It was yet another rewarding weekend for local athletics with nine medals garnered by City of Derry Spartans athletes from the National Juvenile Track & Field Championships in Tullamore.
Shane McGowan in the Boys’ U17 800m and Claire Dougherty in the U18 Girls’ Triple Jump were crowned national club champions in their respective age group events while silver medals went to Naomi Morgan and Mark McGarvey with bronze medals won by Jenny O’Brien, Ciara Armstrong, Connor Breslin, Ryan McParland and Ruadhri O’Neill.
There were also a few near misses and good performances all round as young athletes from the Spartans and Olympian did themselves proud at the top quality Juvenile championships over the weekend, emphasising once again the high standards of local athletics.
Claire Dougherty claimed the first local gold on Saturday when she got out to 10m 83cm to convincingly win the U18 Girls Triple Jump and on Sunday Shane McGowan broke the two minute barrier yet again as he confidently took the Boys U17 800m title.
Both Spartans were always medal prospects and confirmed their their current good form in advance of this weekend’s trip to Ashford in Kent with the Irish Schools squad for the annual Schools International challenge.
A well deserved bronze went to the improving Connor Breslin as he posted 2m 04s behind Shane to notch his maiden national track medal and he will have thoroughly enjoyed his visit to the podium in Tullamore.
Naomi Morgan continued to impress with a 5m 17cm leap for silver in the U17 Girls Long Jump and Mark McGarvey made up for missing out on an 100m flat medal by posting 15.49s for the runners-up spot in the U19 Boys 110m Hurdles.
At U18 level Ryan McParland claimed a bronze in the sprint hurdles with 16.32s; Ruadhri O’Neill did the same in the U17 Boys 300m Hurdles with 41.82s; Jenny O’Brien won bronze in her U18 Girls 400m Hurdles, her 68.33s narrowly missing out on silver and just getting her home ahead of another Spartan Emma McCay who clocked 69m 24s in fourth and the final medal, a 100m bronze, came courtesy of Ciara Armstrong with a 12.72s run in the Girls U17 sprint.
Shane, Claire, Ciara and Jenny are all on the Irish team for this Saturday’s Schools International in Kent, where they will take on the best English, Scots and Welsh schools talent, good luck to them and all their Irish team mates.
As already mentioned there were a few near misses for locals with Emma McCay getting close, as did two other hurdlers, Andrew Bolster in the U18 Boys 400 Hurdles and Ruadhri O‘Neill in the U17 sprint hurdles. Both were literally within inches of a medal.
Naomi Morgan too placed fourth in her U17 sprint hurdles final as did Ryan McParland in the U18 Boys 100m flat.
Olympian’s Sean McIntyre was another who came close, in a very tight Boys U12 600m his sixth place finish was right up with the medallists.
Well done to everyone who carried the flag brilliantly for the North West.
A busy week of track based action is on the cards with the Cork City Sports tonight, Tuesday 17th, the inaugral Brian Downing Memorial meeting in Antrim on Wednesday evening and then it’s off to Santry Stadium in Dublin on Sunday 22nd for round two of the National League.
While it’s unlikely there will be any local participation in the big Cork meeting there certainly will be in Antrim 24 hours later.
The ambitious programme will include events for both underage athletes and seniors and some of the African and Middle Eastern Olympic bound athletes, who will be based in the Antrim area in the lead up to London, will be in action.
Connor Bradley is expected to move up to the 3,000m on Wednesday, Padjo Hamilton will go over 800m and perhaps Jason Smyth may look at the 100m as he looks ahead to defending his 100m/200m Paralympian titles in August. Declan Reed is another who may take on the 3,000m.
Sunday next will take both Olympian and City of Derry to Dublin for the vital second round match in the National League. Both the Spartans male (Premier Division) and female (Division One) squads are well placed to challenge for a place in the League final. Olympian’s men’s squad too retain prospects of advancing in Division One and all will depend on both clubs fielding their strongest possible squads.
Ciara Armstrong, Jenny O’Brien and Claire Dougherty will be missed by the female red vests but with a strong, albeit young, back-up available, they should be good enough to deliver enough points to cement qualification for the August final in Tullamore.