Local favourite Thabang Mosiako and in-form athlete Glenrose Xaba produced the best performances of their careers on Saturday, winning the national men's and women's titles at the ASA Half-Marathon Championships in Gqeberha.
Fast times were produced across the board in the championship contest, which was incorporated into the Nelson Mandela Bay Half-Marathon.
In the open men's race, Mosiako was prominent in a large lead pack for most of the 21.1km distance and he eventually broke away down the beach front in the closing stages to win the overall battle and the SA title for host province Eastern Province Athletics.
Mosiako, who also set a personal best of 1:00:29, dragged three other men under 61 minutes, with Tebello Ramakongoana breaking the Lesotho national record by taking second place in the open event in 1:00:35.
Precious Mashele, representing Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA), was third overall in 1:00:43, securing the silver medal in the national championship, while fellow former champion Stephen Mokoka was fourth overall and third in the ASA Championship clocking 1:00:54 in the colours of Athletics Gauteng North (AGN).
“I've been dreaming of running a time like this and it is so touching to be able to do it here," Mosiako said. "Our training group (under coach Michael Mbambani) has been working hard and I'm happy because I was able to fight for the group, fight for the province and fight for Nelson Mandela Bay.”
In the women's contest Xaba (AGN) was phenomenal, pushing the pace throughout the race and holding on to secure her fourth straight national half-marathon crown in a personal best of 1:08:36.
She took second place overall, just two seconds behind Kenyan athlete Betty Chepkemoi, who won the open race in 1:08:34.
Cacisile Sosibo, who was seventh overall in 1:09:46 and CGA teammate Cian Oldknow - who was ninth in 1:10:48, earned silver and bronze medals respectively in the ASA Championship.
“It's so exciting to win my fourth half-marathon title. I'm still shocked,” Xaba said after the race.
“I'm working very hard to maintain the standard and it's not easy, but with the right support anything is possible. I'm grateful to my coaches Caster and Violet Semenya, and to our training group, who are there for me in good and times.”
James Moloi, the President of Athletics South Africa, said: “I predicted super performances and these were delivered in both races. Congratulations to the winners and to all who made the podium. That is also directed to the respective coaches, their provinces and support staff.
”We throw all our accolades to the beautifull work done by Eastern Province Athletics, Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality and associated sponsors. It was another well organised race.”