The third day of the National juvenile indoor track & field championships saw Conor Gillen and Maria McNamara continue a fine indoor season by taking bronze in the U16 boys 800m and silver in the U17 girls high jump. For both Conor and Maria, their medals today are richly deserved as they are two of the hardest working athletes in the club – training 3 times a week consistently almost every week since last September and sometimes more often.
In the U16 800m, Conor set two personal bests, racing to 2nd place in his heat in a time of 2.14.16 and had an outstanding run in the final to take 3rd place in a time of 2.10.23. Running a very good tactical race right from the gun, Conor held his place mid-pack for the first 2 laps. As the pace wound up a notch on the 3rd lap, he hung on to 4th place. About 5m adrift on the back straight of the final lap, Conor dug deep to close the gap and draw level with the Emerald AC athlete in 3rd place as he rounded the last bend. The Emerald athlete responded vehemently as Conor trying to move past, digging deep and staying that vital inch ahead. But Conor found another burst of energy to go again and managed to open a metre gap in the final 20m to take the bronze medal by the tiny margin of 0.21 seconds. This has been a fantastic year so far for Conor with silver in the National indoor1500m and bronze in the 800m. Conor has come close to the medals in the last few years and puts in a lot of hard work – so it is an inspiration for all in the club to see such dedication rewarded.
Another athlete who gives huge commitment to the sport and is reaping the rewards, Maria McNamara was in superb jumping form in the U17 high jump. Joining the competition at 1.45m, Maria sailed over this height and the next height of 1.50m with inch perfect technique. Cutting her curve on the run-in to the first attempt at 1.55m, Maria was high over the bar but dropped on top of it. Making no mistake on the second attempt, Maria sailed over the bar with inches to spare. Up to 1.60m and on Maria’s first attempt she took off a little close to the bar but her second and third attempts were much better and looked to have it cleared only to just graze the bar each time as she dropped behind it. There was just 1 other jumper left at this height (from Kilkenny City Harriers) and she too failed to clear it – so tied at 1.55m, the result went to count-back with the Kilkenny athlete’s first time clearance of 1.55 deciding the outcome. So silver to Maria on this occasion – but another piece of silverware to add to a fantastic indoor season for Maria which saw her win the National title in the U17 Pentathlon with several PBs and now the silver in the U17 high jump – Maria’s second time medalling in the indoor high jump having won a bronze as an U14 in 2004.
Later in the long jump, Maria had some fine jumps off some aggressive takeoffs but unfortunately the big ones didn’t count as Maria broke on her 1st, 2nd, 5th and 6th jumps – leaving her with a best of 4.76m to take 7th place. However breaking by a small margin and giving the jump your best shot is much better than running in cautiously and jumping from behind the board or jumping with reduced speed – many elite long jumpers break a lot of their jumps for the same reason. With more consistency in the run-up, Maria’s style of attacking the long jump will pay rich dividends later in the year.
Also in the high jump, Maireád McCan again underlined her potential in the high jump when equalling her PB to take 7th place in the U17 event with a leap of 1.40m. This was a very good performance in Maireád first National finals in the high jump and shows huge promise for the future. Later in the long jump, Maireád was extremely unlucky not to take a medal on her 4th jump. Struggling with her mark on the first 2 runs where she jumped significantly behind the board to record jumps of 4.65 and 4.82m, she broke her 3rd attempt but made it through to the final 8. On her next jump, Maireád had a huge jump easily over the 5.20m mark but had broken by perhaps 4cm. That jump would have placed Maireád 2nd or 3rd but more significantly would have broken the 5m barrier for the first time – so it was hard luck not to get it. But there’s always another competition around the corner and the big jumps will definitely come this summer.
Melissa Mullins continued to go from strength to strength in the long jump, having only taken up the event this season. Recording a 3.93m in the Galway indoors in January, Melissa improved this at the Connachts with a 4.27m leap and bettered it yet again with a 4.51m leap today, despite two breaks. This is great progress and plenty more to look forward to from Melissa during the summer months.
Jessica Heneghan had a great run in the heats of the U17 girls 200m where she knocked over a half-second off her Connacht time when taking 3rd place in her heat in a time of 28.64 … only marginally outside the club record of 28.41 set by Ashley McDonnell. In the walks, good performances saw Shane Finn take 7th place in the U15 boys 1000m in a time of 5.57.89 and Emma Byrne take 5th in the U15 girls in a time of 5.27.71.