Teenager Hassan Khan's foray into athletics began when he joined Catholic Junior College's (CJC) track and field team only last year - and that was because he was not chosen for the school football team after attending their trials.
Despite his inexperience, the 17-year-old was key in anchoring his school relay team to victory in the 4x100m race at yesterday's SPH Schools Relay Championship at Bishan Stadium.
The CJC quartet of Jon-Patric de Mello, S. Shahmee Razain, Alphonsus Teow and Hassan won in 42.96sec, pipping their rivals from Anglo-Chinese School (Independent) by just 0.01sec. Raffles Institution came third in 43.25sec.
The 4x100m title was CJC's lone victory at the meet, and Hassan - who did not know if his team had won until his friends congratulated him - said crossing the finish line was "scary". He added: "It was so close and I just knew I had to give it everything I had."
CJC's win was all the more impressive as Hassan was supposed to be the lead runner - until a week ago, when he requested to switch positions as he felt more comfortable as the anchor runner.
"I don't feel comfortable running the curve," he explained. "(Being the anchor runner) is better for me because the first leg sets the tone of the race, so the pressure will be higher at the start than at the end.
Boys' 4x100m - A Division: Catholic Junior College B Division: Singapore Sports School (SSP) C Division: SSP
Boys' 4x200m - A Division: Raffles Institution (RI) B Division: RI C Division: Anglo-Chinese School (Independent)
Boys' 4x400m - A Division: ACS (I) B Division: SSP C Division: Hwa Chong Institution (HCI)
Boys' 4x800m - A Division: ACS (I) B Division: SSP C Division: RI
Girls' 4x100m - A Division: RI B Division: SSP C Division: Nanyang Girls' High School (NYGH)
Girls' 4x200m - A Division: RI B Division: NYGH C Division: NYGH
Girls' 4x400m - A Division: SSP B Division: SSP C Division: SSP
Girls' 4x800m - A Division: RI B Division: Cedar Girls' Secondary School C Division: NYGH
"I'm just happy we won; it's good preparation for the nationals."
The National Schools Games Track and Field Championships begin next month.
While Hassan acknowledged his team's victory yesterday provided a welcome boost in confidence, he knows that they cannot rest on their laurels.
"Some of the other schools may not have fielded their strongest teams here," he added.
"We still have a lot to work on, like our (baton) passing."
CJC coach Fabian William agreed, but added: "I'm keen to see the success in the relay translate into their individual races at the national schools meet.
"They're strong as a team, but I want to see them have a little more faith and confidence in themselves as individuals."
Another team who had reason to celebrate yesterday were RI, who broke the Singapore Sports School's (SSP) six-year winning streak to win their maiden SPH Schools Relay Championships overall crown with 108 points.
SSP were second with 103 points, while ACS(I) had 73 points to finish third.
Raffles coach Melvin Tan believes it is teamwork that pushed his side through, adding: "I think they've outdone themselves.
"They will take with them the high spirits from today into next month's nationals, so hopefully we'll do well there too."
No meet records were broken yesterday.