in the lead! With not a hint of fatigue on her face, she increased her pace as she elegantly streaked past the finish line. She too was first among the A Division girls, clocking in an equally exceptional timing of 15:01. The look on the faces of the athletes were unforgettable. As they passed through the finish line, myriad emotions could be seen flashing across their faces, as months of arduous training had finally paid off. Relief was evident, as the athletes slowed their pace to a jog, having crossed the finish line, marking the end of their gruelling, yet memorable journey.

(Phoebe Kee leading in the A Division Girls’ race)

(Student supporters cheering our runners on during the race)

Overjoyed at the tremendous display of excellence by the Cross Country team, the Student’s Council galvanised the supporters and led them in a victory cheer. Ashleigh Lim (17S61), a student supporter from the track team, stated, “The race was very good! They’ve truly trained very hard, and I’m also glad that we supported them quite enthusiastically. I really admire their spirit to finish the race well!”

By 10.30 am, the race had ended and everyone headed towards Temasek Polytechnic for the prize presentation ceremony. Celebratory screams could be heard along with the resounding beat of the drum as the Students’ Council led the Victorians in school cheers. Thunderous exclamations greeted our school’s runners as they were called upon to receive their prizes. The athletes were brimming with unadulterated pride and joy as they received their awards. The event ended on a high note, with our boys team achieving fourth place and our girls clinching first runner up.

(A Division Girls team achieving second in the 58th National Inter-School Cross Country Championships 2017)

(A Division Boys team achieving fourth in the 58th National Inter-School Cross Country Championships 2017)

Following the prize giving ceremony, we managed to catch a short interview with Phoebe Kee, champion of A Division Girls.

VPress: How were you feeling before the race?
Phoebe: Extremely nervous because I had some high expectations for myself and the people around me believed that I could win. I didn’t have a good sleep the night before because of nerves.

VPress: How long have you been preparing for this?
Phoebe: I started training with VJ after O levels last year.

VPress: Who were your biggest competitors on that day?
Phoebe: Prior to the race, I thought it would be Joyceleen from Hwa Chong and Elaine from RI (the defending B Division champ for the past 2 years), but I was surprised that the girl in second place was someone who didn’t have any experience in cross country and only started training in February. She will be someone we have to watch out for in the upcoming track season.

VPress: What pushed you throughout to complete the race?
Phoebe: I had some unfinished business as for the past two years I had been 6th and 3rd respectively, both times coming pretty close but being overtaken nearing the finish. This year I felt I had a real shot at it as for the first time I had been training regularly. During the race, it was all down to mental fortitude especially for the last 1.5km or so and I wanted to finish the race with no regrets. The presence of supporters cheering us on especially nearing the end was also very heartening, and it carried us all the way to the finish.

VPress: What are your thoughts on getting first place? Were expectations met?
Phoebe: It’s pretty unreal. I’m so stoked to have won, but if anything I feel my timing could have been improved. I was holding back at the start and I think that was the cause.

VPress: What are your goals for next year?
Phoebe: I hope to defend the title next year, and to work with the team towards securing team champion.

VPress: Lastly, any words you like to convey to your team/teachers/classmates etc?
Phoebe: I’m really grateful for everyone that has supported me in all ways and for believing in me. The words of encouragement prior to the race, as well as the presence of the teachers, SC, and trackers along the race route was a huge help. Mr Tan, Mrs Lin and Mr Woo must also have been under a lot of stress and I’m thankful for their unwavering guidance. Finally, I am so thankful for my seniors, Nicole and Vanessa for always pushing me to get faster, Alex and Qihui for being great leaders, and the team for being so much fun and making hard training sessions less painful.

There were a multitude of factors that contributed to the superb results of our Cross Country team: the health of the athletes in the days prior to the race, the morale of the student supporters, or even the conditions of the weather. But perhaps the most important factors in determining the outcome of the race were the unyielding passion of the athletes and their burning desire to surpass their limits by as much as they possibly could.

As Mr Seet aptly put it, “If everyone pushes their limits and strives for their personal best, the outcome will show for itself.

Congratulations to the runners from the VJC Cross Country team for their exceptional performances and all the best to the other sports CCAs for their upcoming season!

Article by:
Linus Lim 17A11
Denisse Sim 17S62
Dora Chiang 17S38

Special thanks to PhotoSoc for allowing us to use some of their photos! 🙂

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