Records tumbled on Wednesday after two days of competition, with some of South Africa's most promising young athletes flaunting their immense potential on day two of the SA Schools Athletics National High Schools Track and Field Championships at Germiston Stadium.
Producing perhaps the highlight of the day, Joshua Acker of the Western Cape delivered an outstanding performance to win a very competitive shot-put contest in the Boys 17 age group.
Acker launched a winning heave of 20.69m* to shatter the SA schools record of 20.42m, which had been set by Kyle Blignaut in Bloemfontein in March 2016.
Showcasing the country's growing depth in the discipline, there was also a hard-fought battle for the other medals, with a total of four athletes sending the shot-put sailing beyond 19 metres. Jacobus van Rensburg grabbed silver (19.41m) and his Gauteng teammate Tian Stolz (19.38m) took bronze.
Earlier, there were also fireworks in the Boys 19 long jump, with Asande Mthembu leading a Gauteng sweep of the podium with a record-breaking effort of his own.
Mthembu landed at 7.79m*, adding five centimetres to the national school’s mark of 7.74m which had been held by Stefan Brits for 14 years. Samkelo Dlamini finished second with a best attempt of 7.66m, and Thabang Mphafi filled the bottom step of the podium with a 7.33m leap.
In the Girls 15 discus throw, Chris-Mari Nel of the Western Cape and Judith Watson of the Free State were locked in a memorable battle for the national school’s title in their age group. Nel ultimately won gold with a 44.86m throw, falling just 22 centimetres short of Mine de Klerk's SA schools record (45.08m), with Watson taking silver after producing a 44.45m attempt.
Clarissa le Roux of Gauteng had to work hard for the gold medal in the Girls 19 discus throw. Le Roux took the win with a best effort of 44.94m, and while Northwest athlete Riandi Boshoff breathed down her neck, she ultimately settled for the silver medal with a 44.11m heave.
Ashley Erasmus was in equally superb form in the Girls 17 discus throw final, winning gold for Mpumalanga with a 48.52m attempt, less than three metres short of the SA school’s record.
Behind her, eight other athletes threw beyond 40 metres in a tight battle for the lower podium places. Alicia Khunou of Gauteng (45.75m) and Leandri de Wet of Northwest (45.40m) took second and third positions, respectively.
And in a thrilling race for the Girls 15 title in the 1 500m steeplechase, Elizma le Roux of Gauteng charged home in 5:12.61, holding off a strong challenge from Free State athlete Carise van Rooyen who was narrowly edged into second place, finishing in 5:12.75.
During Tuesday night's opening session, on Day 1 of the SASA National High Schools Track and Field Championships, race walker Christiaan Bester delivered a standout performance, narrowly missing a national record.
While it had rained earlier in the day, the weather dried up in time the first day's programme got underway at 7pm, following the opening ceremony.
Taking advantage of the cool conditions, 17-year-old Bester coasted to a convincing victory in the 10 000m walk in the Boys 19 age group, which was the first race of the championships. He stopped the clock at 46:46.40 to secure the gold medal, less than half a minute outside the SA Schools record of 46:18.66.
Another full day of action is on the cards in Germiston on Thursday, with the day three programme starting at 7am and finishing at 7pm.
“What a busy two days for national school’s athletics!” said James Moloi, the President of Athletics South Africa. “As we continue to highlight all sectors of athletics, records began tumbling on Day 2 and we are confident that more remain on the radar for the taking with two more days to go.”
* Records are subject to standard ratification procedures.