The 2017 ASA Cross Country Championships heads to Trim Park in Potchefstroom on Saturday 9 September. Set to be a highlight is the senior men’s 4km race that usually attracts the biggest crowd and the defending champion Marko Buccariza of Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) is back. But he will be joined on the starting line by a very hungry Jeromy Andreas (CGA), the confident World Student Games 3000m steeplechase silver medalist Rantso Mokopane (ACNW), KZN Athletics’ latest middle distance sensation Nkosinathi Sibiya and the man capable of winning any championship race, Folavio Sehohle.


In Pacaltsdorp, George, in 2016, Buccariza became a hero in Gauteng when he came from behind to steal the title from Jerry Motsau. Since then, it has been injury after injury, but he recovered and he is fitter than ever. “I don’t consider myself the most talented athlete. There are more talented guys than me out there, but it doesn’t mean I can’t beat them” said Marko concerning the pool of talent he will compete against. Described last year by coaches as ‘one of the fittest guys in the country’, the former Wits University student made his mark when he won the sought-after men’s 4km title in fine fashion. Running a well-paced race, he worked his way through the field to take the title in the dying stages of the race. “I am coach-able, I enjoy the process and I am consistent” mentioned Buccariza who will be seen lining up next to teammate Andreas.


Andreas, the 2017 CGA 4km cross country champion, continues his climb to the top. Injuries slowed his progress since 2013, but Andreas’ fighting spirit have seen him overcome the worst. From Achilles to Hamstring injuries, he manages to get overcome it and still run fast. In April, the Western Cape born star clocked 13:52.13 and 29:08.51 to win the University Sport South Africa (USSA) 5000m and 10000m titles. The chuffed University of Johannesburg graduate maintained his form and, despite ‘small injuries’, managed to win the CGA Cross Country Championships. “I really want this title, I’ll approach it like a world champs final and I’ll give my best” mentioned Andreas who finished sixth in the 10000m at the World Student Games in Taipei, Taiwan two weeks ago. Clearly that should give you an indication of what the man can do.


But the man who always prevents Jeromy’s title dreams, Rantso Mokopane, will also line up. Injury stricken Andreas always had it tough against Mokopane, but they are back to their best, so we can expect an interesting race. Mokopane is confident after his first major international podium finish and dominating the domestic steeplechase season only adds to that, but he admits it won’t be easy. “Track and cross fitness are so different, it’ll be difficult heading back not knowing what my mates in Potch are looking like, but training shall give us an indication of what we can do.” Although he will line up with zero cross country training, Coach Spring Phakhati’s athlete is a threat.


New-kid-on-the-block Nkosinathi Sibiya, on the other hand, will add a twist to the race. With a 3:40.69 1500m personal and season’s best to his name, he will can make use of his track speed in the final stages of the race if need be. The 2017 South African 1500m silver medalist might not be known to many, but when he runs, his presence is felt, and that’s when it counts the most. Working under the watchful eye of Coach Sponge Seme, he knows what is to train and race hard, so be on the lookout for him.


And like Sibiya, Athletics Mpumalanga’s Sehohle makes it known that he is ‘in the mix’ wherever he lines up. In 2016, he was crowned South African 1500m champion in Stellenbosch and it has been dry ever since. But the fact that he will turn up for the 4 and 10km races on Saturday could mean only one thing, he wants a gold medal.  And why not? He has 3 minute 42 seconds 1500m and 64 minute 21.1km season’s best times and with the big match temperament he encompasses, he poses a serious threat. Any title would put him back on the map after a quiet season.


Written by Reggie Hufkie