Rising Eastern Province middle-distance star Rodney Prins is poised to break the 14-minute mark in the 5 000m at the first Yellow Pages Series athletics meeting in Port Elizabeth on Friday evening.
The 21-year-old was impressive in setting a personal best time of 14:12 in winning the title at the Powerade EP Championships last weekend.
“It was also a night race and it turned out to be the perfect dress rehearsal for the Yellow Pages meeting,” said Michael Mbambani, his coach and regional manager of the Mr Price Athletics Club.
He said he expected similar conditions on Friday and was “sure” that Prins – who is the current EP 10km champion – would break 14 minutes in a quality field.
Mbambani said their aim at the EP championships was simply to qualify for the national championships in Durban in March (14:40) and they did that by some margin. Fourteen minutes was now the next, and realistic, goal, he said.
Last week another of Mbambani’s young charges, Zolani Mgqaqa (21), pushed Prins most of the way in also setting a personal best (14:24) at the distance.
“The plan was to go through 3 000m in 8:30, but they did it eight seconds quicker. The fact that they were able to hold on after such a quick start, shows that they are in superb form.”
Mbambani said they made some “adjustments” to Mgqaqa’s training programme this week, including a lot of speed work. “I expect him to be right up there on Friday.”
After dismantling a quality field to win the EP half marathon title last year, Mgqaqa’s stated goal is a top-five position in this year’s Two Oceans half marathon. “The track season is perfect preparation and therefore we take it very seriously,” said Mbambani.
Last year’s 5 000m winner, Siyabonga Nkonde, would be the biggest threat to his runners, predicted Mbambani. The Newcastle runner won in a sub 14-minute time.
“I really respect that boy. He has a huge heart and will be tough to beat.”
Nkonde recently placed in the top five at the national cross country trials in Potchefstroom and is clearly in top form, said Mbambani.
The main programme starts at 6pm at the Xerox NMMU Stadium.
Tickets cost R10 and will be available at the gate. Scholars and students can enter for free.
For more information, contact Le-Anne de Kock on 041 374 2818.
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