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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

'I told myself that I am the champion' - Precious Mashele wins ASA Cross country trials

Precious Mashele underlined his status as South Africa's best cross country runner of his generation when he won the ASA Cross Country Trials in Potchefstroom on Saturday. Having initially decided to hang up his cross country spikes to focus on the road and track, the five-time national cross country champion was coaxed back into competition and delivered when he won the men's 10km race in 30:15, ten seconds ahead of his Zoo Lake Group training partner Maxime Chaumeton who was second as veteran Elroy Gelant took third place on the North West University course.

Having had a difficult year by his standards where he struggled to recreate his mercurial 2021 form, Mashele believes that ending the year with victories at the Hollywoodbets Durban Summer 10k and the national cross country trials shows that he's still got it. Reflecting on 2022, the man who represented the country over 5 000m at the World Championships in Eugene, Oregon in July says encouraging results in the last quarter of this year have left him motivated about what's to come in 2023.

Boxer Athletic Club's Precious Mashele in action at the 2022 ASA Cross Country Trials. Photo Credit: Karabo J.

"I'm happy that I have ended the year well," he told #TheTopRunner. "I think the problem this year is that I had a few problems with flu and a lower back injury. But I told myself that I am a champion who dominated from 2018 to 2020 so what's preventing me from dominating now? I know that nothing is standing in my way. I just have to believe in my coach and my training," said the man who is coached by multiple Olympian and national 10 000m record holder Hendrik Ramaala.

Mashele's victory means that he is likely to be selected in the team that will go on to represent the country at the World Cross Country Championships in Bathurst, Australia in February. Having taken 16th place in the senior men's race that was won by 5 000m and 10 000m World Record holder Joshua Cheptegei in 2019, the Olympian's experience will be invaluable as South Africa aim for a strong finish in the team competition.

Although he didn't finish the race after Chaumeton's suicidal opening kilometre of 2:35 left the field gasping for the high altitude air, reigning national cross country champion Mbuleli Mathanga will also be hopeful of gaining selection, as will the much-improved Matthews Leeto who took the silver medal in the 10km race at the ASA Cross Country Championships in Rustenburg.

In the women's race, Team Murray and Roberts dominated the podium as Cian Oldknow won (35:31) by almost a minute from her teammates of Kyla Jacobs (36:28) and Kesa Molotsane (37:32). Naledi Makgatha (22:40) out-sprinted Phemelo Matshaba to win the junior women's 6km race by just one second, while Dino Nako won the junior men's 8km race (24:59). The 2km races were dominated by the middle distances athletes as SA 800m champion Tshepo Tshite (5:07) got the better of Ryan Mphahele (5:08) and Nkosinathi Sibiya (5:10), while Prudence Sekgodišo was untroubled as a cruised to a comfortable 6:19 victory over Janie Janse van Rensburg (6:23).

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