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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I'm proud that I was able to represent SA at 17' - Rising 1500m star Morepe wins CGA Cross Country

Rarely have I witnessed a junior athlete bring a crowd to its feet in celebration of a remarkable performance that stirred the emotions of adults and children alike. Yet, this is precisely what happened at the Kagiso Sports Complex on Gauteng's West Rand yesterday when Johannes Morepe took the Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) U17 Boys 6km Cross Country title in 20:01. One a day when spectators and participants sheltered behind buildings to avoid the piercing polar wind or huddled together to keep warm, scores rose to their feet and mobbed the home straight chanting 'LIM-PO-PO, LIM-PO-PO' as the Höerskool Vorentoe runner surged passed Zenzile Tumelo Pheko to win by 8 seconds.

"The guy from Kopano Athletic Club (Pheko) gave me a bit of a challenge today but my fitness is good. I can't complain. I sat in the bunch and then I decided to go for the win when it was time to move," he told #TheTopRunner moments after his victory.

Morepe cruising to victory in the U17 Boys 6km event during the 2022 CGA Cross Country Championships. Photo Credit: SmacPix.

More impressive is that the 17-year old Grade 11 pupil only returned from the World Athletics U20 championships a fortnight ago where he represented South Africa in the 1500m. Going into the competition after having set a new personal best of 3:43.96 when he finished fourth in a senior race in Stellenbosch in March, three days before winning the national U18 title, Morepe expected more out of himself in Colombia. Even though all he could manage was eighth (3:49.63) place during his heat in Cali, he says he learnt a lot from his first international adventure.

"Eish...I can't say I did well, but it's okay. I gained a lot of experience. When you travel abroad for the first time, there is some stage fright because you feel the pressure - everyone is looking at you. But I'm proud that I was able to represent South Africa at seventeen years old, which is what I wanted. And I still want to represent SA again. The East Africans are very strong on their last lap, so I just have to fix my last lap because it was slow. I must be able to sprint with them when they move in the final lap," he explained.

Morepe and Sibusiso Msibi of Thembisa Athletics Club go head to head in an U17 boys street mile. Morepe went on to win the Zet Sinqe Series Run on Saturday, 21 August 2021 at Germiston Lake which was hosted by the Zithuele Sinqe Foundation. Photo Credit: Central Gauteng Athletics.

Born and raised in the township of Jane Furse in Limpopo's Sekhukhune district, the lanky young man who runs with his right arm tucked into his body as though it were in a sling says he started running in primary school. When he was later selected to represent his province at a national championships which were held in Potchefstroom, Vorentoe High School's Hans Saestad and his team saw the boy's talent and recruited him to join their Murray and Roberts Running Club academy at the Johannesburg-based School.

Since then he has developed into a force on the track and cross country while showing potential on the road - he ran 30:51 in his only official 10km race as a 16-year-old during the 2021 Absa RUN YOUR CITY DURBAN 10k. But he says the 1500m remains his first love. "I love the track. I love the 1500m more than all the other events. I really enjoy running it. I want to go far with this event and even have my own sponsors one day. I'd like to qualify for the World Juniors again," he said.

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