They were facing canoeing powerhouses like National Junior College (NJC) and Gan Eng Seng Secondary School, but Damai Secondary School rose above all to claim the Schools National B Division girls' title at MacRitchie Reservoir yesterday - their first-ever national canoeing triumph.
Finishing with 42 points, Damai were comfortable winners over NJC (30 points) and Gan Eng Seng (28).
It was a big improvement from last year's fifth placing, and the team have credited coach Bill Lee as key to their surprise success.
Lee was a SEA Games gold medallist last June, teaming up with Brandon Ooi to win the K2 1,000m race ahead of competitors from Thailand and Indonesia.
After retiring from the sport late last year, the 31-year-old is in the midst of transition to become the national junior canoeing coach, and this was to be his final year coaching for Damai.
Said captain Elsha Lyana, 16: "We trained our hearts out and Bill's help was really crucial since he's also the national junior coach. We were able to work together and I'm glad we could give him a great farewell in the last year.
Lee was happy with the victorious send-off, saying: "I couldn't have asked for more. The girls have beaten competitors from top schools, and they are capable of achieving fantastic results if they put their mind to it.
"Seeing the girls give their 100 per cent in training gave me more opportunities to better impart knowledge to them. Aspects like hard work, nutrition and professionalism in their training methods made this result possible."
Damai also came in second in the C Division girls' competition with 38 points, losing out to Temasek Secondary School (56). Crescent Girls' School are third with 21 points.
In the A Division, Hwa Chong Institution swept both the boys' (88 points) and girls' (55) title, while St Joseph's Institution clinched the boys' B Division title with 62 points.
Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) topped the boys' C Division with 83 points.