Gasping for any amount of air they could possibly get, the Nan Hua High School girls huddled near the finish at Bedok Reservoir yesterday as they awaited their team-mates' arrival.
Little did they know that they had won their first Schools National B Division girls' cross-country title.
After all, their school is not listed among the sport's elite and they had come into the meet as underdogs. But coach G. Elangovan believed that his charges could deliver and came up with a game plan to achieve what had not been done before.
"Based on their individual capabilities, I gave each person a position to hold on to," he said.
"We came here to challenge the giants and set an example to other neighbourhood schools, to show them that if the big-name schools can do it, we can too."
Team events are calculated by the rankings of the four fastest runners in the team, with the winning team boasting the lowest score.
SCHOOLS NATIONAL CROSS-COUNTRY C'SHIPS
TEAM WINNERS - BOYS:
A Div: Anglo-Chinese School (I)
B Div: ACS (I)
C Div: Hwa Chong Institution
A Div: Hwa Chong Institution
B Div: Nan Hua High
C Div: Cedar Girls' Secondary
INDIVIDUAL CHAMPIONS -BOYS:
A Div: Syed Hussein Aljunied (Victoria Junior College)
B Div: Armand Dhilawala Mohan (Raffles Institution)
C Div: Sean Tay Wei Teck (RI)
A Div: Phoebe Kee (VJC)
B Div: Elizabeth Liau Le Min (St Nicholas Girls')
C Div: Tan Kylie (Cedar Girls')
Though none of the Nan Hua girls finished first, four of the six runners from the team secured a top-10 finish - earning them a total of 25 points. Traditional powerhouse CHIJ St Nicholas Girls' School finished second with 75 points and last year's winners Cedar Girls' Secondary were third with 87 points.
Nan Hua vice-captain Phoebe Tay, who finished seventh in 16min 43sec, credited her coach with their outstanding team performance.
She said: "He would always wait for the team even though most of us had remedial lessons after school, and scheduled extra practice sessions for those who couldn't make it."
Team-mates Clarice Lau (15min 40sec) and Shawna Tay finished ahead of her in second and sixth place (16min 30sec) respectively. Seah Rui Ting was 10th in 16min 58sec. With history made, Lim En Sin and Sharon Choo crossed the line to join in the celebrations.
Despite being physically and mentally exhausted, Phoebe could not contain her joy.
"It was the happiest feeling I ever felt," added the 15-year-old. "I'm glad that before we left, we managed to do something historic for the school."
Nan Hua will celebrate its 100th anniversary this year.
Daitein halts Nanyang juggernaut
St Nicholas Girls' School's Daitein Kan prevented a clean sweep of the girls' titles by Nanyang Girls' High School (NYGH) in yesterday's Schools National Trampoline Championships at Bishan.
She won the C girls' individual title while NYGH clinched the B and C team titles, as well as the individual B Division crown.
In the boys' competition, Hwa Chong Institution bagged both the B and C team titles.
Whitley Secondary School's Aidan Altfeld and Kent Ridge Secondary's Low Ern took the B and C individual titles respectively.
Angle-Chinese School (Independent) won the A and B Division boys' titles after fending off stiff competition from Hwa Chong Institution - who finished second in both divisions.
Raffles Institution's Armand Dhilawala Mohan stood tall as this year's B Boys' individual champion, reaching the finish line in the 4.6km race in 16min 49sec. This, despite lying 10th with 2km to go.
The 16-year-old had to muster all his strength to reel in his fellow competitors one at a time.
He said: "I almost gave up at the bend (with 2km left). I looked at my feet and told myself that I had to go faster. It was always a mental game, never a physical one."