The first of the 2014 Varsity Sports athletics events turned out to be everything that we expected and a whole lot more.
In what could almost be described as ideal conditions, the oval track and the fields of Port Elizabeth’s Nelson Mandela Metro University (NMMU) played host to the first of the 2014 Varsity Sports athletic events on Friday evening. Teams of twenty-six athletes from universities around the country competed for honours during what was one of the most exciting events to be seen in the city.
UP-Tuks’ Orazio Orazio Cremona set the tone for an exciting evening by breaking the SA student record in the shot put, and he was backed up by Chad Herman who defended his javelin title and Duane Boer who won the long jump event with a jump of 7.40m.
The University of Johannesburg (UJ) came out strongly with two impressive wins in the women’s track events to match the powerful athletes from UP-Tuks. Monique Stander was unbeatable in the 800m. After a characteristic fast start, Stander and NMMU’s Annica Coetsee led the field until the bell when Stander pulled away. Racing only against the clock, she finished in a blistering time of 2.05.55 to set a new Varsity Sport’s record from Merise Malherbe of UP-Tuks and Coetzee who took second and third places respectively. Her UJ teammate Caroline Marandela took the 3000m crown.
Not to be outdone, UP-Tuks showed their class by winning three of the men’s track events and two of the women’s events in Port Elizabeth. The Tuks hurdlers were on top form, with Le Roux Hamman claiming the 400m hurdles title and Kobus Moolman dominating the 100m hurdles whilst their 4x100m sprint team was in a class of their own. The women’s 4x100m race was dominated by the UP-Tuks. Rikinette Steenkamp stormed into an early lead and the team raced away from the pack. The UP-Tuks speedster and defending champion Anneri Ebersohn broke the tape in the 400m with relative ease. Despite a good start from NWU-Pukke’s Carina Swiegers who ended up in third, the others were no match for Ebersohn. Maties’ Jean Marie Senekal finished in second position.
NWU-Pukke had to make do with one win on the track on the night, with Melissa Hewitt springing something of a surprise in the women’s 200m to beat Maties’ Justine Palframan. The team from Kovsies made their mark in the 100m with Gideon Trotter beating UP-Tuks’ Akani Simbine, and NWU-Pukke took the mile mantle as Jerry Motsau proved a cut above the rest.
The Varsity Sports concept, borrowed from the very successful USA college sports programme, combines the highest standards of university sports with hi-octane excitement. The recipe works well – the proof as they say, is in the eating, and this is exactly what both the competitors and spectators did. They ate up the excitement, soaked up the adrenalin packed programme and seemed to enjoy every minute of the non-stop action during the exciting and eventful evening.
The women’s 200m was a closely contested event which proved to be one of the upsets of the evening. Defending champion and clear favourite Justine Palframan from Maties was narrowly beaten by Melissa Hewitt from NWU-Pukke who finished in 24.02. Palframan came in second, ahead of UWC’s Bernice Roman who had made a promising start before being left behind.
After fighting off a late charge from UP-Tuks’ Stella Marais, Marandela took first in the women’s 3000m from Marais who finished second and Van der Merwe who took third.
“The Varsity Sports events are designed to deliver hard-and-fast action. Competitiveness at its best – add a lot of noise, bright lights and vociferous support from the stands and you have a recipe for success,” feels Trent Key, Marketing and Sponsorship Executive for Varsity Sports. “Because the athletes are competing for their teams, this adds another dimension to the excitement. Remember that our top athletes all have the 2016 Olympics in mind, this is the place for them to be and to be seen, and the time for them to strive towards those elusive records and personal bests,” says a very positive Trent. SA rugby legend Francois Pienaar is the driver behind Varsity Sports, part of Advent Sport Entertainment & Media (Pty) Ltd. (ASEM).
The Varsity Sports programme has entered its second successful year during which the participating universities will compete across six sporting codes, the PE event being the first of the season. In addition to the athletics programme, Men’s hockey will take place from the 3rd May to 19th May at Wits University in Johannesburg, Stellenbosch, Bloemfontein and Johannesburg (UJ). This will be followed by a hard fought football programme from 21 July to 15 September; netball from 15 September to 20 October, rugby sevens, and beach volleyball from 28 to 30 November.
“We need to express our appreciation to our major sponsors,” says Duitser Bosman, CEO of Varsity Sports. “They’re the ones who make these events happen. It’s their commitment which has helped to create this platform, one which enables our young athletes to perform at these levels. The sponsors for the 2014 programme are FNB, Cell C, Famous Brands Group, Samsung, and the Edcon Group.”
“The next leg of the Varsity Sports athletics programme is sure to bring another night of nail biting action,” says Key. “This will take place at NWU-Potchefstroom on the 14th of April, shortly followed by the third event at Stellenbosch on the 21st and the University of Pretoria on the 28th April. Hold onto your seats, if you can’t be there; be sure to watch the drama unfold by following all the Varsity Sports events which are shown on SuperSport channel 210 every Monday evening at 17:45.