From rowing to rugby, varsity sports events occupy a special world of their own, a sort of parallel universe. History, tradition and old rivalries play a part. So too does ‘perstare et praestare’, the desire to persevere and excel for one’s college.
The first inter varsity athletics competition in Ireland was held in Cork in 1873 with victory going to the home side, Queen’s College Cork. The desire to lay it on the line for the college is no less strong today than it was then. An unspoken aim of the Irish Universities Athletics Association, which overseas the running of third level athletics today, is to preserve and nurture that intra and inter collegial esprit de corps. Queue Vangelis’s hauntingly beautiful and stirring Chariots of Fire …
Challenging weather made for less than poetic conditions at last weekend’s Irish Universities T&F Championships held, for the first time, at the new DSD AC facility in Tibradden. If there had been a huge sound system playing THAT soundtrack, no one would have heard it through the wind whipping down off the Dublin mountains!
Wexford’s representation at the event was minimal in terms of numbers but huge in terms of impact. This was principally down to one athlete, the highly versatile St Killian’s AC combined events star, Jack Forde. Make no mistake: Jack gets the whole Chariots of Fire thing! Competing for DCU, he won the men’s pentathlon on a score of 3126 points, close to 300 points ahead of the next competitor. He was 1st in high jump (1.90m), 2nd 110m hurdles (17.52 seconds), 1st shot put (12.08m), 1st long jump (6.25m) and 4th in his least fav event, 1500m (5.20 minutes).
Jack also picked up more points for DCU in individual events (some of which were run concurrently with pentathlon): 1st high jump, 4th javelin (38.46m), 5th long jump, 4th shot put, 2nd pole vault (3.40m) and 5th in discus (32.18m). All told, he contributed 33 points to DCU’s winning total of 161. This was by far the most points scored by any athlete on the day. Indeed, had he been a stand-alone college he would have placed 6th overall!
As Jack ably demonstrated, the nature of this competition is such that athletes compete in events that may be outside their own specialist areas in order to secure team points. Another who stepped up to the mark in this regard was Róisín O’Reilly (UCD). The lightly-raced former Menapians AC athlete was running her first 3000m steeplechase race of the year. She sensibly put caution ahead of bravado, still doing enough to win with ease ahead of 2nd placed Amy Greene (DCU). Róisín also lined out in the 1500m walk, bagging a bronze for her trouble.
Jack Forde is not the only Wexford multi-eventer to have represented both club and county with distinction in recent years. St Paul’s AC athlete Maeve Hayes, competing, like Jack, in the colours of DCU, placed 3rd in the women’s pentathlon with a points total of 2734. She was 4th in 100m hurdles (17.04 seconds); 2nd long jump (4.82m); 3rd shot put (8.09m), 3rd high jump (1.50m) and 1st in her final event, 800m (2.37 minutes).
DMP’s national medal winning thrower Padraig Hore, representing UCC, was 2nd in discus with a best effort of 44.72 metres, well clear of the next competitor by 9 metres. He was 3rd in shot put (12.89m) and 7th in weight for distance (7.22 metres).
Clare Barrett (DMP and DCU) was 6th in the women’s 3,000 metres in a time of 10.33.61 minutes (pb).
Aisling Kelly (Taghmon and UCD) was 11th in long jump.
DCU continued their overall dominance of these championships with a rash of awards going their way including:
Women’s Team Champions – B.R. Martin Trophy (16th Year in a Row)
Men’s Team Champions – O’Sullivan Cup (15th Year in a Row)
Overall Team Champions – Michael Hillery Cup (15th Year in a Row)
Combined Events Team Competition Winners – Millennium Cup (4th Year in a Row)
Best Middle Distance team – Noel Carroll Cup (17th Year in a Row).