Walaza wins big at Vorentoe Awards as school athletics programme searches for new sponsor
Having produced national athletes such as Lebogang Phalula and Mapaseka Makhanya and even an Olympian in Lebo Phalula, Vorentoe High School in Johannesburg has long been renowned that for being one of the country's foremost athletic development schools. Twenty years after the Phalula sisters left the school in Auckland Park, the trend continues as yet more future champions are polished there. This year Vorries had no less than six athletes in the South African Team that represented the country at the CAA U18 & U20 African Championships in Zambia where Bayanda Walaza emerged as the standout performer.
The 17-year-old from Katlehong won the bronze medal in the men's 100m at the Levy Mwanawasa Stadium in Ndola in May, just two months after he was crowned SA U18 200m champion in Pietermaritzburg. It means that when it came time to award the Vorentoe High School Athletics team on Wednesday night, it was no surprise when Walaza walked away with the Male Athlete of The Year Award as well as the Athlete's Athlete of The Year Award.
"I started seeing my talent in Grade 7 because I also had a dream of becoming one of the best athletes but I started seeing it when I got an athletics bursary to Vorentoe. That's when I noticed that this thing can take me far," he told #TheTopRunner. "It was easy to adapt because when I arrived here there were a shortage of sprinters and lots of long distance runners. It started being serious last year when we got serious coaches for sprinters. That's when I noticed that it's time!"
Walaza's achievement is yet another highlight in a long line of recent success that dates back to 2021 when Naledi Makgatha reached the final of the 3000m at the World U20 Championships in Nairobi and Johannes 'Limpopo' Morepe who represented South Africa in the 1500m at last year's World U20 Championships in Colombia. Walaza, Makgatha, Morepe, Lebogang Nkanyane, Oratile Mashego and Yamkelo Shosha were the six Vorries that made the SA Team to Zambia.
But hiring coaches and transporting their scores of provincial athletes to meets around Central Gauteng and indeed the country to compete can be an expensive exercise. So the financial support that Murray & Roberts has given the Vorentoe Academy lead by former principal and top middle distance coach Hans Saestadt, has been priceless. Two-time SA Olympian Rene Kalmer is now wears the black and yellow hat. She says they are working around the clock to find a new sponsor for the academy after Murray & Roberts announced earlier this year that their sponsorship of athletics is coming to an end.
"I've been involved Vorentoe for almost ten years and it's always heartwarming to share this evening with you. From Murray & Roberts' side we are so proud of you guys and all your achievements," she told the young athletes and parents in attendance. "And while it's tough with news that Murray & Roberts withdrew their sponsorship, I can assure you that we are working overtime to get a new sponsor and it's all thanks to you. You guys must keep training hard and keep believing and everything will work out for a reason."