Middle/long distance runners in South Africa has of late taken the backseat to watch the sprint-stars do their magic on the track, but this weekend, the country’s best middle/long distance stars make their way to Stellenbosch geared up and ready for the ASA National Championships.

Caster Semenya will be the talk of the championships as there are talks of her competing in the women’s 400m, 800m and 1500m races respectively. Semenya’s attempt to win these three races in world class times is a reason to not miss the much anticipated national championships on 14 & 15 April. The Olympic silver medallist has already qualified for the 400m and 800m races and she is in really good shape to break the 4min07sec benchmark set to qualify for the 1500m. But hot on her heels will be juniors Weitsz and Kellerman. Dominique Scott, on the other hand, is firm favourite to win the women’s 1500m race after a missing the Olympic qualifying time of 15min24sec with one second on the 5000m! Scott, who is originally from Cape Town, has been studying abroad and has become a household name in American Track & Field; but she is really hungry to qualify for the Olympic Games and represent South Africa, not America. Whilst Dominique will be hoping to run 15min24sec and faster, Kesa Molotsane from Freestate is in great shape to run a possible sub 16min race. Scott, Kesa and Caster might also have a great battle in the women’s 1500m race; it will be interesting to see. Not counting out the Phalula sisters at all and not even to mention Simonay Weitsz who wil finally have the needed competition to try and make the 1500m junior qualifying mark. Whilst these women set the track alight, Anel Oosthuizen will be in a class of her own in the women’s 20km race walk as she embarks on another Olympic qualifying journey. On Saturday, Oosthuizen broke the long standing South African women’s 20km race walk record by setting a new personal best 1h34min; we could surely expect something exceptional from the in-form race walk queen this weekend.

Elroy Gelant, Johan Cronje, Juan van Deventer, Steven Mokoka and Gladwin Mzazi has been South Africa’s cream of the middle/long distance athletes in recent years and most of them still head into this weekend’s championships as clear favourites in their respective events. Elroy Gelant is the favourite to win the men’s 5000m race after his superb 13min20sec Olympic qualifying effort at the second leg of the ASA night series in Cape Town. The star will solely focus on the 5000m whilst 10th position finisher at the World Half Marathon Championships, Steven Mokoka, has his eyes set on the 10000m national title and possibly record! However, anything can happen and we might just see Mokoka battle it out with Gelant and put his 2015 5000m national record on the cards! Former World Championship bronze medallist, Johan Cronje, on the other hand, will have it tough as the youngsters are getting hungrier for the 1500m national title. Dumisani Hlaselo will be the man to watch out for with his early 3min38sec form, whilst Folavio Sehohle, 2013’s bronze medallist, should not be forgotten. Jeromy Andreas is another man to watch with an owl’s eye after his solo 4min03sec mile at last week’s Varsity Athletics competition; he is back with a purpose. Cronje, on the other side, does not seem to be bothered since he has been running 5000m, 3000m and 800m races, clearly focussing on himself. The Olympic mark of 3min36.20sec is set to be broken by a few 1500m athletes! Jerry Motsau, former SA Champs seems to also be gradually easing into his best form. And one man to never ever underestimate is Thobs Baloyi who won the NWU Prestige 3000m just this past week.

The men’s 800m race will be a battle between Rynhardt van Rensburg and Andre Olivier. We have not seen Olivier race once this year, so heading into the championships with a 1min48sec season’s best is Van Rensburg. Hot on their hills will be national under/23 champion Duran Faro and silver medallist in that race, Thabang Matiwane! But a great crop of athletes have been clocking sub 1:49 this year including some juniors, so making this year’s 800m fiinal will be one of the most diffucult tasks at the champs. Lastly, after a great 8min37sec 3000m steeple chase race at Greenpoint, Rantso Mokopane will be hoping to go eight seconds faster to qualify for the Rio Olympic Games. Mokopane will be chased down by Tumisang Monatlala, Sibusiso Madikizela, Dikotso Lekopa and Motlagale.

These athletes will look to set the track alight, qualify for Olympics and possibly break South African records! All of the best to every athlete participating.

Written by Reggie Hufkie

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