What an incredible year we are having. Determined to move ahead with the national T&F senior and U23 championships and preserve the tradition of an uninterrupted streak since 1873, the organisers of the first of two weekends of the championships must have been delighted with a lot of the action. In a highly surreal environment without spectators, streamed live throughout the weekend, the athletes did not disappoint and those of us glued to our computer screens would have thoroughly enjoyed a lot of the events we witnessed. It certainly brightened up a week when there appears to have been no other competitive activity around the island. Even the mountains were silent, following publication of the latest government guidelines.
Crusaders featured in several activities. In one of the finals on the Saturday, Adam McMullen took part in an exciting long jump competition. Despite having come back from serious injury and having had to change his lead-off leg for his jumps during this time, Adam was heading the field after the first round with a leap of 7.31m. In blustery conditions with a strong tailwind behind them, several of the athletes had difficulties in adjusting their run ups in the event, with more than the usual red flags perhaps. One athlete, Shane Howard of Bandon AC, was one of those, but he managed to jump 7.44m in the 3rd round and despite gallant attempts from Adam to improve on his distance and overcome the deficit over the remaining 3 rounds, he ultimately had to settle for the silver medal, not a bad outcome for the serial medallist, considering where he has come from in recent months.
Also, on the Saturday, in his first 400m of the year, Andrew Mellon qualified for the final by winning the 3rd heat of 5 in 49.47. Hugo Magee ran in the first heat and despite a strong finish down the home straight into a terrific headwind, he placed 4th in 51.50, which was not quite fast enough to qualify as a “time qualifier”. An outside lane draw for him may not have been helpful. In the women’s 400m heats, Ciara Barry placed 5th in the first race in 61.08 and unfortunately also failed to qualify. Likewise, Ciara had to run in lane 8.
Finally, in the 3rd session on the first day and with the wind slightly changing direction from earlier in the day, Jason Harvey and Matt Behan ran in the same heat of the 400mH. Jason ran in lane 4, with Matt, moving up from his usual distance in the 110mH, just outside in lane 6. After a slow start, Jason took the win in 53.85 with a fast-finishing Matt on his shoulder at the tape in a PB time of 53.89. Both qualified for Sunday evening’s final.
Onto Sunday and with it some mouth-watering finals action. During the day there were also heats of the 100m. We had no competitors in the women’s event. However, we had 4 runners take part in the men’s heats, of which there were 6. In the first heat, Nick Ennis ran in lane 5 where he placed 4th in 11.64 running against a headwind measured at 3m/s (it had been as high as 4m/s earlier in the afternoon for the women’s heats). In a series where only the winner of each heat was guaranteed to qualify with 4 fastest time qualifiers, it was always going to be a challenge for our athletes. Charlie Bastow was next, in heat 2, where from lane 7 he came across the line in 5th place in 11.68 (headwind of 2.2m/s). Under-23 athlete Valantinos Goularas, another sprint hurdler who should look to do well next weekend, ran 11.58 against a 2.2m/s headwind and, in the last and the fastest heat of the session, Hugo Magee placed 4th in 11.52. Unfortunately, none of our athletes was able to qualify in such a packed field.
So we then come to the finals on Sunday evening. The first in which we had athletes (following an exciting men’s 5k race) was the 400mH. Jason and Matt were running, respectively, in lane 6 and 4 (a reversal of the heat the day before). In the 7-man final, Matt started like a rocket and reeled in the athletes outside him with superb hurdling. By the 300m mark he was clearly in the lead and held on emphatically to take what was regarded as a surprising win for the novice at this distance. Matt ran supremely and took the title in 52.47, an improvement on his PB by over a second. Jason found the going somewhat tougher, but still managed to hold off a fast finishing John Fagan of Clonliffe for 3rd place and once again a podium appearance in 53.82, a marginal improvement over his time in the heat, just behind U23 champion Dooneen’s Cathal Locke who took silver in 52.75.
Our last finalist of the weekend was Andrew Mellon in the 400m. Under lights and from the gun he flew off and, up until the final bend and 150m to go, he may well have been in the lead from lane 7 over the eventual winner Christopher O'Donnell from North Sligo. Although O'Donnell took the lead going down the home straight, Andrew was closing with a storming finish against the strong headwind to produce a season's best 47.35 behind O'Donnell's 47.12 to earn a well-deserved silver medal.
So we left the meet with 4 medals (one gold, two silvers and a bronze), a great return from the club's participation. We can now look forward to some exciting action next weekend. Many congrats to those who competed.