SA hurdlers gaining ground
Training partners Annerie Ebersohn and Wenda Nel continued to lead the way in their specialist event on Saturday, raising the bar further in their close rivalry, on the final day of the domestic track and field season.
Ebersohn won the women's 400 metres hurdles race at the SA Open Championships in Potchefstroom, clocking 55.87 seconds and edging closer to the IAAF World Championships qualifying mark of 55.40, while Nel crossed the line in 56.77 to finish second.
"At the beginning I didn't think about it (qualifying for the world championships), I just wanted to go to the World Student Games this season," Ebersohn said.
"But when I spoke to (coach) Hennie Kotze and he said, 'you are going to qualify', I started thinking about it."
The men's 400m hurdles has been one of South Africa's flagship events in recent years, with the likes of LJ van Zyl and Llewellyn Herbert spearheading the charge.
Ebersohn and Nel, however, who train with Van Zyl, Cornel Fredericks and PC Beneke, have developed a friendly rivalry that has started to close the gap as the women's discipline develops in strength and depth.
While they were battling it out in front, 16-year-old Helene Swanepoel finished third in a new South African youth record of 58.48 seconds.
Swanepoel shaved 0.29 seconds off Chantelle Terblanche's mark, set in Germiston in 2002.
"I didn't expect to break the record yet, but I was targeting a time in the 58-seconds range," Swanepoel said.
"I am really privileged to be able to run against them (Ebersohn and Nel). They run in front of me but I will always chase them."
The Paarl Gymnasium student also finished third at the SA Senior Championships in Stellenbosch last month, where Ebersohn edged Nel, who had previously dominated the event, to bag the gold medal.
Swanepoel said she had her sights on the IAAF World Youth Championships in Donetsk, Ukraine, in July where she hoped to make the final.
The SA Open was overshadowed by a low turnout from athletes, with some events attracting a single entrant.
There were nevertheless a few encouraging performances.
In the women's high jump, Julia du Plessis and Bianca Erwee continued their tussle for top honours, with Du Plessis securing victory with a best jump of 1.80 metres.
In the men's 200m, Gideon Trotter had to stave off a strong challenge from Roscoe Engel to win in 20.71 seconds. Engel was 0.11 off the pace, with Hannes Dreyer grabbing third place in 21.06.
Engel turned the tables in the shortest sprint, winning the 100m in 10.28, with Henricho Bruintjies finishing second in 10.41. Hannes Dreyer crossed the line third in 10.42.
National women's 800m champion Gena Lofstrand went out fast in her race but was slowed by the altitude.
The 17-year-old nonetheless held on to win in two minutes, 04.67 seconds (2:04.67), with Danel Prinsloo, who launched a strong challenge over the final metres, taking second place in 2:04.70.