SA’s finest Cross Country stars gather in PE

 

South Africa’s finest cross country athletes will gather in Port Elizabeth for the annual ASA Cross Country Championships on Saturday, 8 September, and fireworks are expected. Big names like Precious Mashele (CGA), Cherise Sims (EPA), Reagan Magwai (AGN), and Ashley Smith (WPA) are set to put up a show to remember.

The coastal city of Port Elizabeth was known for producing some of the fastest middle and long distance times in the history of South African athletics, so it’s great to see more and more major competitions making PE the host of choice for distance running events again. Running on the Nelson Mandela University campus means the athletes will battle it out for national glory in the 4km, 6km, 8km, and 10km races on a fairly flat course a stones-throw away from the sea. This of course means that the athletes from the north are able to breathe easier, but that doesn’t mean the competition will be easier.

Precious Mashele (10km) and Ryan Mpahlele (4km) leads a strong Central Gauteng contingent that includes in form athletes like Jeromy Andreas, Tumisang Monatlala, both 10km, Nicole van der Merwe in the women’s 4km, and Onkabetse Sebola in the junior men’s race. Throw names like Thobile Vilakazi, Liza Kellerman and Lethabo Makgoga- junior women- in the mix and it makes for a solid team, but it doesn’t stop there. Future stars Lyndi Roelofse, Casey Bosman and Dipuo Mashamaite will also be lining up in the red and black vests. Add Prudence Sekgodiso (AGN), Nicole Louw (AFS) and Yandiswa Shange (BOLA) to the list of youth and junior women and we have star line-ups waiting for us in PE.

CGA, AGN and EPA have always been known for delivering jaw dropping performances, but in recent years Athletics Central North West athletes have caused quite a few upsets. We are talking about athletes like Elroy Gelant, Rantso Mokopane, and Thabang Mosiako to name a few. Mokopane is a multiple steeple chase national champion and Mosiako a multiple national title winner ranging from the 5000m to the 10km and 21km. Gelant is the national record holder in the 5000m, but he can outwit any athlete on any given day from the 1500m to the 21km or even marathon. The province experienced an influx of talent for a couple of years now, so don’t be surprised if you see the bright green tracksuits dominating the podium. In similar fashion, though, Western Province Athletics has seen a rise in middle and long distance running. When Ashley Smith relocated from the USA things changed quickly. He became the first Western Province based athlete to dip under 14 minutes in the 5000m in ten years, and that inspired hard working guys like Anthony Timoteus, Duwayne Philander and Andre Afrika to up their game, and that is exactly what they did. Lukhanyo Ndobaka also followed suite, so be on the lookout for die manne vanni Kaap.

But what is the national championships without AGN? They are usually responsible for sending the biggest teams, ensuring not only the sustainability of the sport but also the development. Reagan Magwai, Collen Mulaudzi, Vuyisile Tshoba, and Michael Pienaar is the new breed of runners who will lead the team to the Nelson Mandela Bay.

The reason why PE is the perfect place to host these championships is because it will spark a new interest and hopefully a new culture of running in the province. Cherise Sims, Mariano Eesou, Ntombisintu Mfunzi and Melikhaya Frans are the Eastern Province Athletics stars lining up with the hope of the province on their shoulders. Will they deliver?

 

Written by Reggie Hufkie