Precious Mashele confirmed his status as the king of South African cross country winning the national trials in Pretoria on Saturday morning.
The two-time national champion came into the trials for the 2019 IAAF World Cross Country Championships but had a talented group of challengers chasing his shadow.
Kesa Molotsane upset pre-race favourite Dominique Scott-Efurd to win the senior women’s event in a time of 37:25.
Mashele made his intentions clear from the start claiming a comfortable victory in a time of 30 minutes, 54 seconds.
“I can say I am happy to win the SA Cross Country trials…it is a good start to the season for me,” Mashele said.
“I was worried over the last six kilometres that Rantso (Mokopane) is going to catch me.”
Four-time South African 3000m steeplechase champion Mokopane made a valiant effort to chase the race leader down but Mashele had a good enough cushion to claim the victory.
Pakiso Mthembu (31:16) rounded off the podium finishing third with rising star Ryan Mphahlele finishing fourth in a time of 31.16.
Molotsane, who won silver at the 2018 national cross country championships, broke away from Scott-Efurd (37:33) over the final lap cross the line in first place. Janet Mbhele finished third in a time of 38:12.
“I came here looking to go with some of the fast people because I haven’t run a 10km for a long time,” Molotsane said.
“It is humbling to race with such a strong field in South Africa.”
Molotsane is expected to be selected for her second IAAF World Cross Country Championships after finishing 35th at the 2017 Kampala edition.
Scott-Efurd said she may have got her tactics wrong in the race where she ran most of the race at the front of the pack.
“My goal was to run the first three laps as relaxed as possible but looking back I think I could have been a step or two further back in the pack,” Scott-Efurd said.
“Looking back on it I would have changed my tactics a bit.”
A national squad will be announced ahead of the world championships to be held in Aarhus, Denmark on March 30.
SA Cross Country Trials results:
1 Precious Mashele 30:54, 2 Rantso Mokopane 31:02, 3 Pakiso Mthembu 31:16
1 Kesa Molotsane 37:25, 2 Dominique Scott-Efurd 37:33 3 Janet Mbhele 38:12
Junior men (8km):
1 Realebogo Seopenengwe 25:37, 2 Maxime Chaumeton 25:43, 3 Robert de Villiers 25.57
Junior women (6km):
1 Carmie Prinsloo 21:57, 2 Gene Coetzee 22.14, 3 Danielle Verster 22.16