The statistics will show that Tuks athletics have retained the Varsity Athletics title, but numbers can never do justice to the drama that played out on the track.
Before the start of the relays, Tuks were in third place, trailing NWU by 345 points and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) by 37 points. Many thought that that was it, but then again the Tuks athletes were never going to give up without a fight. And fight they did.
It started with the medley relay. The team indeed did not have the best of starts. Johnathan Bredenkamp who had to run the last 800 metres received the baton second last. Only UJ were behind Tuks. It did not seem to faze Bredenkamp. As a seasoned campaigner, he started to catch and pass the leaders just missing out on catching up with the Kovsies athlete.
Kovsies won in 5:49.94 with Tuks second in 5:50.11. More relevant was that UJ were four seconds adrift and NWU eight seconds.
Then Tuks’s “Fantastic Four” – Valeska Nel, Megan Phillips, Ria Moloi and Taylon Bieldt – completed a repeat performance of what they did at the first meeting and won the women’s 4x100m-relay to clinch the “deal” for Tuks.
Although NWU won the evening Tuks were the overall winners by a mere 29 points when the team totals for the two Varsity Athletics meetings were added up. It was only the third time in 15 meetings that Tuks lost out winning a Varsity Athletics meeting.
There were quite excellent performances by the Tuks athletes. Constant Pretorius winning the 400m-hurdles in a time of 50.11s comes to mind as does Thembo Monareng’s 10.32s performance in the 100m, Malisela Senona’s 20.82s run in the 200m and Yvonne Robson 1.80m in the high jump.
It should be remembered that Varsity Athletics is all about the team. Bonnie Tyler hit song “Holding out for a hero” epitomises what happened on Friday night. It was Bredenkamp who stepped up to the plate when it mattered.
It was the fourth time that the Master’s student in microbiology represented Tuks in Varsity Athletics but to use his own words he never felt that he genuinely belonged. For him, it was as if he was the team’s proverbial “third wheel”. He believed the only reason he was selected was because there were not any middle distance athletes at Tuks.
He in fact retired in 2016 writing an emotional letter to Danie Cornelius (TuksAthletics manager) explaining his reasons for doing so. But it seems once an athlete always an athlete. Not running led to him getting depressed and his studies started to suffer.
“It made me realise that I need to be out on the track to be whole as a person. So I dusted my spikes and started again. Immediately everything started changing I was happy again, and I my marks as a student improved.
“When I lined up for the relay I knew the biggest mistake I could make was to tense up. If I did, I was going to have a bad race. I focused on remaining calm, reminding myself that it is just a race. To be honest, I am not a good 800m runner; I prefer 1500m and the 3000m. In light of it, I decided not to go for any heroics. I was just going to run at a consistently fast pace and whatever happens, happens.
“Personally I did not think I had run that great race but the moment I finished I was overwhelmed by the response of teammates. I did not expect that to happen. I can honestly say knowing that I played a small part in helping Tuks’ win is the most amazing moment of my athletics career so far.”
A nice footnote to the evening was that some of the male athletes went on their knees to thank the “Fantastic Four” for securing the Varsity Athletics title.
By Wilhelm de Swardt