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Sprinters eye Germiston

The first Yellow Pages Interprovincial track and field meeting gets underway on Saturday in Germiston, Ekurhuleni and some of the most anticipated battles will be fought out in both the men’s and women’s sprints.

The objective behind the Interprovincial is not only individual glory, but athletes are also chasing a prize of R100 000 awarded to the winning province at the end of the two meetings (the final being in Bellville, Cape Town on 3 March. Athletes are awarded points per performance based on the IAAF points tables.

Eastern Province, Western Province, Free State, Boland and Gauteng North are the five provinces expecting to cash in on points in the sprint events.

Here’s a look at what to expect in the sprint events.

MEN
Eastern Province will be relying on the likes of Leigh Julius, Sergio Mullins and Paul Gorries to bring home points. The WP team of Roscoe Engel and Brent Stevens is a formidable one, whilst Free State have four top sprinters in Wayde van Niekerk, Kagiso Kumbane, Gideon Trotter and Thuso Mpuang. Boland will be looking to Shaun de Jager and Sibusiso Sishi to grab points in the longer sprints, the 200m and 400m.

100m
Julius’ strength is the 100m, but he will face stiff competition from Brent Stevens (who beat Julius three times from three races in the Yellow Pages Summer Series in December) and Roscoe Engel who was dominant in the 150m and 300m at the Yellow Pages Summer Series meeting in Parow on 17 December. The Free State’s trio of Thuso Mpuang (fastest time in SA in 2011 ÔÇô 10.16sec), Gideon Trotter and Wayde van Niekerk will not be easily beaten. Although not racing in the 200m, SA 100m champion, Simon Magakwe, could be hard to beat in the men’s 100m. Magakwe has proven, that when it comes to winning the big events, he has the mettle ÔÇô since 2009 Magakwe has been unbeatable at the national championships.
Magakwe and Engel had a titanic duel in the men’s 100m semi-final at the national championships in Durban in 2011 as they clocked 10.18sec and 10.19sec respectively.

200m
The trio of Lebogang Moeng, Van Niekerk and Mpuang will be eyeing maximum points in the men’s 200m with Mullins (EP), Engel (WP) and De Jager (BOL) looking to break the Free State dominance. Engel’s 150m and 300m wins in the Yellow Pages Summer Series in Parow on 17 December, show he will be dangerous in the 200m and Mullins has always shown that he prefers the longer sprint, his success during the Summer Series over the 150m and 200m races clear evidence of that. De Jager, although more a 400m athlete has a good turn of speed and could potentially also be in the mix. The Free State trio hold the top three fastest times of 2011 with Mpuang just heading the list on 20.55sec, with Van Niekerk lying in second on 20.57sec. Moeng’s best time of 22.58sec came on this very track in April 2011 at the Yellow Pages SA Youth, Junior and Under-23 Championships.

400m
There’s no LJ van Zyl in the men’s 400m (the 400m hurdles specialist ran his PB of 44.86sec in the 400m flat at the 2011 Yellow Pages Interprovincial) and also no Moeng who is the third fastest 400m athlete in 2011. Instead the likes of De Jager (BOL), Paul Gorries (EP) and World Championship 4x400m silver medalist Shane Victor (KZN) will be in the hunt for the spoils. Gorries, a former world junior 200m champion, has been battling with injuries and fitness for nigh on two years now, but in the Yellow Pages Summer Series he started to show glimpses of the athlete he was when he won the world junior title in 2000. Gorries was national champion in 2003 and 2007 before injuries prevented him from racing. De Jager ran PB’s in the 300m (33.43sec, PE) and 400m (46.24sec, Oudtshoorn) at the Yellow Pages Summer Series in December and in the process claimed the scalp of Victor (300m Stellenbosch). Victor though is a class athlete and to ignore him in Germiston on Saturday would be a huge mistake. The 22 year-old burst onto the scene in February 2011 when he finished second behind Jacob Ramakoka at the Yellow Pages meeting in Pretoria on 25 February. He then went on to be part of the bronze-medal winning team at the World Student Championships in Shenzen China in the 4x400m relay, before leading off the silver medal winning team at the World Championships a month later.

WOMEN
The dominant team in the women’s sprints is likely to be Gauteng North as they not only entered the numbers, but also have some class athletes in their line-up.

100m
Carina Horn, Isabelle le Roux and Cherese Jones are the ones to watch. It was Horn who ended Cindy Stewart’s (EP) unbeaten streak of over 12 months of domestic racing when she convincingly won the 100m at the Yellow Pages meeting in Pretoria on 25 February, 2011. Horn also won the national title in 2011. Stewart though is a wily campaigner and is likely to have a few tricks up her sleeve. She will need them against Horn.

200m
Le Roux made a welcome return to the track at the Yellow Pages Summer Series in Oudtshoorn after an an 18-month absence from the track due to study commitments and injury. Her 200m time of 22.69sec is amongst the top five in the country and although it is too early for her to be clocking those kind of times, she is a class athlete and will be a force to be reckoned with. The 200m in particular could be a titanic battle, as Le Roux chases her comeback (she will be focusing more on the 200/400m in the future), Sonja van der Merwe (WP) is developing into a class 200m/400m athlete and Carina Horn, if she does not tense up, could very decide the spoils amongst themselves. Van der Merwe, in particular, bears watching as she ran a 24.14sec into a strong headwind in Bellville at the Suzman Shield meeting on 15 February. Then there is the KZN athlete Justine Palframan who recently returned from a stint in Jamaica training alongside world 100m record holder and Olympic Champion, Usain Bolt. Palframan has a best of 23.78sec and is largely considered a better 400m athlete, but she too has a very good chance of finishing in the top three.

400m
The women’s 400m will be a tough race with Palframan probably the favourite on paper. Her 52.88 PB was the third fastest in SA in 2011 and is the fastest of the assembled field. Only Caster Semenya and Estie Wittstock went faster in 2011. Also, 400m hurdler Wenda Theron (GN) clocked a best of 53.93sec in 2011 whilst Sonja van der Merwe’s 54.13 saw her win the bronze medal at the national junior championships.


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