SANTRY STADIUM in Dublin will be the centre of the Irish athletics world over the weekend as the 2011 National Senior Track & Field Championships looks set to grab all the attention.
With North West and local athletes travelling in search of big performances and in some cases medals, the action on Dublin’s northside will be eagerly monitored on Foyleside and its hinterland.
City of Derry’s Jason Smyth is highly fancied for gold in the men’s 100m. Currently the fastest man in Ireland, his May 10.22s clocking in the Bahamas is a NI record and last weekend in Belgium he produced back-to-back 10.38s and 10.41s performances against good opposition to signal his readiness for this weekend’s action.
Irish record holder, Paul Hession of Galway may concentrate on the 200m but is entered in both sprints and will be the big threat but perhaps the time has come for the changing of the guard and the 24 year-old Eglinton flyer, given the right conditions, could even trouble Hession’s record 10.18s time for the 100m.
Connor Bradley has had a brilliant breakthrough season with spanking PBs over 800m, 1,500m, 3,000m and 5,000m. He goes in the 1,500m this weekend with an outside medal chance.
The metric mile field is very strong with the likes of Paul Robinson, the youngest ever Irish sub four minute miler, Roy Chesser and former teenage sensation, Colin Costello all highly fancied in a talented field.
The Spartan is still a work in progress but championship racing is notoriously unpredictable and, given his talent and a slice of good fortune, a podium place is worth a serious shot.
Greg Roberts, Declan Reed and Brendan Murphy go in a red hot 10,000m with team medals their target. Irish 10k running has been developing well recently and the local trio may just be able to get in the mix for team honours, although Aaron Doherty who goes in the perhaps even more competitive 5,000m, may have added some value to the red vests challenge in the longer race.
Pajo Hamilton will challenge in the 800m with a place in the final his major objective. A season’s PB may be needed for that and in a less tactical heat he may just be good enough to make Sunday’s final and show what he can do against the big boys who will be likely to include Letterkenny’s National Indoor two lap champion, Mark English.
Mary Devlin will contest the Long and Triple Jumps with the latter perhaps her best shot at honours. She has just got back from injury and will be keen to test herself in advance of the National League finals two weeks later. Strabane’s Aaron Crawford is the reigning Javelin champion and will be keen to defend his title as will Finn Valley’s Tori Pena who set new Pole Vault Irish record figures of 4m 40cm earlier this week in Switzerland.
Locals On Celtic Games
Fresh from their terrific five-in-a-row NI Young Athletes League success, eight talented juvenile Spartans have been selected on the Ulster squads for next weekend’s prestigious Celtic Games in Antrim.
Mark McGeady will be the busiest as he will contest the Boys U18 Long Jump, 100m and 100m Relay. In the same age group Ryan McParland is on the sprint relay squad with his clubmate and Andrew Bolster has been selected for the 400m Hurdles.
Middle distance star, Shane McGowan will compete in the Boys U16 800m while in the Girls U18 competition Anna Barr will rival Mark McGarvey with selection in the 300m, Triple Jump and the 300m Relay.
Claire Dougherty is in the High Jump and Amy Jackson celebrates a terrific season with selection in the 1,500m. Although an U16 Ciara Armstrong has been drafted into both the 300m Hurdles and the 300m Relay at U18 level, an acknowledgement of her obvious talent.
Congratulations and good luck to all of them.
Irish Milers Club
Belfast’s Mary Peters Track hosts a special Irish Milers Club meeting in conjunction with Athletics NI next Friday night with 800m, 1,500m, 3,000m graded events plus an invitational 400m and an intriguing 4x1 Mile Relay.
This should be of interest to many local and North West athletes who usually have to travel much further for such quality competition
To finish this week it’s back to road racing and there’s a double header tonight with the Ramelton Festival 5K and in Cookstown the Sperrin Harriers five Mile Classic. Both have 7.30 p.m. start times and the word is that local runners will be supporting both with their presence.
Another mention of the popular City of Derry Spartans promotion, the annual Dessie’s Run 10K in Gransha on Tuesday, August 30th at 7.15 pm. T-shirts, a generous prize fund, good post-race refreshments and a decent running course are the calling cards of Dessie’s Run and of course it also serves as an ideal warm-up for the Waterside Half Marathon which follows on Sunday, September 11th. Make sure you have both these dates in your race diary.