THE PUMA SCHOOL OF SPEED SERIES KICK OFF IN FINE FASHION
The second series of the Puma School of Speed kicked off in the most fashionable manner in Potchefstroom on Saturday. With more than 700 athletes registered to compete, the vibrant spectators were treated with fast and explosive action from the sound of the first pistol.
The 400m heats brought to life the competition at 12h30 on a fine day at Puk McArthur Stadium. In the boys’ u/17 and u/19 races two athletes dipped under 49 seconds, setting the tone for the rest of the day. Malesela Senona, Tuks’ 100m and 200m junior sensation, was a surprise addition in one of these heats. Gritting his teeth, he dipped over the line to finish the race in under 50 seconds, and that was followed up by a 100m heat which he won. The conditions remained perfect for sprinting throughout the afternoon, but only two boys ran faster than 11 seconds in the 100m heats. The girls came very close to breaking the 12 second barrier, however most of them decelerated in the last 20m of the race, making for slower times than usual. The boys’ u/17 and u/19 200m heats saw the youth stars go head-to-head for a place in the final. With the world u/18 200m champion, Retshidisitswe Mlenga, absent, a new star of Prestige College was introduced.
A change of script came about when the 1500m finals started though. Noordheuwel (HS), Helpmekaar (HS) and Midstream College dominated the girls’ races, but the boys had new faces on the podium after each race. With the ASA u/18 and u/20 Championships three months away, it was great to see so many girls run under 5 minutes. Remember, we are talking about altitude here. Needless to say, a tight battle in the final stretch of the men’s u/19 race got the spectators on their feet, and when the clock stopped on 3min57seconds, the cheers got even bigger. What followed was the remaining finals on the program: 800m, 400m, long jump, high jump, hurdles, 200m, 100m and relays.
The high octane action started at 4pm with the u/14 90mh finals. Each hurdle race brought its own drama in the form of fierce competition until the finish line was crossed. It is early days in the athletics season, and the times, distances and heights in all the other events proved it. The 400m boys managed another 48 second win while the fastest girls got very close to the 54 second barrier. In the 800m only one athlete went faster than 2 minutes, and although most athletes (even girls) passed the first 400m in under 65 seconds, a drop in pace in the final 200m was evident in most of the races. But the same can’t be said about the 200m and 100m finals, however. These were the races families and friends in the crowd came out to see, so the athletes did not hold back at all. All races went to the wire as the 14-19 year old’s battled it out for glory and a spot in the Puma squad (that is to be announced at the end of the series). The times cannot be compared to those of the previous year, but sub 11’s and early 12 second races can be commended.
Painted with bright Puma branding, a vice-principal’s office and an in-field warm-up area, the series give athletes a taste of what top-flight athletics is all about. From massages to drinks, our young stars were treated like…stars.
Event organizers, Stillwater Sports, in partnership with Puma and Spur, are to thank for giving athletes this platform.
Written by Reggie Hufkie