Defending champion Mashele broke away from Mokoka on the third of six laps in the senior men’s 12km race, and while his illustrious Gauteng North teammate closed the gap in the latter stages, the 24-year-old Mashele held him off to win by one second in 38:04.
“I’m not sure what to expect in China because it will be my first time at the world champs, but I would really like to finish in the top 20,” Mashele said.
Mokoka, who finished 15th at the 2011 global championships in Punta Umbria, hoped to improve on that performance in Guiyang, though he stopped short of predicting an attempt at South Africa’s first ever medal at the biennial cross country showpiece.
“I just want to stick with the guys in front and be in touch with them in the finishing straight. That’s my goal,” Mokoka said.
With Athletics South Africa expected to take six athletes in the senior men’s and women’s divisions to Guiyang, veteran Shadrack Hoff staked his claim for a place in the national squad by taking an impressive fifth position overall.
However, younger athletes Elroy Gelant and Gladwin Mzazi, who did not turn out at the trials, could be selected ahead of the 41-year-old SA 5 000m record holder.
In the women’s 8km race in Kagiso, marathon runner Nolene Conrad burst clear on the second of four laps to secure an easy victory in 28:57.
Visiting Algerian athlete Amina Bettiche grabbed second spot, collapsing in exhaustion on the line, and teenager Annie Bothma was third.
“I’d like to go to the world championships, provided I’m selected, because it would be good preparation for my second (career) marathon in April,” Conrad said.
“I’m stronger now and I feel I can aim for a place in the top 20 at the world champs.”
Results of the SA Cross Country Trials in Kagiso:
Senior men (12km): 1 Precious Mashele (AGN) 38:04, 2 Stephen Mokoka (AGN) 38:05, 3 Joel Mmone (ACNW) 38:40, 4 Kgosi Tsosane (AGN) 38:44, 5 Shadrack Hoff (AGN) 38:46, 6 Samuel Matsepe (AFS) 38:50, 7 Bonginkosi Zwane (KZNA) 38:57, 8 Samuel Segoaba (AFS) 39:01, 9 Philani Buthelezi (AGN) 39:24, 10 Thabang Mosiako (ACNW) 39:36
Senior women (8km): 1 Nolene Conrad (CGA) 28:57, 2 Amina Bettiche (ALG) 29:09, 3 Annie Bothma (WPA) 29:28, 4 Lebo Phalula (CGA) 29:48, 5 Mamphielo Sibanda (CGA) 30:29, 6 Lorraine Novela (CGA) 30:34, 7 Keneilwe Sesing (CGA) 30:49, 8 Tebogo Masehla (CGA) 31:10, 9 Bulelwa Simae (WPA) 31:24, 10 Thembi Baloyi (AGN) 31:38