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Two Longford school children will this week enjoy the fantastic experience of travelling to New York to take part at the famous Millrose Games indoor athletics event.

Vilte Krasikova and Jairo Aklassou, both aged eight, will run in the Fastest Kid In The World races on Saturday February 11 as part of the revered track and field meet held at The Armory venue.

Last September, a number of children aged 7 and 8 from Longford and neighbouring counties took part in the Fastest Feet initiative staged in the Longford Athletics Centre at St. Mel’s College. Entrants had to sprint between two timing gates with Vilte and Jairo setting the fastest times on the evening. Such was the quality of their performances, the two children were immediately selected as Ireland’s representatives for this week’s trip to the US.

A pupil of Melview National School, Vilte loves to run and is very excited ahead of visiting the ‘Big Apple’ and racing at such a big event. Jairo attends Stonepark National School and is also very much looking forward to the trip to New York and to the race. Both are members of Longford Athletics Club and have been practising over recent weeks on the club’s indoor 60-metre track.

Organised by Sligo’s Dermot McDermott, the Believe and Achieve programme promotes Fastest Feet which is now in its eighth year. It encourages the importance of sport for young people with athletics coaching and camps held throughout the year. A select few lucky children from across the country have enjoyed the thrill of travelling to New York to run for Ireland at the Fastest Kid In The World since 2015.

Galway man Richard Donovan, of Global Running Adventures, is benefactor to the programme and his backing continues to provide Irish athletes with fantastic opportunities in the sport. He sponsors other events such as the World Marathon Challenge and the Antarctic Ice Marathon with the latter won by Clonmel’s Seán Tobin just before Christmas.

With its 5,000 seater capacity, The Armory in Upper Manhattan has played host to the Millrose Games since 2012. Prior to that, Madison Square Garden staged the famed annual indoor meet for almost a century. Longford’s Ray Flynn has been the Event Director now for over a decade and it continues to hold prestigious standing in the athletics calendar. Indeed Ray was present at the Fastest Feet qualifier in September during a visit back to his hometown and witnessed Vilte and Jairo’s very impressive displays of sprinting.

Having achieved gold standard status on the World Athletics Indoor Tour, Saturday’s Millrose Games will feature many international stars of track and field. The renowned Wanamaker Mile will likely be one of the highlights of the extensive programme. Another of the scheduled races, the Boys Invitational Mile, was won convincingly by Ardagh’s Cian McPhillips during his appearance at The Armory in 2020.
An original aim for the inclusion of the Fastest Kids dash at the Millrose Games was to inspire children from all backgrounds in the New York area to take up athletics and channel their energies and talents into sport and activity.

Such has been its success over recent years, the initiative now attracts entries from many different countries. Children in last year’s races hailed from the US, Trinidad, Jamaica, Grenada and Nigeria while the Irish representatives were Grace Foley (Sligo) and Cian Donnelly (Tuam). A new group of eight-year-olds, including Vilte and Jairo, take to the start line on Saturday for the 55-metres sprint and all have gone through a similar qualifying process.

Vilte and Jairo will each be accompanied by family members during their five-day trip to the US for what will be an experience of a lifetime. On Friday, they will attend the event press conference at a hotel beside Central Park along with some of the senior elite athletes. That evening, the children will be special guests at a pre-Millrose Games function alongside seven-time Wanamaker Mile winner Eamonn Coghlan.

First to take to the track on Saturday will be Vilte in the girls race which will be soon followed by Jairo lining up in the boys’ dash. It is hoped that online footage of the races will become available that evening which will be then shared on the Longford AC Facebook page.
Their many supporters have been sending Vilte and Jairo their best wishes in recent days ahead of the talented young athletes embarking on this fantastic experience of representing Longford and Ireland at the Fastest Kid In The World.