Furlong seals third national title on trot
DMP ace over two meters clear
The juvenile outdoor track and field season reached its pinnacle last weekend in Tullamore when the very best of Wexford's young athletes competed in the first day of the Athletics Association of Ireland national championships.
Having spent the season coming through the ranks of the Athletics Wexford and Athletics Leinster championships to earn their place in the All-Irelands, understandably tensions were high as our hopefuls took to the national stage, some of the younger ones for their first time ever.
Even the more seasoned athletes, the Under-17s, -18s and -19s, were under pressure to maintain consistency, achieve a new personal best, defend titles or make that all-important comeback to form. Some were even chasing Irish records, aiming to go faster, higher, stronger - an expectation that puts athletics in Wexford in a very strong position going into the future.
For the youngest athletes, the nationals start at Under-12 level, and it was a huge achievement to compete on the same platform that launched the careers of champions such as Sonia O'Sullivan, Eamonn Coghlan and Fionnuala Britton, to name but a few. Even the great Mr. Bolt had to start at his nationals.
It was also an inspiration to them to watch and cheer on athletes from their own county as Wexford began to claim places on the podium in the older age groups.
The skill, dedication, commitment and workrate of these young athletes was evident in every discipline, a testament to the quality of coaching that has been built up throughout the clubs in Co. Wexford.
The first national title of the day came when Adamstown's throwing sensation, Marguerite Furlong, entered the discus cage in the Under-16 competition. Going for a hat-trick of national outdoor titles in this event, she showed her dominance with a throw of 30.53m on her second effort, sealing her three-in-a-row by over two metres clear of her nearest rival.
She adds this to her victory in the Schools All-Ireland and she still has the shot putt to compete in next weekend, another event where she has been winning national medals since Under-12 level. Her training partner, Taghmon's Pádraig Hore, has been coming into form just in time for the nationals at Under-16 level.
Up against the Donegal Kelly throwing dynasty, Pádraig was to take the gold, making it a double for Wexford in the Under-16 discus with a final throw of 46.21m, almost three metres to spare on James Kelly from Finn Valley.
Our next national champion came when St. Killian's Jack Forde took to the high jump in the boys' Under-13 competition. Another athlete from the Nicky Cowman school of high jumping, Jack trains all winter with Ryan Carthy-Walsh of Adamstown, under the watchful guidance of coach Cowman.
Never faltering from 1.25m upwards, Jack cleared 1.40m on his first attempt, being pushed by a young Cork athlete all the way. Following three attempts at 1.45m, just above his P.B., Jack was awarded the gold on countback to replicate his indoor success earlier this year.
The sprint hurdles saw a number of Wexford athletes medal. At Under-13 level, Taghmon's Aisling Kelly showed her all-round versatility when she secured herself a silver medal after winning her heat and running a speedy 60m final in a time of 9.99.
St. Paul's Daniel Halligan was the bronze medallist in the boys' Under-15 80m hurdles, crossing the line in 12.48 seconds.
In the Under-19 110m hurdles, Conor Gaffney from Menapians, coming into form at just the right time, took a bronze with a time of 17.16 seconds.
Jane Shovlin of Menapians demonstrated her consistent progress in the Under-19 long jump, below her best with a jump of 5.09, but strong enough to bring home a bronze medal.
In the boys' Under-19 steeplechase, Menapians' Enda Cloake ran a smooth race to clock up a new P.B. of 10.04.20, in his first year of athletics competition. From winning the Wexford schools cross-country Senior boys' competition, this athlete has gone from strength to strength with every race and well deserves the national medal.
Just outside the medals were St. Paul's athletes, Gergely Pap who was placed fourth in the Under-14 hammer, and Sammy Delaney, also fourth in the Under-16 long jump.
Our next batch of All-Ireland qualifiers will be in action on days two and three of the National Juvenile Championships in Tullamore next weekend, and we look forward to more success from both the track and field.