Irish Life Health National Indoor Championships – Day 2

March 26 & April 1, 2017 at AIT International Arena, Athlone

Day 2 – Sprints, 1500m, field events.     Day 3 – 200m, 800m, 60m Hurdles races

Day 2 of the National Indoor Championships was all about speed as the Club’s sprinters all had the same goal; advance from their heat to run in the final eight. 275 Provincial medallists from across the entire country in the u12-u18 juvenile age groups travelled to Athlone IT International Arena to test themselves against the clock. With 16 to 20 runners in every age group vying for qualifying places the standard of competition was set very high. 

U16 Keelin  McGann, 7.79 seconds, and U17 Cian Nolan, 7.58 seconds,  were disappointed not to improve on their Connacht times as they did not progress from the heats stage. Both U17 Gospel Idahor, 8.16 seconds, and U18 Aaron Kelly, 7.42 seconds, achieved new personal best times running well in their respective heats and final.

Sisters Funmi  and Yemi Talabi both won their heats with new pbs and looked competitive for the finals. Funmi  got out of the starting blocks strongly and bolted for the line winning 2nd place and  her first ever All-Ireland medal in the U13 Girls 60m sprint, 8.21 seconds. This wonderful achievement was a long time coming as Funmi has been the fastest girl in Connacht for the last 5 years since she was U9 in 2013 but she never stepped on the All-Ireland podium until today. Yemi showed continued improvement as she finished 4th place overall in the field of 18 Girls in U16 60m sprint, 7.90 seconds, one better than her 5th place finish last year, 8.11 seconds. Happy to improve, it was still hard to go home without a medal after such a great performance.

Longford AC had three athletes competing in a variety of field events: high jump, shot putt and long jump. Brendan Finnan recorded a new pb 4.61m, 8th place, in U15 Boys long jump but was not able to replicate his best Provincial high jump of 1.50m. Yemi Talabi was not in top form as she hurt her knee on her 1st jump so had to settle for best jump of 4.38m, 14th place. Only Nelvin Appiah managed to fly the flag for Longford as he took All-Ireland Bronze in the U17 Boys High Jump at 1.88m. He also finished 6th place, 10.79m, in shot putt.

The first event of Day 3, the 200m heats, saw five of Longford AC’s talented teenage athletes take to the track trying to improve on their Connacht qualifying times.  U18 Aaron Kelly, 24.00 seconds, U17 Gospel Idahor, 27.83 seconds, U16 Keelin McGann, 24.40 seconds and U16 Killian Rawle, 24.96 seconds, gave their all but did not manage to progress from the heats stage.

It was all up to Nelvin Appiah who won his heat, 23.22 seconds, with the fastest overall time across the 19 competitors in his U17 Boys age group. This earned him the treasured starting place in Lane 6 for the final which proved absolutely crucial in giving him the fraction of a tenth of a second advantage that saw Nelvin win Gold in 22.77 seconds. The first three were so close across the finish line that all the spectators held their breath until the screen flashed with Longford’s result. 2nd place, 22.88 seconds and 3rd place, 22.96 seconds, both went to athletes from Leevale AC, Cork. Breaking the 23 second mark was a great achievement for Nelvin over the 3 Days of National Indoor Championships and added to his All-Ireland Silver medal from last weekend’s 4X200m Relay Finals.

The middle distance races were next on the programme and standard was so high on the day that three new Championship Best Performances were recorded by juvenile athletes in these events alone. Both Kate Hagan, new pb in the U14 Girls 800m heat, 2:34.64 minutes, and Dylan Horkan, U18 Boys 800m, had to settle for gaining competition experience at National level as they did not progress from the heats stage.

Cian McPhillips took the lead from the gun and owned the U16 Boys 800m, winning Gold in 2:00.91 minutes in the straight final of 12 runners. This win was all the sweeter as last week Cian fell on the track after tangling feet with another runner when they were both only 300m from the finish line of the U16 Boys 1500m, a race where it looked certain he would have won the Gold. Both athletes got back up, Cian was not able to complete the race, and the other athlete finished 5th.

The Longford spectators could not believe the line-up when they saw Cian was positioned in the very same starting lane for the 800m race with the City of Lisburn athlete involved in the fall from last week. Repeating their tactics from last week’s 1500m race they took off together shooting to the lead and stayed shoulder to shoulder for nearly the entire 4 laps around the track until Cian broke ahead sprinting to the finish line to claim top place on the podium.

The U15 Boys 800m proved to be the crowd pleaser of the day with outstanding performances from Christopher Conaty in both heat and final races.  With only the first two in each heat guaranteed a place in the final Christopher needed to do enough to get through as well as conserve energy to run 800m again later in the day for the final. He stayed at the back of the pack for the three laps never drawing any attention. When the bell was sounded to mark the final lap Christopher ignited and sprinted the entire 200m to surprise the other seven runners and win his heat in 2:16.13 minutes.

After a few hours of rest then it was back on the track for four more laps in the U15 Boys 800m final.  Using the same strategy Christopher waited out his time running near the back of the group of eight runners. On the final lap he made his burst, moving up one place at a time nearly reaching the 2nd, 3rd and 4th place runners. Absolutely emptying everything he had in his tank Christopher crossed the line neck and neck with 3rd place to be 0:00.22 second off a medal as he snatched his first All-Ireland 4th place.  The experience gained in lap times and tactics will benefit several of Longford AC’s other middle distance runners in this age group who all train together.

Brendan Finnan had a long wait as the 60m Hurdles finals was the very last event of the long day at nearly 6pm. After a new pb in the heats,   10.41 seconds, Brendan was about to pack up his gear when he was offered a place in the final. He used the opportunity to further improve his time to 10.21 seconds. The hurdles height for U15 & U16 Boys is 84cm so Brendan has time to further improve his technique and speed and go at it again next year.

After the 3 days of individual events Longford AC outdid themselves again this year at the Athletics Ireland National Indoor Championships bringing home 2 Gold (U16 800m & U17 200m), 1 Silver (U13 60m sprint), 1 Bronze (U17 High Jump)  and 2 X 4th place finishes (U16 60m sprint and U15 800m) on top of their double silver success in Relay.  In total 13 Longford juveniles had the opportunity to compete at national level in 23 separate events. All coaches and juvenile athletes will enjoy a short break over the Easter holidays to return with fresh enthusiasm for the upcoming outdoor track and field season.