SA Schools champs take Easter centre stage

The best school sprint paddlers from around South Africa will gather at Shongweni Dam just outside Hillcrest< KwaZulu-Natal from Tuesday, 22 to Thursday, 24 March for the South African Schools Sprint Championships that promises to be yet another professionally run and hotly contested championships at the picturesque venue.

The Shongweni venue recently hosted the KwaZulu-Natal and South African Sprint Championships with both events having been hailed as resounding successes, boding well for the schools champs over the Easter period.

The spotlight will be firmly on Michaelhouse and KwaZulu-Natal star Jean van der Westhuyzen who dominated the junior boy’s category at the recent South African Championships where he won five out of the seven races that he was involved in.

“Umzinyathi is hard at work preparing the venue and all is on track for a fantastic three days of jam packed racing as 106 events scheduled for Day One alone and racing starting at 07h30 and finishing at 18h00,” event organiser Kim Pople mentioned. “We have over 320 entries from 6 years of age up to 18 years!”

“It is exciting to see an increase in female participation and we even have some C1 female paddlers taking part!”

In the K1 section, Van der Westhuyzen was victorious in the 500m, 1000m as well as the 5000m Long Distance event at the recent national champs however missed out on a clean sweep of K1 wins when he was pipped to the post by Maritzburg College’s Jarryd Gibson in the 200m K1 race.

Van der Westhuyzen then partnered Western Cape prodigy Mark Keeling for the K2 events where the pair dominated proceedings winning both the 500m and 1000m K2 races with Gibson and Maritzburg College partner Dillon Ceronio winning the 200m K2 race while Van der Westhuyzen and Keeling claimed the silver.

The girls racing at the recent South African Championships was somewhat shaken up after Donna Hutton – who starred in the junior girls’ K1 contests – opted to race her K2 events in the senior women’s category, partnering Olympic bronze medallist Bridgitte Hartley, while eventual U18 Girls second place finisher Kyeta Purchase partnered Under-23 star Jenna Ward for the K2 events.

Hutton, who backed up her junior K1 feats with victorious K2 efforts with Hartley while Purchase partnered Ward to third in their three K2 events.

“Fresh from their wins at SA Champs, Donna Hutton, Jean van der Westhuyzen and Jarryd Gibson will all be in action again this weekend!” explained Pople.

“Donna will be pushed by Kyeta Purchase and Sabina Lawrie while the U16 girls charge will be headed by Keegan Kieser from the Western Cape and Caroline van der Linde from Gauteng.

“The boys U16 is wide open with Uli Hart from the Western Cape and Jonathan Jooste from Gauteng paddling well at the recent SA Champs in the U18 category while it looks like KZN’s Joshua Giddings will also be in the mix!”