TRACK AND Field dominates again this weekend with local clubs City of Derry Spartans and Olympian heading to Antrim on Sunday for the first round of the National League.
And Connor Bradley, fresh from his 1,500m Provincial title success at the same venue last Monday, will be in Watford tomorrow for the BMC Grand Prix meeting.
In New York Jason Smyth will face a top class field in the Diamond League 100m with the pressure on the Spartan to deliver that elusive Olympic qualifying standard of 10.17s.
Hopefully the weather conditions will favour the Eglinton man this weekend. He is certainly capable of running the required time and thus making athletics history as the first to contest both the Olympics and the Paralympics. London hosts both championships and all sports fans would be delighted if Jason can make it to both later this summer.
Meanwhile the big meet of club athletics, the National League will once again see City of Derry and Olympian take the first steps in this year’s competition in Antrim on Sunday. Both local clubs will have men’s and women’s squads in action with qualification for the National Finals the targets.
Both women’s squads will be in direct opposition in Division One and will have Tallaght AC, Sligo County, Louth County, and Sli Cualain AC from Wicklow as the opposition on Sunday.
The Spartans are targeting promotion to the Premier Division and will have to perform consistently over the two qualifying rounds and the Final itself to realise their goal.
The squad is a good mix of youth and experience and looks strong enough across the board to make the final and then push on for one of the two promotion places on offer. Olympian have a less experienced squad and will be keen to blood their athletes in the cut and thurst of major team competition.
The Olympian men did very well last year to make the Division One Final and would have been boosted by John Coyle’s excellent 100m bronze medal last Monday in Antrim.
They will need cover across all 15 scoring events in the League and with Lagan Valley, Sligo County, Louth County, Sli Cualain and Kildare County to contend with, big performances will be required.
The male Spartans have retained their Premier Division status and will hope to have a better campaign this time after a depleted squad struggled last year.
Again a mix of youth and experience will carry the colours but a few key men will be missing and this will shift responsibility onto, in some cases, less experienced shoulders.
Connor Bradley will be in Watford and the selections from 800m through to 5,000m and the 3K steeplechase have had the club mentors scrambling somewhat this week.
The Jumpers and Sprinters are all expected to be teenagers and the club has an emerging group to draw from. The experienced steeplechaser Colin Roberts has gone down with a back injury and will be difficult to replace while the Throwers remain thin on the ground but the scoring 17 events will be covered and each individual event will be fiercely contested for the maximum possible points.
The opposition includes some of the big names, Raheny Shamrock, Clonliffe Harriers and North Down with Tallaght AC, St Abbans and Meath County another trio who will pose tough tests for the Spartans.
Connor Bradley saw off all the opposition at last Monday’s NI/Ulster senior championships to storm home a convincing 1,500m winner.
The Spartan bided his time in a tactical race to out-kick Armagh’s Stephen Kerr and posted a 4m 05.77s gold medal winning time and Mary Devlin claimed the Spartans second senior title of the day when she got out to 11m 63cm to lift the women’s Triple Jump crown.
Mary had earlier taken Long Jump bronze and Declan Reed and JP Williamson finished second and third in the men’s 5,000m. Defending champion Reed was surprised by North Belfast’s Connor Magill who took gold on 14m 58.42s, ahead of the two red vests on 15m 03.51s and 15m 09.82s.
Caitlin Ketelar claimed the women’s Javelin silver medal and Andrew Bolster senior bronze and U18 gold in the 400m Hurdles with a 58.26s clocking.
Olympian’s John Coyle put in a blistering finish to grab the senior men’s 100m bronze in 11.18s and Amy Jackson built on her Irish Schools 1,500m bronze to finish 5th overall in a competitive women’s 800m, her 2m 19.51s giving her the U18 silver medal.
Ryan McParland ran 11.42s for 100m to take the U18 silver; Mark McGarvey leapt 6m 44cm for silver in the U19 Long Jump and there were also underage medals for Tamara Boyle in the 400m, Fiona Mallett in the Triple Jump and Olympians Bronagh Doherty and Olive Webb.