OVER the years, there have been a few high jumpers who had the crowd in awe of their achievements – and mostly when the announcer was on the ball.
While the announcer’s name is long gone and forgotten, the name Mark Bowers is not.
Attention please, attention please, could we please have silence, Mark Bowers is about to attempt 2,045m.
The shutter of the one and only tuck shop feeding the multitudes at Athlone Stadium — we were not known as the masses yet — closed for the historic moment.
At the end of it, the announcer got his wish.
Bowers got the record.
In 1981, as a pupil at Spes Bona High, Bowers catapulted himself into the pantheon of high jumping.
Well, catapulted, for the record, he did the Dick Fosbury Flop.
Bower’s record wasn’t a once off.
He was an athlete who incrementally became a better high jumper. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, he held several Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union (WPSSSU) and South African Senior Schools Sports Association (SASSSA) high jump records.
If Bowers got the crowd’s attention, and the record at the time, if not the announcer, the man from Atlantis, in time, stood taller than any other high jumper.
Daniel Orange, with the elasticity of a rubber band, whipped his body, if not wrapped his body around the bar for a career best of 2,10m – staggering for its time in the mid-1980s.
Like Bowers, his run-up came off the grass surface. Later on, he was to jump off the tartan surface.
At 5pm, on a Saturday afternoon, weather conditions were tough. The south-easter was up, and anything remotely looking like an athlete, at Vygieskraal Stadium, battled.
There had been the rare exception – the jump in the mist. Boy, oh boy, Rowan Spies of South Western Districts broke the junior men’s record at the South African Amateur Athletics Board’s Prestige Track and Field meeting in 1987.
In April, the mist comes up quite generously, doesn’t it! In fact, by the time of Spies’ high point in his career, 2,06m, most had left the stadium, including athletes.
The athletes had gone off to prepare, supposedly, for the presentation in the hall of Garlandale High School.
As for Daniel Orange – the man could jump. And jump, he did.
By 1984, as a schoolboy athlete, Orange leapt 2,07m – a tall order by any stretch of the imagination. A schoolboy!
Like Bowers, he came through the ranks, slowly but surely reaching that high point of no return – a superlative performance.
As a youngster, Orange competed against Trevor De Bruyn and Gwynne Botha. Two serious contenders not to be trifled with. The former WPSSSU and SA colleges high jump champion Andrew September (main photograph) of South Peninsula and later Hewat Training College also took up the challenge against Orange.
Orange was a versatile athlete, he could long jump, and was the record-holder, too. In fact, he broke De Bryun’s long jump record of 7,12m and improved it to 7,28m.
In 1986 as a schoolboy, Orange leapt 7,67m for a new SASSSA record.
The high jumpers prior to De Bruyn were Patrick Dowman and Charlie Cavernelis. Cavernelis was the SAAAB senior men’s high jump record-holder with a height of 1,98m set in Port Elizabeth in 1977.
Dowman succeeded Cavernelis as the new SAAAB record-holder with a height of 2,00m set at the Dal Josophat Stadium in Paarl.
In the words of one writer, Dowman was the dream athlete!
The high jumpers mentioned are not the sum total of high jumpers.
In the boys section, the names that come to mind are Julian Williams, Clyde van Graan, Alvino Isaacs, Graham Schaffers of St Owens, Hilton Coetzee of Parkwood, I Cameroodien (1,80m as an under 14 athlete), Rafique Mohammed (2,09m in 1991) and Andrew September. They were all record-holders at one stage or another.
In fact, in 1992, Graham Schaffers improved Daniel Orange’s mark of 2,10m to 2,15m. Schaffers’ story will appear later.
One of the old photographs posted includes Nadeem Abrahams of Luckhoff High in Stellenbosch who set a new record of 1,80m in 1975.
The girls and women’s high jumpers were not to be outdone.
Tania Brown of Marion High and Spartans led the way.
Brown, Bronwyn Bock (Westridge), Nariman Rylands (Spartans) and Claudine Fisher (South Peninsula) were among the top, if not the top, high jumpers during sports isolation.
At club level Fisher, Rylands and Brown kept the crowd spellbound with their attempts over the bar.
They were terrific to watch, each having their own approach towards the bar.
Rylands, 14, burst onto the scene in 1984 with South African senior schools record of 1,59m in Johannesburg. Rylands went on to gain senior club colours and was frequently in the record books during her time at school and clubs.
Brown cleared 1,68m as a 14-year-old girl competing in the under 15 age group at the 1987 SASSSA championship.
In fact, Brown’s 1,68m height, cleared, was the best height for any girls’ age group at SASSSA level up until 1994.
At SAAAB level, she cleared 1,70m.
Bock is next best at 1,67m, at schools level, in a higher age group. All four of these jumpers, as teenagers, were 1,60m plus jumpers and they have represented WP and SA at schools and club level. Terrific.
Jennifer Martin of Trafalgar, Annelise Meiring of SP and Hayley Marais of Belgravia High are some of the other jumpers who come to mind. Martin and Marais landed up in the record books of senior schools.
- The list of performers here is not dismissive of any other high jumpers. – Written by Clement du Plessis