SA Trail Champs Previews

OPEN MEN Get ready for a showdown of epic proportions. A field full of top class runners will be lining up tomorrow to chase the title of South African champion and earn spots in the team to the World long distance trail championship in Colorado, USA. Picking favourites is very difficult, since they didn't race each other that much this year and picked their races more carefully. Nevertheless, let's stick our necks out and be brave. The one name that comes up most in discussions is Lucky Miya, winner of the Ingeli Marathon. He is preparing for the World Skyrunning Champs and the one top athlete that hasn't represented his country yet. Michael Bailey won the first qualifier at Silvermine in February and his training for the Cape Town marathon has him in good shape. To find a runner with more pure speed in the race, will be difficult. Reigning champ, Thabang Madiba (injury) as well as Kane Reilly (studies) had quiet build-ups to the race but are both incredibly hungry for the title. Christiaan Greyling ran good qualifiers and is always Mr Consistency. He is an intelligent athlete that just never seems to run a bad race. Two names that haven't featured much in the past are Duncan O'Regan, with his excellent but surprising win at Jonkershoek, and Chad Gordon, with various good results this year and winner at Oorlogskloof. Gordon is a former SA triathlon champ that took a couple of years off to become a doctor and start a family but now back with a bang. If you think that other notable entrants include Jock Green, Victor Gugushe, Andrew Hagen, Melikhaya Msizi, Jacques Mouton and Rohan Kennedy, it is easy to see why we are looking at a mouth-watering race tomorrow. So who do you wil be one?   OPEN WOMEN The complete opposite of the men's race. For various reasons our top athletes will not be running tomorrow with some that are injured, while others have already qualified and chose to sit out. Of course this not only makes the race wide open but may also gives us a surprise SA champion. Add to that the fact that the first 2 athletes earn automatic spots in the team to the World Champs, this result will surely have people talking. Interestingly, the favourites are from all over South Africa, so it will be a battle of the regions. The winners should come from Leilani Scheffer (Gauteng), Danette Smith (Boland), Kirsty Weir (SWD), Magretha Wang and Tracey Almirall (both Eastern Cape). Wanna pick a favourite?   VETERAN MEN Considering that they both featured as contenders in our Open category, Jock Green (Joburg) and Chad Gordon (Grabouw) should be considered as clear favourites in this section. One other name that we would like to add to the mix is that of Marius Hitge from Uitenhage. MASTER MEN Usually one could consider this a one-man show with Noel Ernstzen (Tokai, Cape Town) as the only player. However, for a change this phenomenal athlete will be challenged tomorrow by Graeme McCallum (Joburg). Recent results have shown him to be a serious contender and although the Cape folk may disagree, things may just get interesting. Let's wait and see   VETERAN & MASTER WOMEN As is the case with the Open Women's category, most of the top names are not running tomorrow, leaving the medals on the table for the rest. In their absence the Veterans podium will contested by Driekie Black (KZN), Ad Cole (George) and Charlotte Noble (Cape Town). The Master section has one major star in the name of Maxine Reilly (mother of Kane) who became the first Master woman to successfully complete the Otter Trail Run. She is good enough to beat most runners, regardless of age, and barring a disaster, it is difficult to see anybody keeping her away from the gold medal.