Madibaz - Wesley Loxton

This weekend’s USSA Eastern Cape athletics meeting will provide Mandela University’s fittest, fastest and strongest with the perfect dress rehearsal for next month’s all-important national student competition.

The second edition of the provincial championship takes place at the Madibaz Stadium in Gqeberha on Saturday and athletics manager Bernard Petersen, for one, could not be happier with the timing.

He viewed it as an essential building block towards the overarching event in Stellenbosch from April 3 to 6 and senior nationals in KwaZulu-Natal from April 18 to 21.

Following the postponement of the first-years’ athletics meeting until April 27, the provincial USSA meeting now takes on a different dimension as it offers students a final opportunity to fine-tune their form ahead of the most important events.

Besides NMU, competitors from Varsity College, University of Fort Hare and Rhodes will line up in the Friendly City.

Madibaz Athletics initiated the event in 2023 with the support of Eastern Province Athletics, which takes care of the logistics.

Petersen emphasised the importance of the meeting as the relatively late start to the academic year meant several athletes had missed the EPA league competitions in mid-January.

“It is earmarked for those attending USSA nationals,” he said.

Madibaz - Wesley Loxton

Madibaz sprinter Wesley Loxton will be one of many top athletes competing in the University Sports SA Eastern Cape Championship at Madibaz Stadium in Gqeberha on Saturday. Photo: Supplied

Three academic institutions – NMU, Rhodes and Fort Hare – attended the first event last year with Varsity College making their debut this season.

Petersen said the Madibaz would field a squad capable of picking up several medals at the nationals.

His top athletes will all compete on Saturday, among them Wesley Loxton (100 and 200m), Earl Roses (100 and 200m), Kyle Norman (200m), Elmé Botha (shot put, hammer throw and discus), Aron Phathutshedzo (5 000m) and Lonwabo Mbalula (400m).

The meeting will be preceded by a coaching clinic, aimed at the USSA nationals, for all athletes.

The latter is an important launch pad for the Madibaz contingent.

“It is the second biggest meeting in the country after the SA senior nationals and is definitely a highlight on our annual calendar,” Petersen said.

Those who perform well at the USSAs put themselves in line for selection to the USSA national squad.

The EC USSA meeting, which features 28 track and field events, starts at 1pm with the 5 000m for men and finishes at 3.40pm with the men’s 1 500m final.