With major examinations looming, most of their peers had stopped their co-curricular activities, but Hwa Chong Institution's cross-country team continued to juggle their thrice-weekly training sessions with their studies.
Their hard work paid off as they clinched the boys' tertiary and Under-17 individual titles at The Straits Times Run's inaugural SPH35-Panasonic Schools Challenge yesterday, which was created to mark the 35th anniversary of Singapore Press Holdings, which publishes the ST.
Aeron Young, winner of the U-17 category who finished the 3.5km race in 11min 55sec, was initially unsure about participating in the race as his year-end examinations are the week after.
The Secondary 4 student said: "I had some concerns but I decided to take up the challenge and juggle both. It took a lot of time management, cutting down on time wasted and going to study once training is over."
His senior Ethan Yan, who won the tertiary category after clocking 11:41.5, also knows the importance of discipline with his A levels looming in November.
Apart from having to balance studies and training, he also had to make sacrifices such as giving up on ball games. The 18-year-old, who is also this year's A Division boys' cross-country champion, said: "It's quite challenging mentally and because of training, there's a limited time to study but I have to make use of my time."
The individual winners of the schools challenge earned themselves a one-year sponsorship from New Balance worth $1,500 and $1,800 for the U-17 and tertiary champions respectively.
Race winners also received a Panasonic 49-inch Ultra HD 4K HDR TV worth $949, while runners-up got a Panasonic 100% Pure Steam Double Heater Microwave Oven worth $699.
The third prize was a Panasonic Soundbar worth $399.
Ethan said the New Balance sponsorship would come in handy. He explained: "I burn through my shoes quite fast so I have to ask my parents for new shoes regularly."
He usually switches shoes after he has run 400km in them, which usually takes five weeks with his weekly mileage of 70-80km, although he does not wear the same pair of shoes every week.
Philip Chua, director, domestic business division at Panasonic Singapore, said: "We are excited and heartened to see so many youth coming together to participate in this year's SPH35-Panasonic Schools Challenge run.
SPH35-PANASONIC SCHOOLS CHALLENGE: THE WINNERS
BOYS Ethan Yan (Hwa Chong Institution)
GIRLS Koh Jia Xuan (Singapore Polytechnic)
BOYS Aeron Young (Hwa Chong Institution)
GIRLS Hannah Tong (Methodist Girls' School)
FASTEST SCHOOL, ACCUMULATED DISTANCE
TERTIARY Singapore Poly
UNDER-17 Hwa Chong Institution
"This goes in line with our company vision, 'A Better Life, A Better World', and we are glad to be able to support such initiatives that encourage the younger generation to lead a healthier lifestyle.
"We believe that being fit and healthy is a good head start in life, and it enhances the youth's ability to contribute to the society in the near future."
In the girls' category, it was Singapore Polytechnic's Koh Jia Xuan (14:47.1) and Methodist Girls' School's Hannah Tong (15:11.7) who won the tertiary and U-17 races.
Jia Xuan, 18, had hit her hip against a fence two weeks before the race, leaving her with a wound and several bruises. She said: "I didn't expect to win, but this was good because it showed that our hard work and training paid off.
"I also got to have fun and talk with my teammates."
She was thrilled to leave the National Stadium with her TV, saying: "It's the first time that I've won something like this and it's unexpected, but it's useful because my family watches TV so I'm going to give it to them."
There were also team events in the schools challenge where institutes competed based on the accumulated distance from all their registered runners, as well as their runners' accumulated race times.
Hwa Chong Institution won the U-17 race with 15 participants while Singapore Polytechnic won the tertiary run with 18 participants.
Singapore Polytechnic was the fastest tertiary institution, while Hwa Chong was the fastest school in the U-17 segment.