Tuks win Varsity Athletics title by split seconds as Palframan reigns supreme

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Maties’ Justine Palframan continued her good vein of form at the final Varsity Athletics meeting at Tuks in Pretoria on 23 March, convincingly taking the win in the women’s 200m. However, pre-race favourites Rantso Mokopane (men 1500m) and Thembo Monareng had to settle for second.

Palframan has been in scintillating form this March, after nine of the eleven races she competed in during the month. Only at the first Athletix Grand Prix in Roodepoort on 1 March and in the 400m semi-finals of the national championships did she finish third and second respectively.

“That felt surprisingly easy,” said Palframan after her 200m win at the Varsity Athletics final. Palframan had jumped on a plane this morning from Cape Town to be on the start line at the Varsity Athletics final after having won the women’s 400m at the Athletix Grand Prix in Paarl the night before.

“My legs aren’t tired at all tonight. I just felt good,” said the 24-year-old with a big smile on her face. “Now it is USSAs (SA Student Championships) at the end of April and then I rest for a bit and wait and see what events I can race in Europe later in the year. If I don’t get to race in Europe this season, that’s also ok. I then get a nice long winter training program.”

Palframan won by over a second, clocking 23.23sec in cool conditions, ahead of UWC’s Robyn Haupt, with Lente Pieterse of NWU rounding out the top three.

Winner of the 1500m at the first leg of the Varsity athletics meeting at Tuks on 2 March, Rantso Mokopane was unable to repeat that performance tonight as he was outgunned by UWC’s Ashley Smith who crossed the line in 3:50.97 in a tactical race. Mokopane, who went into the lead with 250m to go, was not able to hold off the fast finishing Smith and had to settle for second in 3:57.37.

“My legs were dead,” said Mokopane after race. “I felt that mile from yesterday.” Mokopane had won the men’s mile at the Athletix Grand Prix in Paarl the previous evening, becoming the first South African to break four minutes for the mile in 2018.

After running a personal best in the 100m of 10.23sec at the national championships on 15 March, and having won the 100m at the first Varsity Athletics Meeting on 2 March, Thembo Monareng was expected to win the 100m final on 23 March. The Tuks athlete though was outgunned by NWU’s Chederick van Wyk in a surprise result.  A mere 1/100th of a second separated the two as van Wyk clocked 10.31sec to the 10.32sec of Monareng.

For van Wyk the result was a huge achievement as he not only broke his personal best, but he also won maximum points for his University in a race he was not expecting to win.

“I am shocked; I did not expect to win tonight. I had a good start, usually my point, but my drive phase was very poor so I had to work very hard in the last 60m. I was able to stay relaxed where Thembo (Monareng) tensed up in the final meters and I was able to win the race.” Earlier on van Wyk had destroyed the men’s field in the 200m with a time of 20.60sec ahead of Tuks’ Malisela Senona (20.82sec) and Kovsies’ Hendrick Maartens (21.01sec).

No surprises then that Justine Palframan was awarded the Victrix Lodorum and van Wyk won the Victor Lodorum Trophy. Their individual efforts, though, were not good enough to prevent the home team, Tuks from retaining the overall title with 31 152 points to the 31 123 points of the NWU – a victory by just 29 points for Tuks, whose women’s relay team probably won it for them in the final event of the meeting, beating NWU by more than a second with their 46.17.

Photos Christian Kotze

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