History of the Pinelands Athletic Club

The Pinelands Athletic Club celebrated it’s 75th Anniversary in 2012.

On Tuesday 19 August 1937 in a local school hall, 21 residents of Pinelands met to discuss the possibility of establishing an athletic club within the community. The proposal to form a club was the idea of the Pinelands resident Gifford H Pentland-Smith (a former member of Celtic Harriers). His proposal was accepted and the Pinelands Athletic Club was born, Gifford H Pentland-Smith (Penty as he was called) being the founder. The first chairman was R V Fox who was also the chairman of the local cricket club. Training in those days was early morning at around six am, on a field which is today the Pinelands Cricket Oval. This field had to be shared with the Earl of Athlone (Govenor General of the Cape) and his wife Alice. They would travel from Westbrooke in Rondebosch to Pinelands to ride their horses, which were stabled nearby. Two of the paths they often rode on are today known as Princess Path and Alice’s Ride.

From the beginning, Pinelands Athletic Club was very active at athletic meetings, not only local but at provincial level as well. In fact, for the first 50 years the club was a track and field club, with road running only becoming a feature in the late ’70s early ’80s. In those early 50 years the club enjoyed many outstanding results not only locally or provincially but internationally as well. To mention the performances of the Pinelands athletes in those early years would take a number of pages. Provincially and internationally the Pinelands athletes made a mark for themselves. There were the performances of Anne McKenzie (nee Joubert) (Springbok), George Munnik (the club’s first Springbok), Colin Eglin (from political circles), John Anderton (Springbok), Edna Maskell (Springbok), Doug Brown (coach and former Chairman and President for many years), Brenda Sampson (Springbok), Margaret Cartmel, Donald Macdonald (Springbok), Steve Johnston, Donald Timm (can anyone recall his clashes over 400m with Marcello Fiasconaro and Danie Malan in the mid ’70s?) Heidi de Kock (Springbok) and Freddie Williams (Springbok).

In 1953 the late Doug Brown joined Pinelands AC and was to become very influential not only in the club but in Western Province – as an athlete and as a coach (he was a well-known school teacher as well). Doug went on to serve the club for over fifty years – as Chairman for five years and 23 years as President.

The club’s first ever athletic team – at Paarl Sports on 27 December 1937
(Back) GH Pentland-Smith, A van Niekerk, D Wells, R Wells, S Wells, G Fletcher
(Front) D Gandy, M Johnson, P Slatter, P James, M Oldham

The club also went through some lean times as far as membership went, to such an extent that a Special General Meeting was called. Needless to say all went well and the club survived. In about the mid ’70s there was talk of Pinelands Athletic Club amalgamating with Celtic Harriers, however, Celtics decided to join with Villagers Rugby Club.

Donald Timm joined Pinelands AC in 1972 and he too was very influential – as an athlete and coach and was appointed Head Coach. Don became known after his clashes with Marcello Fiasconaro and Danie Malan over 400m on the track. Don Timm is a Life Member of the club.

The road-running flag started to wave in the club from around about the late ’70s early ’80s. ‘Fun runs’ became a must-do. This is when the ‘Pinelands Plodders’ was formed under the guidance of Justin Moloney. Kitted out in bright yellow t-shirts, the ‘plodders’ took to the streets of Pinelands doing anything from 2km, 4km to 8km (big deal). From here it was first a 10km then 15km then 21km, a marathon and then Two Oceans and for some Comrades. Membership grew over the next few years. At one stage there were over 250 members – mostly families from Pinelands.

In the 80s road running took off within the club. The club’s committee had to take on additional portfolios such as road running, jogging, walking and masters. Groups of ladies took on Comrades. Not to be outdone, a few men tackled the Washee 160km. Some did as much mileage as possible to see who could record the most in one year. Clive Searle, Clive Biggs, John Haig and Dickie Weers were always doing way out runs like Rhodes, Sky Run, Karoo Ultra and Lainsburg.

Today that breed is still in the club, with Tony Will recording over 2500km in a year with Mille Miglia. Keith Solomon has since surpassed that record. There were many who excelled on the road – the Pinelands ladies’ team set a new world record at the Shell 24-hour relay. Both ladies’ and men’s teams won the team prize at the Foot of Africa Marathon on a few occasions. Judy Ryan won the Stellenbosch Marathon breaking the SA record. At her first Comrades, Jenny Campbell (nee Wilson) was second lady to finish. The late Welcome Nyoka represented WP on the road, track and cross country. Welcome was the first black athlete to run in Western Province colours. The late Lynne Spence was always a force to reckon with; even on a training run she would challenge you up the hills. Sibis Mouton was always there on the road and at cross country representing WP. She gained SA Colours in 3 different sports – modern pentathlon, triathlon and duathlon. In 1999 she won the World Iron (wo)man Champs in the Vets section.

Pinelands continued with successes on the road, cross country and track during the 1990s and early 2000s. Makhosonke Fika, a triple Springbok (road, track and cross country), together with club members like Marshall Moiloa, Nico Vermeulen, Rita Toto, Evelina Tshabalala, Norma Nonkonyana, Charmaine Cupido and many others kept the Pinelands flag flying. Pinelands was recognised as an elite club. Mention the name Dave Spence and the association was Pinelands Athletic Club. Another member who, until recently, always kept the Pinelands flag flying was Nancy Will. As Dave always said, Nancy would go that extra mile. Both Nancy and Shonks (Fika) were great ambassadors of the club.

From 2002 Pinelands dropped the elite status to become more of a social club – Dave Spence started the Adidas Running Club. Although Pinelands is no longer regarded as an elite club, there are some members who keep the Pinelands flag flying – our ladies occasionally do bring home a team prize; Brenda Stevenson, Marlene James, Kenny Williams, Malcolm Rhodes, Ofra Sharp, Liz Bax, Linda Mallon and Angelique Rabie have visited the prizewinner’s podium at times.

Over the years, members of Pinelands joined the Western Province Masters Association, founded in 1975 by Leo Benning, a club member at the time. Members could compete in track and field in five-year age groups. From here members could compete at the SA Masters Champs and at the International Masters Champs. Over the years national colours were awarded to Nancy Will, Leo Benning, Charmaine Cupido, Borg Stannius, Steve Johnston, Henry Cleophas and Neville Sharpley. Today there are a few club members who belong to the WP Masters and compete at the champs. Steve Johnston, Borg Stannius, Philipp Frech, Neville Sharpley and Robin Buck have, in their respective age groups, come home with gold medals. Recently, Robin Buck (long jump), Steve Johnston (discus/shot putt) won gold medals at the SA Champs. At the 2011 World Masters Championships Philipp Frech won gold at discus and shot put. The year before in New Zealand, Borg Stannius also won gold at discus and shot put.

Trail running has taken a firm grip in the Western Cape. So much so that efforts are underway to form a controlling body. In the club there are at present about 12 members who are regularly out there on the trails. Spearheading the Pinelands group are Ryan Winter, Melany Porter and Damian Will. The Puffer (80km) is regarded as the ‘big daddy’ of trail running which annually attracts about 100+ runners. From Pinelands there are always about four or five taking on this huge challenge.

Over the years, Pinelands has been involved in organising a number of events, including fun runs, road races and cross-country events. The club has organised the Hohenort 15km Road Race since 1975, and the Pinelands 10km since 1990. The club was forced to drop the organisation of other events – 6×6 Relay and the Executive Relay, due to lack of sponsorship and interest in relay running. The 6×6 relay was first held in 1954 and was regarded as the oldest inter-club relay in the Cape. Sadly this event started to run at a loss so the club decided to discontinue with it.