Innovated to identify 14 to 19 year old track and field talent across South Africa, the prestigious Puma School of Speed series made a turn in Durban to unlock the goldmine of athletics talent the Zulu Kingdom had on offer, and spectators weren’t disappointed. Led by local up-coming sprint star, Jessica Bompass, and the former South African under 13 800m and 1500m champion, Garrick Rees, the athletes put up a show to remember at Kings Park stadium.

A morning fit for athletics welcomed spectators at 10.30am on Saturday where the 400m races kicked off proceedings. Chadyiwa Ngoni set himself apart when he ran a sub-50 second 400m, making it looking almost effortless. But he had more to offer in the final. He blasted out of the blocks from the sound of the pistol and broke the tape in 48.92 to win the boys’ under 19 title. Fast Feet club member, Amy Naude, meanwhile, is still in search of a big breakthrough performance in the one-lap event, but her 56.06 victory in the girl’s under 16 race gave us an indication that she is on the right track. Like Naude, Jessica Bompass, a grade 11 pupil at St Anne’s Diocesan College, continued her rise to athletics stardom when she won the under 17 200m final in a commendable time of 24.81. In 2017 Bompass was ranked among the top 20 under 18 athletes in the world, but by the looks of it, she could be in the top 15 this year. Another athlete who could fall under the same banner as Bompass, on the other hand, is Zimbabwe’s Simbarashe Maketa. With a technically sound sprinting technique, the diminutive figure had jaws dropping when he stopped the clock on 21.47 in the half-lap sprint event. The visitor from our neighboring country will be a serious threat to the world in the near future, so it was an honor to witness such talent on Saturday.

The sprints showed off a different side of KZN athletics because in recent years it became the province known to deliver middle/long distance athletes, and when the 800m and 1500m races started, fans finally saw what the ‘distance’ buzz was all about. The day belonged to 14-year-old Garrick Rees who set the bar extremely high when he crossed the line in the boys’ under 14 800m in 1:59.73, and 1500m in 4:05.72. Phumzile Zulu, the girl’s under 14 champion in both the 800m and 1500m, also ran tactically sound races to win in 2:29.86 and 5:01.11 respectively. Thapelo Ramokhoase, also a future prospect, took the honors in the under 15 1500m for boys, stopping the clock on 4:13.64. But his training partner, Siyabonga Ndlovu, then again, stepped it up a notch to become one of the star performers of the day. The 17-year-old athlete comfortably won his age group 800m and 1500m races in very fast times: 1:54.78 and 3:56.73. These times make him a favorite to win two national titles in April at the ASA u/18 and u/20 championships in Paarl. Other athletes who came to show off their already blooming talents were Phelani Maduwa (Freestate), Nicole Louw (Freestate) and Luzaan de Wit (Fast Feet). Louw and de Wit went head-on in the girls under 17 800m, ensuring for one of the most exciting races of the day, and their times of 2:11.25 (Louw) and 2:11.73 (de Wit) are prove. But unlike the girls, Meduwa went out hard from the word go with no one for business, but he still finished strongly in 1:53.40 (800m) to take gold in the under 19 men’s race.

With the Paarl and Pretoria legs of the 2018 Puma School of Speed series still to come, more talent will be unearthed.


Written by Reggie Hufkie