DF Malan High Schools’ Anja van Heerden, 17, was in a class of her own at the Western Cape Championships, in Paarl, last weekend, winning the double in the girls’ under-19 100m and 200m sprint events.
Anja, from Welgedacht, who is unbeaten this season, stopped the clock at 12.44 and 25.10 seconds in the 100m and 200m sprint events, respectively, to win the gold medals.
The former Welgemoed Primary School pupil will have her sights firmly set on the national high schools’ championships, in Durban, at the weekend.
Already an accomplished athlete since primary school, Anja will compete in her sixth consecutive SA high schools’ championships.
She is now on a mission to win the gold medal after she took bronze in the 100m sprint event at last year’s national champs, in Bloemfontein.
Despite not being crowned SA schools’ champion, she did go on to run a personal best of 12.03 in the 100m sprint event.
“This was one of my better seasons. I am thankful and proud of my results despite minor injuries at the start of the season,” said Anja.
For Anja, it does not stop there, as she still has to take care of business at the Athletics South Africa (ASA) junior and senior championships, in Green Point and Potchefstroom, next month.
She qualified for the events after having a consistent season and making the qualifying standard. She has made the WP clubs’ team since 2014 to take part in the ASA junior champs.
Her best finish was last year, when she brought home the silver medal in the 200m sprint event, in a time of 24.83 seconds.
“I am hoping to run a personal best at the SA schools’ and ASA junior championships. The plan is to make the finals of the 100m and 200m sprints at both competitions. However, to win a medal would be a great way to end off the local season and to qualify for the African junior championships, in May,” she said.
Anja, a member of Bellville athletics club, credits her coach Marcel Otto and head of sport and manager of the high performance centre at her school, Alroy Dixon.
“Marcel is one of the biggest reasons for my success. I would have not been the athlete I am today without him. Alroy has made a big impact in the school athletics squad since his arrival last year. Also, my teammate and semi-finalists at the Rio Olympics Antonio Alkana, who has given me great advise over the years,” she said.
For Anja, it began in Grade 3, when she was chosen for her school’s relay team to take part in the inter-schools competition.
“When I got an opportunity to run in the school’s relay team I made the most of it and never looked back since then,” she said.
DF Malan High School will have five athletes competing in the SA schools’ champs, that includes Anja, Marga van der Linde, Marcello Pienaar, Heinrich Crouse and Eugene Marx.
Dixon said it is an honour for the school and the athletes who qualified.
“The athletes have great relationship with the athletics coaches and managers. We believe in each of their abilities and the positive attitude they have towards the sport,” he said.