It was almost a perfect score for TuksSport High School's Class of 2020 as they achieved a 99.5% matric pass rate, helping the school reach, for the first time, an 89% bachelor pass rate. In total, the learners achieved 73 distinctions.
And hearing she attained five of those distinctions in last year’s matric exams was a relief to one of the school’s top students, Shakira O'Malley, as it means she can now start to play football matches in Ohio, USA.
TuksSport High School's head girl of last year is a student at the University of Northwestern Ohio. Her aim is to get a degree in business administration and hone her football skills so she is good enough to play for Banyana Banyana.
Until now, it has been a case of being all "togged up" and no opportunity to play despite training with her new teammates. On match days, she would sit on the bench because she had no proof she passed her school exams. Getting her results, however, has changed everything.
Christopher Xides, with six distinctions and an 85.5% average, is the school's top learner. Kaytlin Albertyn averaged 82.33% (five distinctions), O' Malley averaged 81.67% and Danii Nolte 81% (four distinctions).
Footballer Christopher Xides (left) got six distinctions; Shakira O'Malley (centre) can now play football matches at the US university where she is enrolled; and athlete Danii Nolte (right) who plans to study plant and soil science. Credit for image of Nolte: Reg Caldecott
The results are no surprise. The school's principal, Hettie de Villiers, never tires, emphasising that any sports career can last only a few years, no matter how good the athlete is.
"Then what? That is why every athlete needs to have a good academic qualification to fall back on," De Villiers explained.
Xides echoed De Villiers's sentiments.
"My parents emphasised that I had to do well at school to have a 'platform' to fall back on even though I have no immediate plans to study," said Xides, who is hoping to build a career as a professional football player.
Xides praised his teachers for their guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
"They were incredible throughout the pandemic, continually making sure we had everything we needed."
He plans to go to Portugal in March or April for trials.
"I am a fan of Portugal's football. Their style of play is different, less physical. It is more about tactical savviness. They also tend to be more focused on the mental side of the game."
O'Malley is grateful to have been part of the Safa Girls Soccer Academy project based at Tuks.
"My time at the Academy and at TuksSport High School made me realise that nothing is impossible if you are prepared to put your mind to it and do the hard work."
O'Malley chose to go to Ohio because she considers herself a forever student of the game.
"I am learning a different style of play, which is a good way to expand my knowledge of the game," said the former South African under-17 player. She has also played two games for the national under-20 team.
Nolte, who was sponsored by the Athletics Foundation Trust, plans to study plant and soil science from next year, either in Europe or the USA, so she can play her part in relieving the pressure the agricultural sector is under to improve food production.
"I want to make a difference, help the world," she says.
She has, however, not given up on her dream to also excel in athletics. At the start of last year, she improved her personal best distance in the long jump to 6.05 metres and in the triple jump, 12.26 metres. She is a former gold medallist at the South African School Champs and won silver at the SA Youth Champs.