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Champs defend titles

Senior champions Steven Mokoka and Mirriam Thole will both defend their titles at the SA Cross Country Championships at the Free State University in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Mokoka has been improving steadily since the beginning of the year. He competed at the 12km cross country trials in Potchefstroom in January where he finished second in 37min 58sec. In the beginning of March he competed at the African Cross Country Championships in Cape Town and finished sixth, clocking the same time of 37:58.

He then ran his best time this year in Punta Umbria, Spain at the World Championships in March, recording 35:10, his second fastest time ever at a World or African Championship cross country event and finished 15th. Last year he claimed victory at the championships in 37:32.

Last year’s runner up Kgosi Tsosane (38:03) will be in action again this year and would have gained some experience as he was part of the team that represented South Africa in Punta Umbria, attending his third World Championships.

Another athlete competing will be bronze medalist Xolisa Tyali and he should still provide competition for most of the athletes competing on Saturday. At African Championships and World Championships he ended 20th and 100th in 38:38 and 39:20 respectively.

The men’s 4km title will also be up for grabs as defending champion Juan van Deventer, as well as runner-up Dean Brummer will not compete this year.

The same applies for the women’s 4km race as Mapaseka Makhanya will not be there.┬áBoth will be competing at Decanation in Nice, France.

Back to the women’s 8km and Thole won the title in 2010 in 29:05 and will be back to see if she can do it two years in a row. But it won’t be an easy task as the Phalula twins, Lebo and Lebogang, will be eager to upset. Lebo took second place last year while Lebogang followed in her sister’s footsteps in third place, their times 29:39 and 30:01 respectively.

This year was the time for Lebogang to shine as she beat her sister in three of the four 8km cross country events they attended, the only exception being the World Championships in Spain.

Junior champion in 2010, Thobane Chagwe won the 8km in 25:57 but will be competing as a senior this year, leaving the field open for a brand new champion. Athletes to look out for are Merline Klaaste, Moses Dirane, Thato Molatedi, Sithembile Dondalo and Gift Mahlangu.  These athletes all finished in the top 10 last year.  Klaaste finished fourth last year and also competed in Potchefstroom at the trials in January and World Champs in Punta Umbria in March. .

The junior women’s 6km race will also boast a brand new champion as Idah Simon will not be competing this year while runner-up Puseletso Dladla will also compete with the senior athletes. Mamphielo Sibanda finished the race in 23:31 the previous year and finished fourth.┬á She will compete on Saturday but have not competed in any major competitions this year so it will be interesting to see what she can come up with.

The action starts at 9am at the University of Free State sports grounds and will be a day filled with events. The final event will start at 4.20pm.


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