Boy Soke of South Africa (extreme right) on his way to winning the men's 12km at the African Southern Region Cross Country Championships (© Mark Ouma)
Malawi’s Teresa Masters, Duncan Mtambo (Zambia), Zimbabwe’s Tabitha Tsatsa and Boy Soke (South Africa) shared the spoils of victory at the Southern Africa Cross country Championships in Zomba, Malawi (25 Feb).
With ten countries competing, this was the most successful cross country event ever in the region. The Gymkhana Golf Course on which the event was staged was thronged with spectators who cheered all athletes regardless of their nationality.
The men’s 12 kilometres lived up to its billing as the day’s main attraction as the lead group of 20 athletes where tightly bunched together for the first two of the six lap race. Zimbabwean Cuthbert Nyasango broke away over the third laps. South Africans Boy Soke, Tshamano Setone and April Lusapho, Malawians Francis Khanje and Mike Tebulo, Oliver Kandiero (Zimbabwe) and Vernon Hamalila (Zambia) responded as the lead group thinned out.
Nyasango’s moved was miscalculated as Soke gradually overtook him over the fifth lap to win the race in 37:10.28. Nyasango (37:13.92) bravely held of Setone (37:16.05) in the sprint for the finish line to claim the silver medal.
“This was the toughest cross country race I have ever run. My goal was to prove that winning South Africa national championships was no fluke. I hope to be in the top 20 in Mombasa, It will be great to finish among the East Africans who have dominated world cross country,” says Soke.
Experience was the key to victory in the senior women’s race where Melody Nyamaropa (Zimbabwe), Hortencia Domingos (Mozambique), Nancy Matanda (Malawi) and 30:00.47, 4 Viola Raseboya (South Africa formed the lead group over the first two laps.
Veteran Zimbabwean training partners Tabitha Tsatsa (Zimbabwe) and Samukeliso Moyo (Zimbabwe) held back until the third lap before taking the lead and wearing down their opponents. Tsatsa (29:32.18) and Moyo (29:33 08) took the top two placed with Malawian Matanda (30:00.47) third
“This course is a tough and anyone who took the loops and short inclines lightly would pay the price, “says Tsatsa.
“I followed Tsatsa guide as she is more experienced in cross country. We train together in Harare. Sometimes we train in Bulawayo my home town. So I knew we would win following her tactics, “Moyo revealed.
The race got off to a lively start as 16-year-old Teresa Masters took a commanding lead right from the gun. There was drama as Varaidzo Shindi (Zimbabwe) and Miriam Thole (Malawi) begun closing the gap when Masters briefly took off her running vest because of the searing heat. Advised that she would be disqualified, Masters stopped and donned her vest again. She went on to comfortably win in 21 minutes 43.54 seconds (21:43.54). Shindi (22:00.50), and Thole (22:11.40) followed.
Masters said she set out to improve on her third place at last year’s event in Botswana. “Last year we travelled all night by bus the day before the race. So although I was only third I was happy. This time I was looking for nothing less than a clear victory on home ground,” says a delighted Masters.
South Africa’s Siybonga Nkonde set a blistering pace determined to win his third straight regional title. Zambia trio of Duncan Mtambo, Jordan Chipangama and Goodson Chungu, Zimbabweans Joshua Sabao and Jonathan Chinyoka gave chase.
Nkonde paid the price for his early effort as he begun to fizzle badly over the third lap. Mtambo and Chipangama took the lead building a huge gap to take the top two spots in 24:33.15 and 24:55.42 respectively. Working his way up from the middle of the chase pack South Africa’s Brummer Dear (25:10.54) clinched the bronze medal.
“I trained hard for this my first international competition,” says the 17 year old Mtambo. “Now I hope to be among the top 20 at the World Cross country Championships in (Mombasa) Kenya,” says Mtambo.
Africa’s IAAF Council Representative Leonard Chuene commended the Malawians. “We are grateful to the Malawian government and private sector. We appeal to African governments to follow Malawi’s example so that investment in sports not just limited to football. Athletics is the flagship of the Olympic Movement and deserves more support,” says Chuene
Mark Ouma for the IAAF
SENIOR MEN (12km)
1 Boy Soke (South Africa) 37:10.28, 2 Cuthbert Nyasango (Zimbabwe) 37:13.92, 3 Tshamano Setone (South Africa) 37:16.05, 4 Francis Khanje (Malawi) 37:47.14, 5 Mbongeni Ngaxazozo (South Africa) 38:12.73, 6 April Lusapho (South Africa) 38:18.15,7 Oliver Kandiero (Zimbabwe) 38:25.65, 8 Vernon Hamalila (Zambia) 38:34.06, 9 Mike Tebulo (Malawi) 38:34.06, 10 Pule Hlabahlaba (South Africa) 38:58.76,
JUNIOR MEN (8km)
1 Duncan Mtambo (Zambia) 24:33.15, 2 Jordan Chipangama (Zambia) 24:55.42, 3 Brummer Dear (South Africa) 25:10.54, 4 Cansas Nhlapo (South Africa) 25:27.83, 5 Goodson Chungu (Zambia) 25:35.63, 6 Zim Lesole (South Africa) 25:38.71, 7 Joshua Sabao (Zimbabwe) 25:46.43, 8 Jonathan Chinyoka (Zimbabwe) 25:49.83, 9 Tyali Xolisa (South Africa) 25:58.61, 10 George Khanje (Malawi) 26:04.87
SENIOR WOMEN (8km)
1 Tabitha Tsatsa (Zimbabwe) 29:32.18, 2 Samukeliso Moyo (Zimbabwe) 29:33 08, 3 Nancy Matanda (Malawi) 30:00.47, 4 Viola Raseboya (South Africa) 30:25.63, 5 Doris Fisher (Malawi) 30:26.93, 6 Onneile Dintwe (Botswana) 31:10.84, 7 Hortencia Domingos (Mozambique) 31:14.34, 8 Melody Nyamaropa (Zimbabwe) 31:31.15, 9 Louisa Leballo (South Africa) 31:47.21, 10 Sina Jaime (Mozambique) 31:53.37
JUNIOR WOMEN (6km)
1 Tereza Master (Malawi) 21:43.54, 2 Varaidzo Shindi (Zimbabwe) 22:00.50, 3 Miriam Thole (Malawi) 22:11.40, 4 Praxedis Dimm(South Africa) 22:23.72, 5 Yvone Muchindi (Zambia) 22:25.98, 6 Tomaida Pondamli (Malawi) 22:28.00, 7 Evermore Chirere (Zimbabwe) 22:41.18. 8 Cecilia Sianmba (Zmbia) 22:50.03, 9 Mudana Phiri (Malawi) 22:57.03, 10 Elita Phiri (South Africa) 23:35.33,