Cathriona Farrell battled with the best in these islands at the weekend when contesting the English AAA U17 girls’ high jump in Birmingham. With no less than eight 1.70+ jumpers in the field, this was Cathriona’s toughest competition to date.
Weather conditions were absolutely miserable that morning, with wind and rain pelting the Alexander Stadium in Birmingham. Luckily the skies cleared before the start of the high jump although the changeable winds continued to gust around the grounds making jumping difficult. The facility in Birmingham was very impressive, with a fine stand and an indoor tartan-floored warm-up area that is considerably larger than Ireland’s single indoor track and field facility in Nenagh. For Craughwell athletes to be able to go to the UK and compete with the best from England is fantastic – but is all the more remarkable when you compare the facilities available here and in the UK. The sooner we can get an indoor athletics training facility in Craughwell, the better for all our aspiring Olympians!
Cathriona entered the competition at 1.55m in order to get a good start in the poor weather conditions. With superb technique, she jumped cleanly over 1.55m, 1.60m and 1.65m with centimetres to spare. Four of the 17 competitors exited the competition at 1.60m and four more at 1.65m. The rules are that the bar went up in units of 4cm for the next 2 heights and then by increments of 3cm after that – so up to 1.69m. Again, with perfect execution, Cathriona sailed comfortably over 1.69m – only 1 of two athletes to clear it on the first attempt. Six athletes exited at the 1.69m height, leaving only 3 chasing the medals – Cathriona, namesake Katrina Thompson from Liverpool and Marilyn Nwawulor from Harrow.
With a personal best of 1.80m from earlier in the summer, Thompson was the favourite for the gold leading into this event but was pushed all the way by Craughwell’s top jumper. Both of the Cathriona’s cleared 1.73m at their first attempt, with Nwawulor exiting at that height. And both brought 1.76m down on their first attempt. Thompson was jumping first and cleared 1.76m on her next attempt. Under pressure and attempting a new personal best, Cathriona made a huge effort on her 2nd attempt sailing over the bar, everything looking good, but an ever so slight brush of the bar with her heel shifted it and it dropped to the mat after Cathriona had landed.
Tiring now and with her knee injury starting to niggle again, Cathriona made one last valiant attempt at 1.76m but could not clear it. Thompson went on to attempt 1.79m but didn’t succeed. She is one of the most hotly tipped English athletes for future Olympic glory, having broken the UK age group record last year for the pentathlon which had previously been held for 18 years by English Olympian Katharine Merry (who won 400m bronze in the 2000 Sydney Olympics). To illustrate how highly she’s rated in England, she was Merseyside’s Young Sports Star of the Year for 2007 ahead of all the aspiring young Liverpool and Everton soccer players either side of the Mersey! (See Liverpool Echo).
So silver for this Cathriona on this occasion against Britain’s best – a remarkable achievement by a rising young star and her 2nd AAA medal having won the gold in the same event last year. Of the seventeen jumpers, she was the closest to setting a new PB – with the poor weather conditions having an harsh impact on jumping performances where only 1 of the 17 competitors equalled her PB.
Full details of the results are at:- http://www.athletics-uk.info/englandathletics/F11_U17W_HJ.pdf.