Glenrose Xaba will defend the senior women's 10km title she won in Port Elizabeth last year. Photo: Chris Ricco/BackpagePix

PRETORIA – Local distance-running stars Precious Mashele and Glenrose Xaba are favourites to defend their national titles at the 2019 Athletics SA Cross Country Championships at Uitsig High School, Centurion, on Saturday.

Mashele, who finished 16th at the IAAF World Cross Country Championships in Aarhus earlier this year, is set to lead the Central Gauteng Athletics (CGA) team in the senior men's 10km race.

He is expected to face challenges from the likes of Thabang Mosiako of Athletics Central North West (ACNW) and track specialist Flavio Sehohle (Athletics Mpumalanga).

Xaba will defend the senior women's 10km title she won in Port Elizabeth last year, after being included in the Athletics Gauteng North (AGN) team.

This also featured Aynslee van Graan who has returned home after competing on the US collegiate circuit in recent years.

They are up against a field which also includes marathon runners Cornelia Joubert (CGA) and Zintle Xiniwe of Western Province Athletics (WPA).

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In the senior men's 4km race, a hard-fought battle is expected by a line-up featuring the likes of middle-distance stars Rantso Mokopane (ACNW), Jerry Motsau (ACNW), Marko Bucarizza (CGA), Derocious Makhobalo (CGA) and Anthony Timoteus (WPA).

Van Graan is gearing up for a double attempt, after being included in the field for the senior women's 4km race, where she is due to meet track ace, Anuscha Nice of Mpumalanga (AMPU).

“Cross country is one of our most exciting events and we are looking forward to another exciting edition. 

"We believe it’s will be a hard-fought contest,” said Aleck Skhosana, president of Athletics South Africa. 

African News Agency (ANA)