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Stephen 23rd in Poland
- Updated: March 29, 2010
On a day dominated by Kenya, national 1,500 and 10,000 metre track champion Stephen Mokoka was South Africa’s best placed men’s finisher at Sunday’s world cross-country championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland.
Kenya won all four individual titles on offer and Mokoka placed 23rd in the senior men’s 12 kilometre race, 1min 23sec behind winner Joseph Ebuya of Kenya (33:00).
The 25-year-old athlete thus improved on his 74th-placed finish at last year’s world cross-country championships in Edinburgh, Scotland.
Next best South African was Lungisa Mdedelwa, who won the national cross-country trials in Potchefstroom earlier this year. Mdedelwa ended 52nd in 35:12 on Sunday.
Other SA finishers were: Sibabalwe Mzai (61st in 35:26), Kgosi Tsosane (62nd, 35:28), Xolisa Tyali (71st, 35:40) and Siyabonga Nkone (118th, 38:21).
The South African team placed 12th in the team category, their four scoring runners amassing 198 points, compared to the triumphant Kenyan squad’s 20.
The senior women’s race run over 8km saw a brave run from Lebogang Phalula. After winning the 800m race at last week’s Yellow Pages meeting in Johannesburg, Phalula went on to take 15th in Poland, her 25min 43sec effort placing her 1:24 behind Kenyan Emily Chebet’s 24:19 victory.
Phalula’s twin sister Lebo was just seven positions back in the field, placing 22nd (1:46 behind the winner).
Ronel Thomas in 66th position (3:34 down) was the next best South African finisher. Then came Ntombesintu Mfunzi (68th), Marelise Retief (72nd) and Tebogo Masehla (77th).
The women’s team fared better than our men in the team stakes, placing 10th behind a rampant Kenya, who provided four of the top six finishers.
In the junior events Joel Mmone was our best finisher, placing 21st and 1:10 behind Kenya’s Caleb Ndiku over 8km. The junior team placed seventh behind Kenya.
And our first junior woman was Letitia Saayman who took 39th spot in an 8km race won by, yet another Kenyan, Mercy Cherono. Saayman was 2:22 down the field. The squad placed 10th in the team category.
This was fantastic running by the Twins and Mokoka. The Junior men from SA also impressed me. We need to rebuild. ASA and its provinces need to work very hard. We need regular junior cross country and track and field competitions. Junior middle distance athletes need to be encouraged to stay away from road running. Prospective great runners like Mokoka must be encouraged to also stay away from the road at his age. (incentivise the guys as the roads pay). With his performance, it believe he should be selected for the 10000m commonwealth games. The cross country routes should also be inline with the international standards. Provinces organize mountain races and say it is cross country. Provinces should work on depth in provinces and select Junior athletes to represent the provinces. Some select more Masters and Veterans instead......