Kesa Molotsane, Lara Orrock and Tyler Beling were the only Free State athletes who scored the distinction of stepping onto the rostrum in world championships events at the highly competitive South African cross-country championships, which was staged in Potchefstroom on Saturday.
The world championships events are: senior men (12 km), senior women (10 km), junior men (8 km) and junior women (6 km).
Prerace favourite and currently the foremost distance runner (women) in the country, Molotsane found the going tough in the 32 degrees temperature they had to negotiate with during the 10 km, but her fighting spirit will long be remembered.
She was involved in a titanic battle from the onset with another star distance runner from Gauteng North, Glenrose Xaba. Although one could clearly see that Molotsane was not near her best during the race, she kept on fighting the regular attacking Xaba up to approximately 300 m to the finish.
Molotsane then went into the proverbial reverse gear and this allowed Xaba to score a surprising victory (35:51) over Molotsane (36:09), who was dehydrated after the race.
It should be mentioned that Molotsane returned to South Africa from the world Student Games where she finished ninth in the 5000 m in a personal best time of 16:01,72 in the 5000 m. And, she had a severe season before the World student Games. This includes leading the highly competitive Spar Ladies’ 10-km Road Race series.
Orrock ran the race of her life in the 6 km for junior women after a one-for-you, one-for-me battle during the entire race. Beling, the more fancied prerace Free State possibility to clinch this title for the Free State, was leading the race up to approximately 2 km when she suddenly looked like a wounded animal on a game farm.
Orrock and Thobile Vilakazi (Central Gauteng) saw Beling struggling and passed her. Orrock and Vilakazi were then battling it out for gold, exchanging the lead a couple of times. Vilakazi eventually got the better of Orrock to clinch the title in 22:11, whilst Orrock entered a time of 22:26 on the result sheet for her silver.
Beling (third, 23:35) struggled in more than a minute behind Orrock. This was also the first time Orrock could beat Beling in a cross-country race this year and that alone underlines Orrock’s big match temperament. – RUFUS BOTHA