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Nzima takes on stars

Many of the country’s top athletes will be in action at the South African cross-country trials in Potchefstroom on Saturday.

The event has attracted the cream of middle distance runners and promises spectators a battle that will hopefully bring back memories of the golden era of South African athletics.

The men’s 12-kilometre contest is billed as a thrilling encounter between twice national champion, Boy Soke, current national champion, Sibusiso Nzima and three-time runner-up at the national championships, Steven Mokoka.

Soke had a disappointing run at the national championships late last year when he collapsed from heat exhaustion 8km into the race after making most of the early pacing duties. His retirement from the race provided an opportunity for Steven Mokoka (at that stage twice runner-up behind Soke in as many years) to take the win but dangerous outsider Nzima had plans of his own and outsprinted Mokoka to the tape.

Both Nzima and Mokoka are included in the preliminary national cross-country squad, but Soke is eager to state his claim for a position in the team of six athletes that will be representing South Africa at the Southern region championships in Seychelles and then at the world championships in Poland in March.

Nzima and Mokoka are not the only obstacles Soke has to contend with on Saturday. In fact, the event boast an entry list containing one of the finest selection of athletes seen at a domestic cross country event.

Contenders include: Jeffrey Gwebu (CGA), Kgosi Tsosane (AFS), Xolisa Tyali (CGA), Lungisa Mdedelwa (ATRA), Samuel Segoaba (AFS), Lucky Miya (CGA), Coolboy Ngamole (CGA), Nlosinoxolo Sonqibido (Transnet), David Sebetlele (Transnet), Nkululeko Zamisa, (Tuks), Mandla  Maseko (Transnet), Bennedict Moeng (Transnet), Alexander Motone (Transnet) and Tshamano Setone (Nedbank) to name but a few.

The event is also attracting international attention and athletes from Scotland, Poland and France have entered as part of their preparation for the world championships.

A dramatic battle is expected in the women’s 8km. After finishing in ninth position at the SA cross-country championships, Lebo Phalula knows that she will need to fight hard to join her twin sister Lebogang, who was ranked second in the national squad.

The SA team would like to draw on the experience of the Phalula twins who had a successful tour on the European cross-country circuit. Many top-seeded contenders will however like to see their name among the final six.

Christine Kalmer, younger sister of established star Rene, is back to compete in South Africa after completing her studies in the US, and defending champion Tebogo Masetla is in top form.

Annerien van Schalkwyk would also like to stamp her authority on the team after her dream season last year.

The entry list is also a strong one and includes: Gloria Baeba (Transnet), Ronel Thomas (Bashewa), Mirriam Mooki (AGN), Zintle Sinqe (Tuks), Gladys Lukhwareni (Transnet), Charne Bosman (Mr Price) and Catherine Skosana (Transnet).

The event will be run at the Fanie du Toit Sport terrain of the North-West University and also serves as the trials for the national students cross-country team to Canada later this year.

Hezekiel Foundation fun run for boys and men (4km)
9.30am: Hezekiel Foundation fun run for girls and women (4km)
10am: Open men trials (12km)
10.40am: Open women trials (8km)
11.15am: junior men trials (born 1991, 92, 93, 94) – (8km)
11.50am: junior women trials (born 1991, 92, 93, 94) – (6km)

The South African squad that will compete in green and gold colours:
Senior men (12km):
Sibusiso Nzima (CGA), Stephen Mokoka (AGN), Jeffrey Gwebu (CGA), Kgosi Tsosane (AFS), Xolisa Tyali (CGA), Lungisa Mdedelwa (ATRA), Samuel Segoaba (AFS), Lucky Miya (CGA), Coolboy Ngamole (CGA)
Senior women (8km): Tebogo  Masehla (CGA), Lebogang Phalula (CGA), Annerien van Schalkwyk (AGN), Poppy Mlambo (CGA), Marelise  Retief (AGN), Ntombisintu Ntshaliza (EPA), Jenna Challenor (KZN), Thozama April (WPA), Lebo Phalula (CGA)
Junior men (8km): Joel Mmonne (CNW), Vuyisile Tshoba (CGA), Reuben Magangenene (CGA), Adoonsie Mohlakoana (AVT), Sityhilo Diko (CGA), Joel Madiba (AGN), Lucas Bothobutle (CNW), Anele Faku (ATRA) Teadi Khoza (AFS)
Junior women (6km): Sylvia  Tshetlanyane (CGA), Letitia Saayman (AGN), Juan-Marie Cooper (CGA), Amukelani Baloyi (CGA), Ellen Mynhardt (AGN), Lusanda Bomvana (ATRA), Ashleigh Schnetler (CGA), Avela Nkweba (ATRA), Nandipha Dwili (ATRA)