KZN schools gear up for relay battle

2014-09-18 00:00

SCHOOL athletics in KwaZulu-Natal is gearing up for what will be the biggest relay event in recent years.

The 2015 Comrades KZNA (KZN Athletics) Relay Challenge was born out of last year’s event, which was organised by the Fast Feet Athletics club. This year, the Comrades Marathon Association has come on board to make the relay bigger and better while Adidas are a main sponsor once again.

To date a number of schools from four KZN districts have confirmed their athletes will sprint it out at the semi-finals on September 26 with the hopes of making the final on October 2 at the King’s Park Athletics Stadium.

As if the pressure wasn’t high enough with school pride at stake, schools are competing for R50 000 in prize money, R70 000 worth of equipment from Adidas and a bronze spiked trophy.

The race itself is an exciting format. It is purely a team event that consists of one 800 m, one 400 m, two 200 m and four 100 m athletes per team. The school teams are divided into three age categories.

There will be 20 teams per age group in male and female categories — accounting for 40 teams per age group and 120 teams altogether.

At the race’s launch at Prime High Performance Institute yesterday, KZNA president Sello Mokoena said that the event could be a tool to take athletics back to its pinnacle of years past.

“Looking back 25 to 30 years, we didn’t have to do much as government made conditions condusive for sports to grow. Sport was compulsory at school and children participated once a week.

“Once you identify talent at grass roots level, you can develop it.

“South Africa has so much talent and we need to concentrate on youngsters as they are the future of sport. We are looking to host the Commonwealth Games in 2022,” Mokoena said.

Comrades Marathon Association chairperson Macdonald Chitja said that their involvement in the race stemmed from their endeavours to support initiatives that give people opportunities to compete on the track.

“We want to see running get back to the heights it was before and we believe this race will help us do that. Before you do the Comrades you need to start somewhere and relays is a great place to do so,” Chitja said.

Glenwood pupil Ilunga Mukendi competed in last year’s event, which his school won, and he believes it is a great event to be involved in.

“It gives us an opportunity to meet people from other schools and learn new things. I think the expansion is great as the competition will be harder,” he said.

“It also gives schools from rural areas a chance to measure themselves against athletes from bigger schools and could give them a chance to be noticed by one of those schools,” Mukendi said.

Schools need to express interest by tomorrow if they wish to enter.

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