Mbuleli Mathanga and Glenrose Xaba lived up to the hype on Saturday, as the pre-race favourites delivered in style to win the national senior titles at the ASA Cross Country Championships in Rustenburg.
Competing on a challenging course at the Bergsig Academy sports grounds, which included some makeshift climbs and a few sharp turns, Mathanga completely dominated the men’s 10km contest.
Taking control of the race from the start, the KwaZulu-Natal Athletics (KZNA) star charged to a convincing victory in 28:45 to retain the national crown he won in Amanzimtoti last year.
Mattews Leeoto, representing Athletics Central North West (ACNW) took second place in 29:08 and Kabelo Seboko secured bronze in 29:42 for the Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) team.
In the women’s 10km race, Xaba had to put up a fight against Cacisile Sosibo, who produced a brave effort against her more esteemed compatriot.
Xaba eventually managed to shake off the challenge from Sosibo in the second half, breaking away to secure the win for Athletics Gauteng North (AGN) in 32:43.
Sosibo grabbed the silver medal for CGA in 33:54 and defending champion Kesa Molotsane settled for third place (35:08) in the colours of Athletics Free State (AFS).
Over the shorter 4km distances, Caster Semenya had no trouble in the senior women’s race, while Kabelo Melamu earned the senior men’s crown.
Semenya won gold in 11:52 for the AGN squad, with the rest of the field struggling to put up a fight against the three-time 800m world champion. She finished well clear of provincial teammate Simonay Weitsz, who secured the silver medal in 12:21.
In the men’s event, Melamu snatched gold for CGA in 10:07, winning a late sprint in one of the most thrilling contests of the day. He narrowly managed to hold off Modupi Tladi (AGN) who was credited with the same time in second position.
With the ASA Cross Country Championships incorporating races across all age groups, some rising junior stars stuck up their hands by displaying their form ahead of the World Cross Country Championships to be held in Bathurst, Australia in February.
Reatlegile Mosweu won gold in the junior men’s (U20) 8km race for CGA in 23:25, and Karabo Motsoeneng (AGN) won the junior women’s 6km race in 19:43.