It's school's heart & soul

It has never been "just a running track".

That seemed to be the recurring line from four of Cedar Girls' Secondary's former national schools track stars.

The 400m track they were referring to is located behind the school and has churned out runners who topped the leaderboard at the national schools meets since 1957.

The track is slated to make way for the new Bidadari estate when its lease ends in 2017.

Over the last 40 years - since 1973 - Cedar Girls' Secondary were champions 34 times across the B and C divisions.

"The Cedar track is the heart and soul of the school.

"For decades it has been the most deeply rooted feature of its identity. It has moulded the character of all who have trodden on it," housewife and former sprinter Yonnie Kwok, 40, told The New Paper.

Ms Kwok, who took top spots in the races of 1987, said the school owed its impressive athletic performance each year at the national schools meet "to her track".

"I was very shocked and disappointed when I learnt that our beloved track is making way for housing," she said.

Ms Kwok was handpicked to train as a school runner by then-coach Chan Wai Lin, now the Assistant Director of Sports at the Singapore Sports School.

Ms Chan was also a Cedar Girls' track star from 1974 to 1976.

Star runner

She won the gold in the 100m event, breaking the schools record for the C Division at the National Inter-School Track & Field Championship in 1974 and got "numerous gold medals in relays such as the 4x100m".

Ms Chan, 53, did not start out as a runner "because the champion at my primary school also came to Cedar," she said.

"But then I broke the 100m record at our sports day in Secondary Two. The rest, as they say, was history," Ms Chan said.

Ms Chan said her love for the track events was ignited and she "never left".

"I have made coaching my life," she said, adding that she felt a sense of loss when she first learnt about the impending removal of the track.

"My predecessors were the ones who organised funfairs to raise funds for the track. It would be sad to have it taken away," she said.

Two others who were handpicked by Ms Chan - former hurdler Fiona Tan, 35, and former 400m runner Shereen Ng, 37, - wanted to "do something to help preserve the track".

"Every girl coming in to Cedar had to go through a time trial during orientation. Every girl knows it's a privilege to get picked for the track team.

"Many who spent most of their secondary school life at the track will definitely feel sad and disappointed at the news," said Ms Tan, now a teacher.

She won gold not only at the 100m hurdles at meets here in 1992, but also at the Western Australian Little Athletics Association that same year.

"Singapore is developing so quickly that it is losing its character and sacrificing its heritage.

"On Tuesday, it was the National Library. Today, it became very real to me, my beloved running track. What is left to keep people rooted here?" asked Ms Ng, a housewife.

The school has yet to responded to TNP's questions sent via e-mail.

Ms Kwok proposed a solution.

"Why not pose a challenge to architects and estate planners by allowing the Cedar track to be integrated into the Bidadari development.

"Not everything in a new estate needs to be brand new for it to look good," she said.

"The Cedar track has great potential to lend character to the estate. Besides, the residents too can use it to live a healthy lifestyle."

Goodbye track, hello flats

The Cedar girls' Secondary School track is set to make way for the new Bidadari estate when its lease ends in 2017.

This news was confirmed in parliament on oct 21, when the national Development ministry replied to a question by potong pasir mp Sitoh yih pin.

The lease on the field, which started in 2007, is a temporary one, and was given as there was no immediate need for the use of the land then.

Cedar girls' Secondary has been using the land behind the school as a track for over 50 years.

The field will make way for around 600 public flats, a road, a medical facility and a place of worship.

Get The New Paper for more stories.