The 123.ie National Juvenile Track & Field Championships concluded in Tullamore last weekend with two days of top class athletics action. Always a long and exhausting weekend for athletes, officals, coaches and parents, the inclement weather made the whole experience that bit more trying. Yet, notwithstanding the conditions, the quality and level of competitiveness were as high as ever. In this regard, Wexford’s best young athletes were not found wanting.
How and when Maria Coone of DMP decided that being a fine cross country runner did not preclude her from race walking is a question we are dying to ask her. One thing is certain, it was an inspired decision as she is possessing of stamina, determination and patience, all pre-requisites in this toughest of events. She used her skill-set to full effect in the under 17 3000 metres walk, powering all the way to victory in a time of 17.54.30. In her wake she left Tuam’s Ciara Gilmore (18.06) and Éabha Hicky of West Waterford (18.16), both athletes being from clubs which are powerhouses in race walking. In the 3000 metres flat, Maria kept pace with the leaders for 2km before the lactic started to get to work and she lost contact. She managed to rally and take 6th place in 10:54.42.
And from the county’s own powerhouse of race walking, namely Adamstown AC, Seán Walsh was 3rd in the under 14 2000 metres walk (11.27.59), and Ciara Mooney was 2nd in under 19 3000 metres walk (15.56.61).
Shannon Codd (DMP) is one of the quartet of Wexford athletes who competed at the recent schools international (SIAB) in Scotland, the others being Abbie Doyle (Bree), Kara Morrissey (SLOT) and Cara Kelly (DMP). Shannon showed that she is still in the fine form that got her on that team by taking bronze in under 17 hammer (3kg) with a throw of 45.47 metres. She has been steadily improving all season and has shown great potential in this technically demanding event. Shannon is a skilled dancer and this is to her advantage in an event that demands strength, coordination and dexterity. Eileen O’Keefe, a native of Kilkenny and one of Ireland’s most successful female athletes, put her own success in hammer down to her dancing skills. Shannon is obviously following in her nimble footsteps.
Abbie Doyle is a relatively recent convert to triple jumping, having previously specialised in hurdles and sprints. She has shown great consistency over the past month or two in her jumping with silver at the Tailteann Games and bronze at the All-Ireland Schools. Abbie won the under 18 triple jump in Tullamore with a best effort of 10.86 metres. While she had a comfortable winning margin, a mere one centimetre separated silver and bronze with Lucy Fitzgerald (Tipperary Town) on 10.66 and Leagh Moloney (Dooneen) on 10.65. Abbie came agonizingly close to the 11 metres mark earlier in the season, with a 10.99 jump at the South Leinster Schools event. It really is only a matter of time before she passes that mark.
Both Ava Barry (Kilmore) and Rayna Thompson (DMP) also took part in the under 16 triple jump, Ava placing 6th (9.35m) and Rayna 7th, just 5cm behind. In long jump, Ava was 12th (4.52m).
Cameron Sheil (St Killian’s) was 5th in under 16 triple jump (10.20m) and clubmate Chloe Reck was 6th under 17 (10.18m).
Pole vaulter Kara Morrissey, a young athlete with great focus and dedication to her chosen discipline, was an easy winner in the under 17 event with a clearance of 2.85 metres.
DMP’s Cara Kelly has being having a great season, the highpoint of which was winning a relay silver at the SIABs. Last weekend, she was second in the under 18 400 metres hurdles in 65.09 seconds.
In the 400 metres flat, Cara went out fast and was well positioned going through 200 metres. She held the bend well, still in contention. Coming into the straight, however, she showed signs of tiring. She crossed the line in 5th place in a time of 58.45, a little off her best. Still a good result.
Áine Byrne (Croghan) was 7th in under 19 400 metres (68.13).
Last month, James Prendergast (Adamstown) won a silver in shot put at the All Ireland Schools T&F Champs. Competing in the under 16 event, he continued his run of good form by getting the shot out to 13.65 metres, half a metre further than he threw in the schools. He was rewarded for his efforts with another silver medal. Turning his attention to the discus, three of his efforts were no throws, the last was a whopping 39.63 metres, not enough to take the lead but good enough for second. Two silvers, three if you count the schools – not bad.
In a Summer when a number of young Wexford athletes have made an impression on the national stage, Dannan Long is very much to the fore. With the European under 20 championships in August to look forward to, one could understand if the affable young Enniscorthy man took his foot off the gas and took a break. Not a bit of it! Dannan won the under 19 100 metres in Tullamore in 11.05.
Lea Bolger (Bree) threw a pb of 40.35 metres in under 15 hammer to take the bronze medal.
Top four athletes in the under 16 girls high jump finished on 1.50 metres, including Bree’s Kiera Wilson. She ended up in the silver medal position on countback. Her clubmate Sarah O’Brien was 5th in under 14 high jump (1.45 metres).
Enniscorthy’s Jack Browne faced very stiff competition in the under 16 long jump with Ryan Onoh (Leevale) jumping a Championship Best Performance of 6.63m. Jack jumped a new personal best of 5.96 metres to place 4th. He was also 7th in his 200 metres heat (25.29).
In under 16 3000 metres, Max Murphy of United Striders was part of the leading group for most of the race and in third place at the bell. On the back straight Noah Watt pulled ahead and Max gave chase. Round the final bend and four athletes were in contention, all ready to pounce. In the shake-out on the run for home, Max ended up in 4th place, crossing the line in 9.07.55. Great race.
Max’s clubmate Seán Lennon was 14th in under 18 3000 metres. Abby Wolohan (Croghan) finished in 8th place in girls under 18 3000 metres (11.11.13).
Myles Hewlett, formerly with United Striders and now with Kilkenny City Harriers, was 4th in the under 19 1500 metres (4.08.03), the winner being first-time national track gold medallist David Williams of St Senan’s AC (4.01.53).
For DMP, Saoirse Flanagan was 6th in under 14 1500 metres (4.57.57) and Éabha Keane was 10th in under 16 1500 metres (5.04.98).
Competing in the black and red of Menapians, the Page Redmond brother, Elijah and Lucas, had a busy time of it. Elijah (under 15) was 3rd in his 200 metres heat (25.23) and 5th in his 100 metres heat (12.24). Lucas (under 17) was 5th in his 100 metres heat (12.24), 6th in his 200 metres heat (25.04) and 5th in triple jump (10.63m).
Other Wexford results: Stephanie O’Connor (Enniscorthy) was 4th in under 16 100 metres heat (13.04). Artem Kelly (St Paul’s) was 3rd in under 15 100 metres heat (12.19). Hughie Doyle (Craanford Harriers) was 6th in a heat of under 17 400 metres (60.30). Neasa Long (Enniscorthy) was 12th in under 15 high jump (1.35m).
Well done to all our athletes who competed last weekend. Whether you made the podium or not, whether you made a final or not and whether you pb’ed, dq’ed or simply gave of your best, you have competed at the highest level in the country because you earned the right to do so; and you have represented your county on the national stage. So, from all of us to all of you: mile buíochas!