Bloemfontein - Lily-Marie van der Merwe, who achieved eight distinctions, believes that her success would not have been possible without her horse, Nova, which kept her spiritually sane.
The star student, from Eunice High School in Bloemfontein, told Netwerk24 that she had spent a lot of time with Nova in 2016 and that he would accompany her to Pretoria, where she wants to study veterinary science at the University of Pretoria.
Lily-Marie is one of just a few pupils to achieve eight distinctions in nine subjects.
She missed her ninth distinction, which would have been in Advanced Mathematics, by just three percentage points.
However, she excelled in her remaining eight subjects: Mathematics, Life Orientation, Physical Science, Art, Drama, English (home language), and Afrikaans (first additional language).
Lily-Marie, who initially lived in England, moved to South Africa with her parents, Johan, a medical doctor, and Gillian, an anaesthetist, when she was a baby.
She speaks English with a British accent that she says she picked up from her mother.
She credits her Afrikaans teacher, Pieter Schuurman, with helping her perform well in a subject that she had struggled with.
"He became my Afrikaans teacher at the start of my Grade 11 year. At the time, I only managed to achieve 60s for the subject, but with his guidance, I managed to reach 85%," she said.
Lily-Marie also has a creative flair and, during the first years of her high school career, she did many pencil drawings - predominantly of animals.
"At that stage, I wanted to become an animation artist. I enjoyed participating in my school’s drama plays, and I also took music theory classes, as well as classical guitar lessons."