Rhoode thrills at schools’ meeting with a record-breaking run in the 400m

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BY CLEMENT DU PLESSIS

“THERE’S nothing better than to run in front of your own school at an athletics meeting on the grass track of the Athlone Stadium.”

The year – 1990! Andre Rhoode running in a “middle to outside lane” dips under 50 seconds – the first boys open runner to do so in the 400m in the fold of the Western Province Senior Schools Sports Union (WPSSSU).

Rhoode, a former student of Lavender Hill High School, powered his way to a time of 49,6 seconds in the 400m, beating the mark of 50 seconds flat, set as far back as 1973 by another remarkable runner of Elsie’s River Abraham Charles.

The article describes Andre Rhoode’s record-breaking run in the 400m when he clocked 48,2 seconds at the SASSSA meeting.

 Rained heavily

“All I remember is that the record stood for a very long time,” said the senior manager at Longbeach’s Pick ‘n Pay.

He broke the record at the Champion of Champions meeting held midweek under floodlights because of the heavy rainfall on the previous Saturday.

“Even though it had rained heavily on the Saturday, I still had to contend with the rain on the following Wednesday when I broke the record,” said Rhoode.

Soggy and heavy going

The grass track at Athlone Stadium in March of that year had to be soggy and heavy going, which puts Rhoode’s performance into perspective.

Rhoode is a big fellow with a strong upper and lower body, and together with his pace, he was perfect for the distance.

He had an intrinsic quality of nailing the last 100m in the 400m which helped him to be fairly consistent in running the race under 50 seconds.

Rare to dip under 50 seconds

Andre Rhoode crosses the line in the boys open 400m at Athlone Stadium.

At the South African Senior Schools Sports Association’s (SASSSA) track and field championships in Oudtsthoorn in 1990, Rhoode erased the 1978 record of 48,7 seconds set by Boland’s C Solomons. Rhoode lowered the mark to 48,2 seconds.

Up to this point, it was very rare for any schoolboy to run under 50 seconds.

Down the years, at senior schools’ meetings, there have been marvellous and highly talented runners in the 400m. Hewat’s Allan O’Ryan comes to mind, Sinton’s Ivan Masters, Abraham Charles of Elsie’s River, Andy James of Belgravia and Hewat, the irrepressible George van der Burg of Sinton, Cedric Momberg of Belgravia and Leon Pietersen of Sinton.

Terrence Smith and GT Moodley

There’ll be those that would argue, but hey, Terrence Smith ran 49,3 seconds as a 16-year old in 1973. But that was as a club athlete at an SA club championships.  At school, Smith competed in the 100m, 200m and 4x100m relay. And at the 1972 SASSSA championships at the Green Point Track GT Moodley of Natal set the boys open record of 49,9 seconds – the first athlete, nationally, to dip under 50 seconds. The 1972 championships was a good year for Natal, boasting star material in Ismail Collier and Rashard Williams who smashed the boys open sprint records.

Long jump and triple jump

The boys open 400m champion Andre Rhoode in his SASSSA colours.

Rhoode wasn’t a one-lap wonder. He did the long jump and triple jump, setting the boys open triple jump record of 14,56 metres at the same SA schools meeting.  The old mark was held by George van der Burg, a household name in the sport in the early 1980s.

“I was fond of playing three sticks in the road with friends. I used to win all time, and I guess, this is where I developed the talent for the triple jump,” he says.

Rhoode’s accomplishments, against this background on the same grass track and thin triple jump take-off boards, are worthy of praise for an athlete who was his school’s only outstanding athlete. The school rests in the dunes of Lavender Hill, the dunes on which Sammy Frans, the school’s PT master nurtured and perfected Rhoode for the rigours of top-class athletics at the Athlone Stadium.

Move up to the 400m

“I wasn’t a top athlete for most of my career. At William John Kay Primary school in Grassy Park I did high jump (he was tall for his age) and some of the short sprints. At high school, I tried out in the 100m and 200m, until Mr Frans said ‘this wasn’t working out’. It was then that Mr Frans said I should move up to the 400m and stay with the 200m. The long jump and triple have always been events in which I featured, so I stuck with those events,” says Rhoode.

He did extremely well in the 400m and triple jump for an athlete who didn’t really train much.

Dean Daniels, Brian Daniels and Andre Rhoode in their WPSSSU tracksuits.

Rhoode elaborates on school training when Mr Frans coached and trained him on the dunes behind the school. He did no training on his own.

