THE BILLY Morton Stadium in Santry, Dublin hosted the National Senior Track & Field Championships over the weekend and local athletes were on the podium, claiming gold, silver and bronze medals.
Jason Smyth secured 100m Sprint gold; Mary Devlin claimed Triple Jump bronze and the City of Derry Spartans’ team took silver in the men’s 10,000m from Greg Roberts, Declan Reed and Brendan Murphy.
A good championships for the North West was augmented by individual golds from Tir Choniall’s Mary McLoone in the Long and Triple jumps; Finn Valley’s Tori Pena in the Pole Vault; Letterkenny’s Mark English in the 800m, Mid Ulsters Adam McMullan in the Long Jump and Aaron Crawford of Strabane who successfully defended his Javelin title.
The Spartans’ Jason Smyth was an emphatic 100m winner clocking 10.52s to show a clean pair of heels to the opposition. Unfortunately for the ‘Eglinton Flyer’, once again, he sprinted into a strong head wind and he was denied a shot at a faster time. However, Sunday’s victory and his earlier B standard Word Championships qualifying mark should ensure he heads to Dageu in Korea at the end of the month for a crack at the world’s best sprinters and a place in the record books as the first ever Paralympian to compete at this level.
Mary Devlin made up for narrowly missing a long jump medal on Saturday - the Spartan was an agonising two centimetres off bronze - by coming back on Sunday to leap 11m 50cm and claim a deserved Triple Jump bronze.
A well deserved medal for the Magherafelt teacher who has been battling a back problem recently and she will now look forward to scoring maximum points for the female Spartans in the National League Division One Final in two weeks time. Younger teammate, Jamie Herron was fourth in the Triple Jump with a 10m 39cm effort.
The men’s 10,000m race on Saturday was won convincingly by Clonliffe Harrier, Mark Keneally with 28m 58.39s but the Spartans’ trio of Greg Roberts, 6th in 30m 55.75s; Declan Reed 8th in 31m 32.35s and surprise packet, Brendan Murphy 11th in 31m 55.10s combined magnificently to claim team silver behind a very strong Rathfartham WSAF and ahead of the Clonliffe trio. Good efforts here from the three local lads in a quality championship field.
Connor Bradley qualified on Saturday for the Sunday 1,500m final and in a tightly contested race ran 3m 53.94s for a creditible 6th place behind winner, Paul Robinson of St Cocas AC the favourite who posted 3m 50.41s for the title. Robinson recently ran under four minutes for the mile to become the youngest Irish male to do so and is a genuine talent.
The Spartan was probably a bit disappointed on Sunday but he has performed above expectations in this his break-through season and will certainly learn much from his exposure to the top national level in recent weeks.
In the 800m Pajo Hamilton was unlucky to narrowly miss out on a final place, his Saturday clocking of 1m 53.25s was a new PB but not enough to put him on Sunday’s start line.
Mark English added the outdoor 800m title to his earlier indoor title as he won a tactical battle in 1m 50s. JP Williamson was run out of a medal in the Junior Men’s 3,000m on Sunday, his 8m 54.87s just a few strides off the bronze medallist who posted 8m 53.30s. Caitlin Ketelar was the only other local in action but she finished down the field in the Javelin and Discus.
The Week Ahead
The end of the week will offer a real mix of competitive action starting at the Mary Peters Track on Friday night with an unique Irish Milers Club and Athletics NI meeting featuring 800m/1,500m/3,000m graded races and a very interesting 4x1 Mile Relay. The action kicks-off at 7.15 pm with the first of the graded 1,500m races.
Saturday sees the venue switch to Antrim and the Celtic Games meet for U16s and U18s. Eight young City of Derry athletes have been selected on a strong Ulster squad for this one.
It’s back to the road on Sunday for the annual Danny McDaid 15K race in Letterkenny with a 11.30 am start. Monday, August 15th brings the local Jog In The Bog 5K out of the Gasyard Centre at 7 pm.
This year the race will commemorate the late Colm Quigley, a native of the Brandywell area and is expected to attract the usual big entry.