THE weather arguably emerged the real winner last weekend as athletes, both home and abroad, found the unseasonal conditions just as difficult as their opposition.
Jason Smyth’s Diamond League debut in New York was a far cry from the balmy conditions he experienced in the Bahamas last month when setting his new N. Ireland 100m record of 10.22 secs., a strong New York headwind on Saturday afternoon saw the Eglinton man labour to a 10.60 secs. clocking in a race won in 10.50 secs which was very disappointing for the Spartan and, indeed, for all the sprinters.
Jason now flys to Turkey for this weekend’s European League meeting where, hopefully, as part of the Irish team, he can enjoy more sprint friendly conditions.
The weather was no less difficult back home in both Antrim, on Saturday and Sligo, on Sunday, when local athletes saw action in the N. Ireland/Ulster Track & Field Championships at the northern venue and then in the National League in Sligo on Sunday.
Antrim produced three Senior Championship medals for local athletes, the highlight perhaps Declan Reed’s terrific men’s 5,000m individual gold with a impressive and intelligent PB run for his first ever senior provincial track title.
The vastly improved Spartan defied the tough conditions and a quality field to come through strongly to overhaul early pacemaker and race favourite, Paul Pollock, and go on for a well deserved 15 mins. 0.84 secs. victory.
Pollock ran 15m 02.58 for silver and the in-form Patrick Brennan of Letterkenny took bronze on 15m 02.79. Aaron Doherty also had an excellent run for sixth spot with 15m 12.96 and the City of Derry club track captain then travelled to wet and windy Sligo on Sunday to wear the red vest again for an invaluable 5,000 m. second place and crucial points in the first round of the National League.
Connor Bradley and Pajo Hamilton were the Spartans track silver medallists in Antrim, the former surprisingly run out of the 1,500m gold medal in a photo finish with Dan Mooney of Letterkenny A.C. The red vest started as favourite for the metric mile title following his 3m 47s effort in Tullamore a week earlier but an inspired Mooney denied him in a thrilling finish, clocking 3m 51.72 to the Spartans 3m 51.95 with the bronze medallist some eight seconds back.
Pajo Hamilton qualified comfortably for the 800m final after a morning heat clocking of 1m 58s and improved to a season’s best of 1m 56.22s in the afternoon to claim an unexpected silver behind winner and favourite. Niall Robinson of North Down, who posted 1m 54.12 to claim gold.
Like Aaron Doherty he too travelled west the following day and in horrible conditions battled to a 800m third place for the Spartans in the National League Premier Division match on the Sligo track.
Javelin thrower Caitlin Ketelaar returned to competition and her 28.72 m. effort on Saturday gave her a very welcome silver medal and should spur her to significant improvement as the season unfolds.
At underage level there were also a clutch of Championship medals led by the busy Mark McGarvey who claimed Under-18 gold in the 100m, 110m. Hurdles and Long Jump. Emma Gee won U-19 100 Hurdles gold, Anna Barr and Jamie Herron both won their respective U18 and U20 Triple Jump age group gold while Olympian’s John Coyle took double silver in the U20 !00m and Long Jump.
Buncrana 10 Kms.
Almost 170 runners turned out for Saturday night’s annual Buncrana 10Km. and in good conditions victory went to City of Derry Spartan, Emmet McGinty, who ran 33 mins. 05 secs. to get home ahead of clubmate, Brendan Murphy, on 33m 14s with another red vest, the improving James Brown, third with 34m 12s.
Paul McCafferty took the M40 award with 35m 05s in fourth; 247 Tris Gavin Crawford was close behind in 35m 08s and Noel Logan completed the top six with 35m 31s.
Helena Crossan won the women’s race with 37m 59s ahead of the 40m 33s of Grainne Neary and Teresa Doherty on 42m 12s. Karen Cutliffe and Paula mcGilloway took the F40 and F45 prizes; Peter Lilburn and Christy McMonagle were the top M55 and M60 finishers and Eoghan Furey regained his first Buncrana male finisher title with a 36m 30s clocking in eight place overall.