Athlone IT were the hosts today for the finals of the Connacht Schools Track & Field. Weather conditions were almost perfect on the day, with no wind and almost no rain – an unusal experience at the schools track and field! Athlone IT must be the most progressive institution in the country in regard to athletics facilities. Its only a year or two since they completed their fine 400m track and last week they announced plans for an indoor track which they hope to have available by the end of 2011.
Note all times and distances I mention in this article are provisional until I see the official results – I’m working only from notes I made myself on the day. If I’ve misrecorded any result or missed out on anyone, please let me know.
Over 25 athletes from the club had qualified representing their schools at these finals, further indication of the progress the club is making in older age groups. There were many high points on the day, particularly in the jumping events. Its hard to pick one but the record-equalling performance of Maria McNamara stands out in the Junior Girls high jump where she jumped 1.55m to join Cathriona Farrell as joint holder of the record. And in an equally impressive performance in Junior Girls long jump, Claire Ryder smashed her PB and came within a fraction of 5m with an exceptional 4.97m leap. In fact, Claire’s first jump (4.90m) was a 5.15+ jump if measured from her takeoff point. The Presentation College Athenry are blessed with an extraordinarily talented bunch of athletes which saw Maria and Claire join up with Jessica Heneghan and Alanna Lally to break the Connacht 4x100m record for this age group with a time of 52.3. In fact the Pres dominated the Junior Girls category, taking 1st in high jump, 2nd and 3rd in long jump, 1st and 3rd in 800m, 1st and 2nd in 200m, … need to wait for official results to confirm remainder!
The middle distance races saw some fantastic performances too with Muireann Maloney having a super race to take 1st place in the Intermediate Girls 3000m in a time of 12:10.0, Sinead Gaffney having a big PB of 2.32.8 in the junior girls 800m, Katie O’Donoghue going 1 better with a big PB of 2.31.7 in the intermediate girls 800m, Finn Stoneman 2nd in the intermediate boys 1500m, Nicholas Sheehan 1st in the minor boys 800m in a time of 2.20, Linda Porter 1st in the U16 girls mile, Matthew Moran 4th in the minor boys 1500m (Keelan Ryan unlucky to have to pull out of same race due to injury), Laura Porter 6th in the junior girls 1500m, Paul Fitzpatrick 5th in the junior boys 1500m, Paul Joyce 3rd in the intermediate boys 3000m in an excellent time of 10:25.0. In the race walks, Christopher O’Connor continued his fine progress in this event when taking 3rd place in the junior boys walk.
Middle-distance race of the day had to be Conor Gillen in the junior boys 1500m. Representing Athenry VS, Conor was well placed in the leading group as the race wound around the track. Up against the same athletes he had battled earlier in the cross country season, Conor knew it would be tough – particularly against Westport’s Con Doherty. At the bell, the two “Con’s” started to accelerate at the front and an almighy battle ensured with the Westport athlete holding the lead by a yard as they rounded the final bend. As they motored down the home straight, Conor edged ahead and looked to have the gold badge in his hand only for the Westport athete to find 1 last burst of energy to steal it in the last 10m. A fantastic race by both athletes and a big PB for each of them. Rumour has it that the Westport Con races up and down Croagh Patrick each day for some divine inspiration in these races – its hard enough to do battle with Westport’s elite distance runners on their own, but doubly hard with God on their side! Conor’s time was 4:33.2 – a very impressive time for this age group.
There were many fine performances in the jumps in addition to the aforementioned performances of Maria and Claire. In the Senior Boys high jump, Tomas Keehan took the title with a super jump of 1.80m. Niall Rooney took 3rd place in the intermediate boys with a clearance of 1.65m. Ella Bryan was jumping superbly in the junior girls high jump, with easy clearances at 1.30, 1.35 and 1.40m but struggled at 1.45m. On another day, she’d have pushed Maria all the way to a new Connacht record. In the intermediate girls high jump, Caoimhe Quill claimed 3rd place while in the minor boys, Oisin McNally claimed the gold with a leap of 1.40m – unfortunately denied the chance of breaking the Connacht record of 1.50m as the competition was stopped at that point.
In the long jump events, Dandy Murray came 2nd in the minor girls event with a fine jump of 4.28m with Gabrielle Tobin narrowly missing out by 2cm on a podium place when finishing 4th with 3.86m. Sinead Gaffney had another great performance in the junior girls to equal her PB with 4.53m to take 3rd place. In the Intemediate Girls long jump, Karen Roche continued her great progress with a new PB of 4.61m while Debbie Kenny battled bravely in the same event despite having picked up a niggling back injury earlier in the week. Debbie will land a big PB soon in the long jump as she’s jumping remarkably well despite a number of factors such as this injury and illness conspiring against her. David Farrell was unlucky also in the intermediate boys long jump – breaking his first jump, he moved back 7 or 8 inches; breaking his 2nd jump by a toe, he moved back 4 inches as to have any chance of qualification he needed to be very close on the board. Unfortunately it was not enough and he marginally broke the 3rd jump too – a pity as David certainly will land 6m in the right competition this year. In the junior girls triple jump, Laura Porter made her debut taking 2nd place with a jump of 6.70m while Niall Rooney took 2nd place in the intermediate boys event with a leap of 12.07m.
In the sprints, an exceptional performance in the junior girls 200m saw Claire Ryder and Jessica Heneghan do a double for the club and for the Pres when taking 1st and 2nd place in times of 27.7 and 28.1. Kelvin Oleyemi took 4th place in the minor boys 100m, with Conor Duggan 7th in the same race. Jessica Heneghan placed 4th or 5th in the junior girls 100m, while Mairead McCan had to ease off with injury in the same race – disappointed as she would have medalled on another day. There was dissappointment also for Ashley McDonnell who had to be a spectator for the day due to an injury. In the hurdles events, Rachel Finnegan medalled on the double when taking 1st place in both the senior girls 400m hurdles in a time of 74.1 and the 110m hurdles in a time of 16.6.
So now its onto the All-Irelands on the June bank holiday weekend for a dozen or so athletes – possibly our largest contingent ever to make the Irish Schools finals.
Full results of the Connachts are at:-