UKZN Student Represents KwaZulu-Natal at National Cross-Country Competition
Ms Phethego “Penny” Makaleng was selected to represent KwaZulu-Natal (KZN) as part of the Athletics South Africa (ASA) 2019 cross-country team that competed at Uitsig High School, Pretoria earlier this month.
A member of the University Athletics team and the chair of the Westville team, Makaleng said that it was a great experience competing in the championships with other provinces. She was the only athlete chosen from the UKZN Athletics team.
She graduated with a BCom in Economics and Supply Chain Management during the Law and Management Spring Graduation ceremony and is currently studying towards a postgraduate degree.
Makaleng hails from Byldrift Village in Limpopo and is the older sister to two brothers. She said she is inspired by Nelson Mandela’s words, ‘Sport has the power to change the world. It has the power to inspire, it has the power to unite people in a way that little else does. It speaks to youth in a language they understand.’
Makaleng’s passion for sports, mainly athletics and soccer, began in primary school. While she first became involved in athletics as an occasional sport, things changed when she was introduced to cross-country in Grade 11. In 2017 she decided to devote her time to running as she had achieved more in athletics than in soccer. She thanked her family and friends for being supportive of her sporting journey and encouraged other students to take up sports while at University. ‘Academics shouldn’t limit anyone from exploring other things. It all depends on time management and dedication to what you put your mind to. Throughout my studies I was involved in student leadership and also an athlete, and in the end it all paid off,’ added Makaleng.
Elaborating on the challenges athletes face especially the Westville team, Makaleng said, ‘it is sometimes hard for the female runners or runners in general to be consistent because without a coach guiding your performance it is hard to see whether you are improving or not. My wish is that the University could invest in cross country runners the same way they are doing with track and field runners.’
The KZN team took third place earning themselves a bronze medal.
Words: Sithembile Shabangu
Photographs: Sithembile Shabangu and Supplied