SOLEIL BothaPE-based TJAM Athletics Club has returned home from the South African Secondary Schools Athletics Championships held in Bloemfontein from 16 – 19 March with three new South African Champions.


16-year old Soleil Botha who’s been with TJAM since 2013 is a learner from Woodridge College and took part in the 100m and 200m events in the girls U/17 category. She competed in the 200m heats on Friday afternoon and claimed 2nd place in her heat recording a new personal best time of 25.51. In the semi-finals held on Saturday morning, she took 3rd place recording another personal best time of 25.39 to book a place in the final. The final was a very fast race with Soleil drawn in lane 6 and yet again she recorded another personal best time in the event, this time she completed the race in 4th place with a time of 25.31. In the semi-finals of the 100m held on Thursday morning, she won her race recording a personal best time of 12.16, which was the 3rd fastest time overall. She went into the final on Friday afternoon quietly confident of finishing in a medal position. In the final she got out of the blocks and the athletes were close to each other until roughly the 80-metre mark where she pulled away to take the title with another personal best time of 12.01! She has improved on her overall national ranking this year after to 1st and 4th in the 100m and 200m respectively after she finished in 7th place last in both events in the 2015 championships.


Amy van Vuuren has also been with TJAM since 2013 when she joined as a 12-year old promising hurdler and jumper. The Pearson High School learner won the U/15 Long Jump and took 2nd place in the 90mH at the Eastern Cape High School Champs at the beginning of the month. She took part in the semi-finals of the 90mH on Thursday and finished in 5th place recording an impressive time of 13.86 and was disappointed not to make the finals. Saturday presented her win a second chance to lift her spirits and she did it with some style! There were 18 girls taking part in the long jump and after 3 rounds, the number was cut down to 8 with Amy having the 6th best jump of 5.18m – a big improvement on her personal best jump of 5.05m set at her provincial championships. With her competitors recording distances around the 5.30m-mark, Amy felt the pressure going into her second-last and fifth jump after she recorded 5.04m in her 4th jump. She came up with a huge jump of 5.46m, which was 12cm longer than her closest rival with one jump left of the competition. Despite their best attempts, the next best competitor managed to jump 5.43m, which confirmed Amy as the new SA Schools U/15 Long Jump Champion.


Elsabé du Plessis joined TJAM this season and is the reigning Eastern Province Athletics and Eastern Cape High Schools 100m, 200m and 400m Champion. The Cradock High School learner who is also part of the Eastern Cape Academy of Sport’s High Performance programme took part in just the 400m and 200m events this weekend. She won the 400m semi-final comfortably with the 4th fastest time overall and looked good to medal with 50 metres left in the final as the athletes were battling for the top spot. She was in 2nd place with 10 metres left of the race when she lost her footing and fell just short of the line and watched in agony as all her competitors passed her to cross the line in last place with a time of 62.98. The 200m heats gave her an opportunity to redeem herself and she did it in the best possible manner. She won her 200m heat with a time of 25.02, just outside her personal best time of 25.00. She was very dominant in the semi-finals as she won her semi with a new personal best time of 24.76 to book her place in the final. In the final she came out of the blocks and took the lead within the first 50m of the race and maintained this position going on to with the U/17 200m with another new personal best time of 24.74 and was the only athlete in her age group to run a sub-25 second time completing a great come-back after her fall in the 400m.


Zoë Marais had a disappointing start to her U/17 100m hurdles race as she finished her heat in 5th place with a time of 15.32 seconds. The Brandwag High School learner bounced back when she took part in the Long Jump event as she took 8th place overall with a new personal best distance of 5.22m and her best national ranking.


Casper Lötter took part in his first national high schools competition this year and recorded a time of 10.92 in the Men U/19 100m semi-finals and finished in 5th place, missing out on a place in the final. The Brandwag High School learner showed great determination when he finished in 4th place in the 200m with a personal best time of 21.93 to qualify for the semi-finals. He finished in 2nd place in the semi-final recording another personal best time of 21.79 to reach the final where he was tied in 5th place recording a time of 21.91 becoming the fastest U/19 athlete in the Eastern Cape.


Congratulations to the athletes for their amazing achievements and special congratulations to their coaches (Jessi Heatley, Thobela Thoba and Cradock-based Du Toit van der Merwe) who have travelled a long road with them. Huge congrats to TJAM Athletics Club who are living up to their motto “We build champions, NURTURING talent!”