Wexford athletes among the medals at National Juvenile Indoor Championships

Wexford athletics had plenty of reason for cheer at the final weekend of the 123.ie National Juvenile Indoor Championships at the TUS International Arena in Athlone with a mix of gold, silver and bronze medals coming back home. There were impressive performances by Michael Kent (DMP) in under 17 pole vault, James Prendergast (Adamstown) in under 16 shot put and Max Murphy (United Striders) in under 16 1500m. Coincidently, all three attend Good Counsel College in New Ross. There were also outstanding performances by Bree high jump duo Ava Wilson and Sarah O’Brien, and Artem Kelly (St. Paul’s) in under 15 long jump. Maria Coone (DMP), a first-time race walker at this level, and seasoned walker, Ciara Mooney (Adamstown) also added to Wexford’s medal haul.

Field events
Pole vaulter Michael Kent (DMP), competing in the under 17 event, gave a thrilling exhibition of vaulting to a delighted audience. With the competition already well won, he finished with a big clearance of 4.20 metres which really raised the roof. This was both a personal best while also adding just short of 50cm to the previous championship best. Michael was subsequently awarded the Áine Pobjoy Award for outstanding performances over the previous year by an under 16 athlete. He has won national titles in triple jump, high jump and pole vault in both schools and inter-club championships. Michael was a bronze medal winner at both the Schools International and the UK national championships in 2022.

Wexford had another national award winner with Saidhbhe Byrne (Enniscorthy) receiving the Marian Feehan Award for Best Achievement at Combined Events in 2022. Saidhbhe, a student at Coláiste Bhríde Carnew, has represented her club, school and country, nationally and internationally, in combined events, as well as winning provincial and national medals in multiple events. Outside of athletics, Saidhbhe plays inter-county football with Wexford.

Bree AC had a number of talented young field eventers competing. Young Ava Wilson, the recent recipient of the Wexford Juvenile Athlete of the Year award, won the under 13 high jump with a leap of 1.43 metres, was second in long jump (4.39 metres) and placed 7th in 60 metres hurdles (10.72 seconds). Sarah O’Brien, also Bree, finished second in a very competitive under 14 high jump that saw the Championship Best Performance of 1.63 metres equalled by Cara Ryan (Clonmel). Sarah jumped 1.51m, pipping Rachel Treacy from Tuam on countback. In boys under 15 long jump the very first jump of St Paul’s athlete Artem Kelly (St. Paul’s) – 5.28 metres – was good enough to secure the silver medal. Jennifer Whelan (Kilmore) was 9th in under 13 long jump (4.07 metres), while Judy Sinnott (DMP) finished in 10th position in the under 14 event (4.25 metres). Jack Browne (Enniscorthy) had a fine leap in under 16 long jump, jumping 5.59 metres (pb), just a few centimetres off the bronze medal (5.68m).
In under 15 shot put, Artem Kelly (St. Paul’s) finished in 9th position with a throw of 10.59 metres, while Elijah Page Redmond (Menapians) was close behind in 10th place (10.56 metres). Lea Bolger (Bree) was 10th in the girls under 15 event (7.90 metres). Star of the day from a throwing perspective was the ever-reliable James Prendergast of Adamstown AC. James, who burst onto the throwing scene last year, finished in second place at under 16 level with a throw of 11.36 metres, pipping Eoghan McCaul from Glaslough Harriers by just 2 cms.

Max Murphy (United Striders) continued the fine form he showed over the cross country season when placing third in under 16 1500 metres with an excellent personal best time of 4.13.66 minutes. In 800m, Aoife Walsh (DMP) was unlucky to miss out on qualification for the final, finishing in 5th position in her heat (2.23 minutes). Saoirse Flanagan, also DMP, ran well to qualify for the final in under 14 800m. She was 6th in the final with a time of 2.25 minutes.

Sprints & hurdles
Indoor sprint hurdles have traditionally been a strong event for Wexford. Stephanie O’Connor (Enniscorthy) has been showing good form of late, doubtless taking inspiration from her parents, Margaret and John, both of whom competed at the recent World Masters Championships. She qualified for the final of under 16 60 metres hurdles a race in which, while there was a clear winner, there was a scramble for the other spots on the podium and a photo finish was needed to decide the matter. Stephanie was given 4th position, her time 9.57 seconds, a new personal best. Keira Wilson (Bree) placed 6th under 16 in her 60 metres hurdles heat (10.57 seconds), while clubmate Lea Bolger was 8th in her under 15 heat (11.10 seconds).
Stephanie subsequently lined out in the 200 metres, running 26.76 seconds and just missing out on qualification for the final. Elijah Page Redmond (Menapians) finished 6th in the heat of the under 15 60 metres in a time of 7.83 seconds.

Maria Coone (DMP) recently took up race walking and, by her own admission, she is still learning the ropes. Nonetheless her solid background in middle-distance and cross country has served her well following her decision to try her hand at this notoriously difficult event. She placed third in under 17 1500 metres walk in a time of 8.47 minutes, just a few seconds behind Ciara Gilmore of Tuam AC, a club with a strong pedigree in race walking. A Wexford family with plenty of tradition in the walks is the Mooney family from Adamstown. Coach and former international Marie Mooney provides top level guidance to her charges not alone in Adamstown, but in the broader Wexford athletics family. Ciara Mooney kept up the family tradition with a second place finish in under 19 1500 metres walk in a time of 7.29 minutes. Sean Walsh, also Adamstown, was 4th in under 14 boys 1000 metres walk (5.34 minutes).

Full results at Athletics Ireland site.