The Early Years (Pre-school)
There are benefits to being the youngest of three children, you are roped into playing all sports your siblings are enrolled in at school and you get to practice and learn valuable techniques and skills from them. Every January, our neighbour would bundle all the eager kids wanting to train for the Inter-house athletics into his car, and we’d head off to the local Primary School every evening to train for the upcoming season. We practiced relays and that was the bomb! I wanted to be a relay runner, preferably the starter. My love for running started at the tender age of 4. I could not wait to start Grade 1 and compete in athletics events at school.
Primary School Athletics
A new school year meant the start of athletics. Everyone in school competed in athletics trials after a rigorous two months of training during and after school. Springs, my home town, was obsessed with athletics, it dominated the 1st four months of the School year! In Grade 1 and 2, I was the fastest sprinter and would win all my races, including the fun races like the bean bag, bottle and flag race and the technical sack race. I had found my groove, sprinting…NOT!
By the time I reached Grade 3, something had changed, I lost all my sprinting ability and battled to make the top 4 in the 100m trials, being relegated to a reserve for Inter-schools. As an eight year old, my sprinting career had ended. My absolute passion for competing in the relay events was gone like yesterday’s garbage.
The Saviour in Cross Country
I think my spirit animal must be the phoenix. There are numerous times that I have had to rise from the ashes and each time I think I become more resilient, patient and enlightened by the setbacks of hard knocks.
My first cross country in Grade 3, consisted of being bused to a remote veld on Grootvlei Mine. We were lined up by age category and we were sent off racing through the veld. The first obstacle encountered on route was knee deep water, this just soaked the shoes. Not an issue! Exiting the water, a more challenging obstacle awaited, boggy mine clay, it sucked your shoe’s off your feet faster than a tornado.
If you survived with both shoes intact, there were the three meter crab infested cement tunnels to negotiate, the best technique, crouch and shuffle. In the last kilometer we leapt over thorn bushes like Lipizzaner’s before heading to the finish line on the school fields.
I had found my new calling, XC running.
Two years after my first XC, my final year, to compete in the Junior Girls Category, I remained unbeaten and won all my Inter-school Cross Country races in the league.
Below is Michelle Mee winning the Strubenvale Primary School Junior Girls Inter-school XC in 1982.
In Grade 6 and 7, I had good results in Senior Girls Cross Country never finishing outside the Top 5.
The final curtain call on my sprinting career.
In Grade 7, I decided in my final year of Primary School, I would throw the dice and take part in the 100m for old time sake. Surprising myself, I came third at the Inter-house 100m event making me eligible as the starter in the 4 x 100m relay event at Inter-schools. Our relay team won Inter-schools.
The curtain had finally closed on my sprinting career as I never made any 4 x 100m relay team again.
The Cross Country Phoenix had risen from the ashes of my sprinting career!