Lebo Phalula is among the athletes in the Athletics South Africa squad that will take to the cross-country field in the annual Cross Country trials on Saturday 26 January, and she knows that she will have to work hard to secure her place.
“Because I don’t know how many athletes they are picking for the team, my aim is to finish in the top three,” said Lebo Phalula. The 29 year-old 2011 SA Cross Country Champion has a lot of experience, having been selected to compete internationally a number of times.
The trials at the Boksburg Stadium will boast the biggest field to date, as athletes challenge the provisional ASA squad for a spot in the team for the Southern Region Cross Country Championships in Lesotho on 3 March, and the World Cross Country Championships in Poland on 24 March.
At senior level, Phalula represented South Africa at World Championships in 2009, 2010 and 2011; and the Africa Championships in 2011 and 2012. Her best performance at a World Championships was in 2010 in Poland, where she finished 22nd.
The strongest competition should come from the ASA squad, but with so many athletes competing, anything can happen on the day.
Other familiar faces amongst the senior women include Christine Kalmer (1500m, 3000m and 5000m track athlete), Tebogo Masehla (3000m steeplechase SA record holder) and Portia Ngwenya (3000m, 5000m and 10 000m track athlete) to name a few.
The trials are open to local and international athletes hoping to challenge athletes in the ASA squad as well as those looking to test their fitness levels. Individual entries will be accepted on the morning of the trials at a cost of R30 per athlete.
Two years ago the ASA team finished fifth overall at the World Cross Country Championships in Punta Umbria, Spain, and ASA is urging spectators to come and witness South Africa’s world-class athletes in action on the day.
Entrance is free.
This year, a total of 231 athletes will battle it out in the field, a significant increase from previous years. Only 148 athletes competed in 2012. Two years ago, the year in which the previous World Cross Country Championships took place, only 180 entries were received.
According to the Athletics South Africa president, James Evans, this is a very good sign. “There is great interest in being selected to represent South Africa internationally and cross country is alive and healthy,” said Evans.The Athletics South Africa Cross Country trials at the Boksburg Stadium, on Saturday 26 January: 10:10 – Open Women’s Trials (8km) 11:20 – Junior Women’s Trials (born 1993, 1994, 1995, 1996) (6km)