Free State’s Tharina Van der Walt and Race Walker Mizaan Viljoen, sent national records tumbling on Thursday as South Africa’s top age group athletes flaunted their talent on the opening day of the ASA Sub-Youth, Junior and Under-23 Championships in Germiston, Johannesburg.
Van der Walt set a new national Youth Girls’ Hammer Throw record with a 61.18m launch to earn the gold medal, while Viljoen won the Youth Women’s 5 000m Walk, setting a national record of 25:17.69 as she chipped 0.81 off the two-year-old best held by Bianca Esterhuizen
The two new records, however, remain unofficial until ratified by ASA.
Sprinter Gift Leotlela was another stand-out performer with spectacular form in the U-20 Men’s 100m dash, clocking 10.21 seconds in the semifinals, just 0.02 outside the SA junior record held by Akani Simbine.
The 17-year-old Gauteng North speedster, who set the national youth record of 10.20 last season, achieved Athletics South Africa’s A-standard qualifying mark of 10.23 for the IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz, Poland in July.
He led two other athletes under the B-standard qualifier of 10.55, with Athletics North West North sprinter Phemelo Matlhabe crossing the line in 10.42 and Ethan Noble of Western Province clocking 10.53.
Malesela Senona (Gauteng North) also put up his hand in the Youth Boys’ semifinals, covering the short sprint in 10.49.
Her Free State teammate Marinda Greyling (60.80) also bettered the previous SA mark of 58.19m set by Marga Cumming last year.
In the Junior Women’s 100m heats, Tamzin Thomas of Western Province (11.59), Madia Ehlers of Gauteng North (11.64), Jean-Marie Vermeulen of Griqualand West (11.74) and Cassidy Williamson of KwaZulu-Natal (11.74) all dipped under the B-qualifying standard of 11.80.
In other events, Jeanelle Griesel of Gauteng North clocked 54.68 in the Junior Women’s 400m heats, dipping under the B-standard of 55.25 for the global championships, while fellow Gauteng North one-lap specialist Abongile Nkunkumana (47.22) and Central Gauteng’s Derrick Mokaleng (47.24) went under the required men’s standard of 47.70.
Distance runner Ikageng Gaorekwe also achieved the B-standard in his discipline (9:10.00), winning the Junior Men’s 3 000m Steeplechase in 9:09.82.
The 100m finals in the various age divisions will be held on Friday, the second day of competition.
“We are speechless about what happened here today,” said a satisfied Aleck Skhosana, the President of ASA.
“What we saw is in line with our predictions that this will be an exciting and action-packed Championship. The high performances are an indication that our athletes are taking the challenge to qualify serious.
“This offers opportunities to the Southern Region Youth Track and Field Championships in Lesotho (April 30 – May 1), the Southern Region Junior Track and Field Championships in Zambia (June 4-5) and the IAAF World Junior Championships in Bydgoszcz (July 19-24).
“It’s also a launching pad for the U-23 division to major open events such as the ASA Senior T&F and Combined Events Championships in Stellenbosch (April 15-16), the CAA Senior T&F Championships in Durban (June 22-26) and the Olympic Games in Rio (August 16-21).”