MIDDLE distance runner Isaac Mpofu is set to lead a 24-member Zimbabwe squad to the Southern Region Cross Country Championships in Lesotho this weekend. The Bulawayo athlete earned his place in the team after winning the senior men's open 12km cross country event during the inter-provincials at Allan Lowry Golf Club in Redcliff on Saturday.
The under-rated Mpofu stopped the clock in 42 minutes 21.08 seconds while Jacob Mugomeri from Mashonaland West finished in second place in 42 min 46sec as unheralded Spencer Kimisi from the Midlands Province finished in third position on 42 min 52.6sec.
Both Mugomeri and Kimisi also earned slots to the regional cross country championships set for Maseru this Saturday.
The National Athletics Association of Zimbabwe used the inter-provincial cross country championships to select a provisional team to the international meeting set to attract athletes from Lesotho, South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, Mozambique and Zambia.
NAAZ secretary-general Cynthia Phiri said yesterday the selectors had picked the top six finishers in each category at Allan Lowry for the gruelling road trip to Maseru this week.
Veteran runner George Majaji from Bindura, who clocked 42 min 53 sec, Emmanuel Mboti (42.06.6) and Marshal Jaji complete the short-list for the men's team.
In the female section, Olivia Chitate leads the team after she won the selection race in 31 min 03.32 sec as the long striding Sithulisiwe Zhou was exactly a minute behind while Constance Nyasango also earned selection to the travelling party after clocking 33 min 42.42sec.
Helen Chiundo, who had won the Harare Athletics Board's selection 8km is also tipped for Maseru after the Zimbabwe Republic Police athlete came fourth at the inter-pros.
NAAZ have also selected Enlita Ncube, Caroline Mhandu and Moline Dangirwa for the junior men's 6km race on the dirt circuit.
During the 6km selection event, Ncube beat 20 other athletes in 25 min 09.40sec with Simbarashe Taderera from Bulawayo set to represent Zimbabwe in the junior men's 8km.
Taderera showed the rest of the field a clean pair of heels to romp home in 27 min 53.01 sec while Wellington Vareni, Casper Kokera and Titus Nyathi also make part of the team.
NAAZ spokesperson Phiri said the athletes have been training at their respective centres but will travel with Salatiel Zangure and Abel Ngoma as the teams' coaches.
"Each of the top six finishers are eligible for the regional cross country championships and right now NAAZ is still trying to mobilise resources so that we send the delegation.
"I am sure the athletes should be assembling in Bulawayo before proceeding to Maseru and team manager Zangure (Salatiel) is currently working on the arrangements," said Phiri.