Varsity athletes impress ahead of national champs

Thursday’s Varsity Athletics final in Stellenbosch served as the perfect curtain-raiser for the SA Senior Track and Field Championships, as athletes gave the crowd a taste of what they can expect this week.

The country’s top athletes will be targeting national titles and Olympic qualifying marks at the national championships, to be held at Coetzenburg on Friday April 15 and Saturday April 16.

If there was ever any doubt that the men’s long jump competition is one of the strongest events in South Africa, then Ruswahl Samaai of UJ settled the matter with his 8.20m jump at the Varsity Athletics meet in Stellenbosch on April 7. Samaai led a UJ clean sweep in the long jump, with Dylan Cotter second (7.76m) and Peter Makgato third (7.48m), and showed that there will be a fierce battle for available Olympic spots.

Another big draw card on the night was NWU-Pukke athlete Caster Semenya, who powered to a 53.16s win in the 400m. Semenya is looking for fast times at the national championships, where she will be competing in the 400m/800m double.

Maties’ Justine Palframan, who won the 200m at the UJ leg of Varsity Athletics, had to withdraw from the 400m on Thursday due to an injury scare. However, Maties’ Shaun de Jager withstood strong competition to win the 400m for men, completing the race in 46.35s.

The “grudge” match-up between Gezelle Magerman (Tuks) and Jean-Maré Senekal (Maties) in the 400m hurdles lived up to its billing as not even half a second separated the two athletes. At the UJ leg on 18 March, a slight stumble before the final hurdle cost Magerman the win, but this time round she left nothing to chance, winning the race in 58.52s to Senekal’s 58.86s.

Other podium highlights for Maties include Karla Bronn (silver – high jump), Cameron Donkin (silver – discus), Janke van Wyk (silver – 100m hurdles), Kwezi Mtoba (silver – triple jump), Marcel Maree (bronze – high jump), Nienka du Toit (bronze – shotput) and Samantha Pretorius (bronze – long jump). The women’s relay team of Senekal, Van Wyk, Shannon Arendse and Pretorius took silver in the 4x100m relay event.

Since the inception of Varsity Athletics, the University of Pretoria has dominated the overall competition. In 2015 they had to share the spoils with Pukke.

This time, though, UJ came out tops with a total of 15 510 points to the 15 298 points of the defending champions. Pukke had to settle for third (15 173 points).

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