UFH runners lauded at Border Athletics Awards

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Fort Hare coach Zukisa Wanga, left, accepted Aphelele Faneko’s award for best senior male athlete in cross country on his behalf. Border Athletics president Sicelo Pongoma did the honours. Photo: Border Athletics


The University of Fort Hare had many reasons to celebrate after the Border Athletics Awards in East London recently.

To the delight of his teammates, Aphelele Faneko was named best senior male athlete in the cross country category on the back of some exceptional performances last year. Mbali Tube and Liyema Qabavane, meanwhile, were recognised for representing the region at both the ASA 10km road and cross country championships.

Siyabulela Mnase was acknowledged for his selection to the provincial cross country team.

There was further joy for the UFH contingent when the university received a certificate of appreciation for hosting a superb Border Cross Country League event in January 2023. It was at that this race that Faneko sounded a warning to competitors that it would be his season, blitzing the field in the men’s 4km despite heavy underfoot conditions.

Even though he knew he was in the running for the award, hearing his name called out came as a surprise as there were times last year when he struggled to find his very best form.

But the accolade also made him realise that no matter what the standard of an event, he should always give his all.

“Even if there’s poor attendance or poor organisation [at a race], I must take every competition seriously,” he said.

Faneko’s time at UFH has come to an end and he will be entering the job market this year. As soon as he is settled, he will join a club to see where else his running talent can take him.

While the latter may have moved on, Tube, Qabavane and Mnase are still very much in the picture and will give athletics coach Zukisa Wanga a strong base to work from.

He described the recognition of his athletes as “really amazing” and believed they would be inspired to aim even higher this year.

Wanga said while Tube and Qabayane had performed well in cross country and road racing, he expected them to mature in 2024.

Personal bests were well within their reach and he expected great things from Qabayane, who was moving up to senior level.

With student registration in full swing, the make-up of the athletics squad is yet to be finalised.

That said, Wanga has not wasted any time in getting the established runners together for preseason training.

“Track and field and half marathon preparations are currently our main focus. What I would like to see this year is more of our athletes qualifying for national competitions.”

This, he said, would give them the confidence to challenge for podiums at the University Sports South Africa championships.