“Mr Frans would work with the athletes in the mornings and afternoons, and that was it for me,” says Rhoode.

Team mates

As an athlete at Western Province and SA schools level, Rhoode’s team mates included star performers Shawn Abrahams, Brian Daniels, Mark Frank, Bronwyn Bock, Odessa Krause, Noreen Julie, Dean Daniels, Theo Desmore, Walter Fourie, Cornel van Sitters, Phoebius Mullins, Owen Machelm to name a few.

After matric Rhoode joined the South Peninsula Amateur Athletics Club and participated at some of the club meetings at the Vygieskraal Stadium.

Andre Rhoode of South Peninsula was the athlete of the day after winning the junior men’s long jump and triple jump events at a club meeting at the Vygieskraal Stadium.

“Yes, we used to take the train to Athlone station and walk all the way along Klipfontein Road to the Vygieskraal stadium in Johnstone Road near Rylands,” he remembers.

Athlete of the day

At one of the Western Province Amateur Athletic Union’s meetings, Rhoode walked away with the athlete of the day award.

“I won the junior men’s athlete of the day award for my performances in the long and triple jump events,” says Rhoode.

But Rhoode wasn’t going to hang around at the club scene too long in 1991.

Senior men’s level

He had been chosen for the SASSSA team again in 1991 and had to compete as a senior men’s athlete against the likes of Bobang Phiri of SAAAB (South African Amateur Athletic Board), and Clint Cloete of the Western Province Amateur Athletics Union (Cloete was studying at Bellville Training College).

Phiri and Cloete were hardened and seasoned 400m runners, and for Rhoode to make any impression on them would have been impressive.

Derick Fredericks of Boland and SASSSA was another runner who was making in-roads into the 400m and 800m races.

Quit scene

Rhoode quit the athletics scene like hundreds of talented schoolboy athletes before.

Andre Rhoode of Lavender Hill High School and Cornel van Sitters of Heathfield tail Shaun Vester of Grassy Park in the bend of the boys open 200m at the Athlone Stadium.

The jump from under 18 at school level to senior men mostly proved a daunting task for the WPSSSU athletes. And the athletics season, at club level, was much longer, starting in October to April.

At school level, athletes had a maximum of two serious competitions: inter-schools and the Champion of Champions, then on to the SASSSA meeting.

Stirring and thrilling stuff

The semi-champs only came about in 1983 as a result of the growing number of school athletes.

The inter-schools meetings were stirring and thrilling stuff, though.

Nonetheless, Rhoode can look back on a proud record in athletics.

After all, he was the first WPSSSU schoolboy to break 50 seconds.

2 thoughts on “Rhoode thrills at schools’ meeting with a record-breaking run in the 400m

  • April 21, 2017 at 8:51 pm
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    Dear Publisher,

    OMW !!!!!!! ANDRE WAS OUR STAR ATHLETE AT LAVENDER HILL HIGH. READING THIS BROUGHT BACK SO MANY AWESOME MEMORIES.
    I RECALL ONE INCIDENT AT ATHLONE STADIUM.
    ANDRE FINISHED THE 400M HEAT, CAME BACK TO US, HE HAD TO BEND TO TO GET THROUGH UNDER THE BARB WIRE FENCE. THE FENCE CAUGHT HIS HEAD AND CUT OPEN THE SKIN OF HIS HEAD. WE RUSHED HIM TO A DOCTOR. HE CAME BACK IN TIME FOR THE 400M FINAL. MRS DYASON AND MYSELF, HIS COACH SAMMY FRANS TOLD HIM NOT TO RUN BUT, HE SAID “I’M FINE” AND HE WON THE 4OOM FINAL.
    PROUDLY LAVENDER HILL.
    I RECALL A FEW YEARS AGO WHEN WE CAME WITH THE BUSES FROM THE INTERSCHOOLATHLERTICS MEEETING AT ATHLONE STADIUM, HE CAME OVER AND SAID “EK HET NOU STAAN EN KYK WIE IS DIE 2 JUFFROUENS WAT HIER STAAN. JULLE GAAN NOG MET KIERIES OP DIE ATLETIEK BAAN STAAN. AND, YES, LAST YEAR, WE ARE STILL DOING ATHLETICS FOR THE LOVE OF THE SPORTS AND OUR LEADERS.
    MY BORS WIL BARS VAN TROTS . . .

    Reply
  • April 20, 2017 at 8:19 am
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    Dear Publisher, Andre was an awesome athlete. I was privileged and honoured to have been his team mate.

    Reply

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