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  • Writer's pictureMosibodi Whitehead

Vermeulen and Ramakgopa to shake up the seniors at ASA Senior Track and Field Championships

After three meets of the Athletics South Africa (ASA) Grand Prix Series, all eyes are on the national championships which take place at the Msunduzi Stadium in Pietermaritzburg from 18 to 21 April. And while national record holders such as Akani Simbine and Adriaan Wildschutt are expected to dominate their events, there are likely to be one or two promising junior and youth athletes that end up on the podium.

One such example is 17-year-old Chané Vermeulen who has been flying in 2024. After setting personal bests over 100m (11.75), 200m (23.29) and 400m (52.1) in the month of March, the Höerskool Randburg Matric learner who is coached by Gerard le Grange surprised the pundits when she beat World University Games gold medalist Marlie Viljoen to win the 400m at the final ASA Grand Prix Meet in 52.83 at the University of Johannesburg at the end of March. Although Vermeulen admits that it's not easy to strike a balance between the demands of a fledgling athletic career and her schoolwork, she wouldn't have it any other way.

Vermeulen also won the U20 400m title at the ASA U18, U20 and U23 Championships at the Pilditch Athletics Stadium in March. Photo Credit: CGA Media.

"It's hard, especially with the schoolwork. You have to manage your time well. But I'm very happy with my performance. It's good to compete against the seniors and I'm happy to have that type of competition. I like the Grand Prix events a lot. It's a nice vibe to run there and you get great competition against all those athletes. At SA's I''m probably going to run the 400m and I'm hoping to get my times down. I would like to make it to the final because then it would increase the chances of running a faster time."

Vermeulen who won a silver medal in the 200m at the 2023 African U18 Championships in Zambia has already qualified for the World Athletics U20 Championships, as has another future champion. At sixteen years old, the grade 11 pupil Tumi Ramokgopa already has a cabinet full of accolades. She claimed a pair of bronze medals in the 400m and 100m hurdles at the Commonwealth Youth Games in Trinidad and Tobago last year, won gold in her preferred 400m hurdles at the 2023 African U18 Championships in Zambia and last month she won the national U18 400mH title in a personal best 57.78 in March.

16-year-old Ramokgopa wins the senior women's 400mH at the third ASA Grand Prix at the University of Johannesburg. Photo Credit: Tumelo Mabua.

But her most impressive performance yet came when she dominated a senior women's race. In the absence of Commonwealth Games bronze medalist Zeney Geldenhuys, the Prestige College top runner who is coached by George Bradley defeated the seniors (including some international athletes) to win the 400m hurdles at the third ASA Grand Prix Meet at the University of Johannesburg on the 27th of March.

"That was tough. But It actually strengthened my mentality to be aware of how I feel when I'm under pressure and people are in front of me. It motivated me to run against them. It was good. Hopefully if the season allows it will happen again. But the main goal for this year is World Juniors. Running against the seniors was a boost, so running against U20's as a 17-year-old is another boost. It will help me a lot," she said.

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