By Warrick Smith
The Rhodes University Athletics Club is one of the university’s oldest supported clubs. Started in 1909, the club annually signs more than 100 members and is consistent in producing not only a friendly and relaxed atmosphere, but also a willingness to compete.
The Athletics Club has always produced results with many of its athletes competing at the highest level against professionals in triathlon, road running and track and field. This year the Men’s 4X100m team won the Tri-varsity event against arch rivals Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU), for the first time ever.
The Athletics club have now been given the opportunity to further their track and field athletes with the possibility of a tartan track. A tartan track is an all-weather, synthetic track surfacing for athletics made of polyurethane. It allows athletes to compete in bad weather without serious performance loss and improves their results over other surfaces. Eloïse Marais, the track and field captain, said, “Tartan tracks are used in all major athletic events around the world and are ideal for training and attaining fast times. Not only will this improve athletics training at Rhodes, it also serves as an important purpose for the Greater Grahamstown and Cacadu district, in that it is used for all athletics meetings in the region. Presently the track serves 132 schools. The construction of a tartan track will give schools and other less fortunate people the opportunity to enhance their athletics career and compete at higher levels.”Unfortunately there is a lack of funds for the project. According to Aziez Madatt, Head of Sport, “The lotto has donated R1.5 million to Rhodes Sport for the track but costs for the entire project now stands at R4 999. This could be done by either approaching private donors or by the university funding the balance for the project.”
Rhodes University is always keen to aid the Grahamstown community and surrounding areas with various outreach initiatives as well as letting schools make use of the services which the university offers. Confirming this, Madatt said, “We service both the local schools as well as the greater Cacadu region because our facility is currently the only one in the region.” However, Madatt added, “Until we upgrade the surface, we will not be able to host any regional or major championships due to the surface not being up to standard.”
Michael Irwin, president of the Athletics Club and long-time member said: “In my opinion, a tartan track would be of enormous benefit to both the university and the community,” Irwin added, “Having a tartan track would play a large role in the recruitment of athletes, as well as in raising the standard of track and field for Rhodes and the larger Grahamstown community.”