CAPE TOWN – Last Saturday’s South African Trail Championships, run as the Hout Bay Trail Challenge over 40km of the toughest trails in the country, underlined the growing strength of the sport in the country with tough contests to earn places on the national team for this year’s world championships in Portugal in June.
Several athletes have virtually booked their places while others will have a nervous wait before the the team is finalised.
“We are looking to announce the team as soon as possible,” said ASA trail-running representative, Altus Schreuder. “But we need to ensure all steps are followed. In the end, it will be ASA who will ratify and announce the team.”
Up to eight athletes will be chosen, based largely on the results from last Saturday, with the winners, Kane Reilly and Nicolette Griffioen, guaranteed selection, according to the selection policy.
Cape Town’s Reilly was pleased with his form in his first major trail race of the year.
”I’m happy with the race – I felt pretty good most of the way,” Reilly reflected. “It was a bit different to previous years being a championship event with a stronger field. So I guess I was in racing mode much earlier in the race than previously.
“I started out quite fast but this cost me time in the end, so I’m not surprised I was slower than for the last two years.
“I’m looking forward to running for South Africa at the world champs as part of our team. I’ve seen the strength of some of the countries such as France and the USA, who have already finalised their selection, and it’s going to be a high-quality race.”
Unlike Reilly, Gauteng-based Griffioen adopted a conservative strategy in Hout Bay, starting cautiously before upping the ante on the two major climbs to draw level with Stellenbosch athlete, Landie Greyling, towards the end of the first leg before going on to win in 4 hours 58 min – five minutes ahead of Greyling.
“I was a bit concerned about my foot,” admitted Griffioen. “Apart from breaking my foot last August, I smashed my toe in the build up to the race, but in the end it wasn’t too bad! I’m hopeful that I will be able to get away from my final academic year’s commitments for the world championships in June.”
With strong mountain runner, AJ Calitz, having been ruled out, due to tick bite fever, Timothy Chambers, Thabang Madiba, Johardt van Heerden, Rory Scheffer and Christiaan Greyling appear to be the main contenders for the remaining three positions in the men’s team.
Chambers and Madiba have the inside lane, following podium performances in Hout Bay, but Van Heerden has a strong track record at international level. Bad dehydration dropped him from second to fourth and his performance will have to be weighed against Scheffer and Greyling’s impressive races at last year’s Otter Trail race over similar distance.
Landie Greyling and Naomi Brand, second and third behind Griffioen, are strong contenders for the women’s team, with Samantha Reilly hoping that her 4th position will be enough to clinch selection to complete the team.
Top runners, Meg Mackenzie and Toni McCann, are unavailable for selection.