Home ground advantage or not, Fort Hare athletes were simply outstanding in the first round of the Border Cross Country League at the weekend.
Despite high winds and heavy underfoot conditions due to recent rains in Alice, the runners put in fine performances to register podium finishes across several categories.
Aphelele Fanekho blitzed the field in the 4km race for senior men with Sinokholo Dyonase doing the same in the 2km event for senior women.
In the U23 section, Siyabulela Mnase and Mbali Tube won the men’s and women’s 4km races respectively.
“Our athletes performed excellently,” Fort Hare coach Zukisa Wanga said. “If they keep up the good work, they stand a good chance of being selected for Border to compete at the South African championships in Gqeberha in September.”
Despite the slow conditions, Fanekho was only five seconds off the qualifying time needed to represent the province.
Tube, with 18 seconds to find between now and September, and Mnase, 30 seconds behind the desired pace, will also believe that they are in the running for provincial colours.
Not that their teammates are rank outsiders either, considering that Lusanda Dlume and Songezo Madwabela followed Fanekho home to make it a Fort Hare 1-2-3.
It was also a Fort Hare clean sweep in the men’s U23 section, where Philasande Dlaba and Liyema Tshikila filled the rest of the podium behind Mnase.
Senior men’s 10km runner Xola Sakawuli placed second in his race as did Andisiwe Mdlungu in the senior women’s 2km outing.
Tube said her run on Saturday was “fantastic” even though it was windy and the course wet.
A cross country athlete since her primary school years, the 21-year-old loved being able to compete – and win – on home turf.
The second-year public administration student has always considered running a form of therapy – in her words, a sure-fire way to “release all the stress”.
Fanekho, 26, who is also studying public administration, is another who took up running early on and the years of training is now starting to pay off.
He, too, enjoyed competing at Fort Hare as he was familiar with many of the routes having used them in training. However, the conditions were challenging.
“The day before there was heavy rain. It was wet and slippery, which meant you couldn’t run as fast. You needed to drop [pace] for the water lying around.”
The event at the Alice campus also saw a number of the Border region’s leading schools and clubs taking part. These included Clarendon Girls’, Berlin Primary, Old Selbornians Road Runners and Young Stars Sports Academy.
In a statement, Border Athletics congratulated the university for hosting a successful event.
“UFH did an outstanding job! Everything was perfect, from the challenging route to the refreshments provided.”