As a student-athlete, Diane Hilary Pragasam has run countless races and had a breakout season at this year's Schools National Track and Field Championships, where she won four gold medals.
But The New Paper School Sports Star Award 2015 brought to you by H-TWO-O is a different race altogether for the 14-year-old.
As with her real-life races, the Singapore Sports School student is now leading the pack in public votes among the female nominees.
She is among five finalists for the girls' award.
"I'm very excited because this is the first time I'm in the running for such an award. I'm grateful for people I know and even members of the public who have decided to support me by casting their votes for me," said Diane, who has over 1,200 votes.
"Knowing that I have the support of family and friends motivates me and reminds me of why I continue to pursue my sporting dreams."
Joining Diane in the top five of the girls' category are Shaahidah Zulkifli (football, Bowen Secondary School), Ashley Han (volleyball, Dunman Secondary School), Misha Nur Rasyana (netball, Fengshan Primary School) and Kristin Pang (athletics, Victoria Junior College).
The finalists were picked by a selection panel and public voting also contributed to the choices.
For Millennia Institute's (MI) Haikal Ismail - one of the boys' finalists in the top five - being nominated for the award is a cherry topping for his final season at his school, as the 20-year-old is due to graduate after his A Levels.
"I am happy to make it to the top five of this award. I asked my friends to vote for me and they might also have shared this with their own friends," said Haikal, who has over 700 votes.
"This nomination is really a reward because it's my final year representing my school, and something I can look back and be proud of," added the sprinter, who won the A Division boys' 100m and 200m titles at the Schools Nationals this year despite the school not having an athletics team.
Haikal had taken up running early, but gave it up in MI because of the lack of a school team, until the death of his childhood friend Zaki Sapari last year spurred him to put on his spikes again.
He is joined in the top five by Toh Wei Yu (athletics, Raffles Institution), Wong Han Xuan (shooting, National Junior College), Chong Koi Kiat (canoeing, National Junior College) and Brian Cheong (fencing, Singapore Sports School).
Haikal intends to keep on running after his A Levels, and hopefully emulate his late friend in running for the country.
He said: "I am enlisting for National Service after my studies, and I will continue to train hard, depending on my vocation. I hope to run for my university, if I make it there, and for Singapore some day."
The 10 boys and girls will now compete against one other for the coveted TNP School Sports Star Award.
Two winners - one boy and one girl - will be decided by a panel of judges and public votes.
The votes from the previous round to decide the top 10 will not be counted.
Voting starts today and closes at 11.59pm next Wednesday.
Visit tnp.sg/sss15 to vote for your favourite student-athlete.
This article was first published on October 15, 2015.
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