This Saturday saw the merging of the Western Province Athletics Cross Country Championships and the Western Province Schools Cross Country Championships. For this reason the usual 6 spots on the WP team that are normally up for grabs was extended to 12 – So a top 12 age group placing would see the athlete earn WP colours for our 18 athletes on the start line. This is pretty much the dream of any youngster competing on the cross country circuit.
This year we had no fewer than 7 athletes (which is a record on our part) achieve this honour, which is incredible, but in many cases each runner had to overcome so many challenges in the process. We thought we’d give you a little insight into what it took each runner to get there.
Jake Dave: u10 boys (11th)
Jake had an incredible season, winning almost all of his school league races, or at least that’s what the results will tell you. What they wont tell you is that he has struggled through extreme nausea in these races, to a point where he has vomited in the early stages of most races. When dissecting his pre-race protocols we identified that it was an inefficient warm up that was to blame. On Saturday Jake overcame these struggles in the nick of time and managed to sneak into the WP team against an incredibly fast field.
Carolyn Lord: u10 girls (4th)
If there was ever an example of why it was better to be fresh and undertrained rather than fatigued and overtrained it was Carolyn’s season. Carolyn started off the season with an accidental fall on the beach which saw fragmented rock become embedded in her foot, causing further infection. Following that, she had a trampoline accident which saw her off all sport for over a month due to concussion. Somehow with only 4 weeks to go before WP Champs Carolyn whipped things together just in time with an incredible 4th place.
Jessica Bosch: u10 girls (8th)
Jess’s season is a lot less dramatic than the above two (I think we need some normality here). Jess notched up plenty top 3 places and even a few wins in the league races, however after the holidays we noticed that she wasn’t in the same shape as before. A couple of our Tuesday track sessions had her back in shape pretty quickly though. Jess did have to deal with gastric illness the week before WP Champs, just to thrown some of her own drama in the mix. Fortunately she recovered from that just in time to put in a big effort this weekend.
Chanel du Plessis: u12 girls (3rd)
Chanel is a multi-talented athlete, playing every sport she can, and all at the highest level. So my challenge with Chanel is that I’ll never get her completely ‘fresh’. I always find I need to be flexible with the expectations that I set her, based on her fatigue levels on any given day. This is along the lines of ‘if you have respect for your body, it will reward you’. Chanel witnessed a slightly slower rise to top shape this season, when compared with the last, but really hooked it all up on the weekend with an incredible run to get on the podium.
Abigail Bester: u13 girls (2nd)
After finishing 10th in WP Champs last year (when top 6 was required for WP colours) and after illness derailing her 1500m season at WC Champs, Abi had a bit of a score to settle with her legs. She committed to up the training, and this paid dividends when she started racking up some league wins at the end of the season. As with her twin sister, Kiara, Abi would fit into the race horse column. Fast, but a little brittle in the sense that she gets tight from training very easily, so her volume needs to be managed. We knew that on Saturday the heat was going to be on, but it seemed like Abi brought some heat herself to claim the 1st runner up spot.
Kiara Bester: u13 girls (3rd)
Part of the battle with Kiara was trying to convince her how good she would be over 3kms. When I met her just over 18 months ago she was a 200m sprinter, but we don’t talk about that ;) . After switching to the 800m she had a stellar athletics season earlier this year, going to nationals, but that was racing 800m...and even that took a bit of convincing to get her to agree to. At the beginning of the season Kiara wasn’t very confident about racing 3km, but after realizing that she was kicking out workouts at the same paces as her twin sister Abi, you could see that belief come into it. There was a mental switch of ‘3kms isn’t that far’. She claimed 2nd at a few league races (5m behind Abi) and put in an incredible final sprint (ok, so maybe the 200m came through here) to claim the final podium spot on Saturday.
Megan Phillipson: u17 girls (8th)
If you gave away medals to whoever deserved it most, Megan would be on the podium every year. Running is ‘her sport’ and everything else comes second. In 2017 Megan claimed WP colours for the first time, but in both 2016 and 2018 she fell on the wrong side of the cut. It seems like this was her on-year again. Megan had her own challenges though. She was suffering with muscle cramps in her stomach in the early season races. Her abdominals were tightening up. She had to work hard to try relax her abdominals when running, which eventually saw the issue subside. Megan also suffered a minor ankle sprain towards the end of the season, which didn’t help matters in getting her ready. She really came through and put in a really strong performance on Saturday to get her WP spot.
The bottom line is that nobody achieves anything without challenges along the way – And I know that sounds like a cliche’. These were our athletes that ‘made it’ this year... imagine the stories of those that didn’t. Ultimately it’s encouragement to never give up hope. No matter how many times you have to restart your training after a setback, it is worth it. And this is a good lesson for our other 11 athletes that missed out. Mentally being in the right frame of mind can make a massive difference to a day going to plan for these youngsters too – It really is half the battle.
Our 7 youngsters will now set their sights on the Western Cape Schools Cross Country Championships at Hottentots Holland High School on Saturday 31st August. We are so proud of their performances and are looking forward to them stepping up to the next level, next Saturday.
Proud coach signing off