2020 National Seniors Day 3+4

August, 2020

GOLD FOR POWER AS MAHER SMASHED RECORD

The second weekend of the 148th consecutive National Seniors took place in Santry last weekend, under strict COVID guidelines. Like many other sports returning to competitive action, all the necessary precautions and safety measures were in place. Athletes had their COVID declarations completed and the competition was ready to begin. There was one significant difference from other years. Instead of excited fans, parents, family and fellow athletes cheering on with exuberant excitement, this year the stands were empty. All was not lost as thousands of Athletics fans were able to follow all the action on the Athletics Ireland YouTube channel.

Similar to last weekend, Athletes, of all calibres, were delighted to have an opportunity to compete. Athletes from Offaly and Laois returned to competition having missed the first weekend due to lockdown. Unfortunately for Kildare based athletes, lockdown meant that they unfortunately had to give the cream of Irish athletics events a miss for a second weekend in a row. The unfortunate consequence of rising COVID cases in the county.

GOLD POWER FOR SHANE

This week Kilkenny had yet another medal. Shane Power (St Josephs) competing in the pole vault, vaulted himself to success by becoming the new under 23 Irish Pole Vault Champion. To add to his achievements he finished 2nd in the senior event. Quiet the jubilant athlete as he received his first ever National Senior medal. Shane is no stranger to national medals as he has won several under-age, Junior and u23 pole vault medals in previous years. In the Dublin graded meet a few weeks ago he created a new PB with 4.50m. There were never going to be records broken on Sunday, as the winds were quiet high and running and vaulting into a strong headwind was always going to be difficult. Shane had to be content with a vault of 4.40m to take the u23 gold, a full 10cm ahead of Matthew Keenan of St Laurence O’Tooles, Carlow. While in the senior competition Yuri Kanash of West Waterford went on to vault 4.50m. Michael Bowler (Enniscorthy AC) was 3rd.

The competition opened at 3m. Similar to the High Jump, the athletes can opt in at this height or chose to come in at a later height. The benefit of abstaining means the athlete is more rested. The drawback is if the result goes to a countback, and athletes are locked together at all heights, it could prove to their detriment. Such has proven to be the case in past competitions. Technically speaking, the more experienced jumpers will chose not to take part in the first few rounds. It saves them taking anything up to 10 attempts – thus conserving an enormous amount of shoulder and arm energy. Shane opted to start his vaults at 4.20m which he easily cleared. The senior winner Yuri Kanash chose to do likewise. However Peter Dunne (Gowran) having just two years under his belt with the Pole Vault, took no chances and 3.20 clearing it well. Peter went on to vault a height of 3.80m to finish 7th.

MAHER DOES IT AGAIN

There is no stopping the in-form Brian Maher. With a recent 5,000m masters over 40 record under this belt, he came into last week’s 10,000m Nationals within nothing on his mind only laying claim to the 10,000m record. A large field of 31 athletes lined up for the race, including two of Kilkenny interest; Brian Maher and Eoin Everard (KCH). Competing in the 10,000m on the track was a new option for Eoin. In previous years he would have chosen events like 1,500m. Perhaps the 2019 inclusion on the World Cross Country team, forced his training regime towards the longer events. The two harrier’s athletes often train together and knew each other’s form. When it comes to individual racing on the track, training mates become competition. That is just how it is. Maher knew that Everard had speed. He understood only too well that Everard and those other athletes blessed with speed were going to be a threat to him if he did not raise the pace at an early stage and shake them off. However, the race on Saturday was not so much about beating athletes. For Brian it was beating his own time – snapping a claim on the record. Who was in front or behind him was of little consequence. What matters was that he developed a strong steady running rhythm early in the race and stuck to it.

The athletes formed groups after one lap into the race. The first group led by John Travers (Donore) with peloton of 10 athletes stringing our behind him. John was quiet a decorated athlete having competed in numerous European Indoor and Outdoor Championships. He had a best of 29.04 for the 10,000m. Tucked into the main group was Sean Tobin of Clonmel. Sean was a tantalising two hundredths of a second off the gold medal in the 1,500m the previous weekend. He was running his first track 10,000m. Eoin Everard looked comfortable in the middle of the group, also competing in his first ever track 10,000m. Brian followed closely. After 5 laps of the 25 lap race, Eoin still looked comfortable hanging on to the middle of the leading group. Brian however was working hard to stay in touch. Several times he would find himself a few seconds adrift, only to make up the ground again. As the race progressed, the pace increased. Brian knew he had to keep a steady pace. If he wanted that national record he could not succumb to pace injections and cat and mouse games for the leading position. Running a solid pace for the entire race, Brian came home in 30.34 to shave two seconds off the National over 40 record. He now holds the 10,000m, 5,000m, Half Marathon and 10 miles records for the over 40s. Those records won’t be too easily taken from him. Overall Brian finished 9th with Eoin Everard in 10th place. The race was won by Sean Tobin – his first ever National 10,000m title.

ATHLETES FROM THREE CLUBS RACE IN SANTRY

Overall just four clubs from the county provided athletics interest in the Nationals this year; KCH, St Senans, St Josephs and Gowran. The first event of the weekend was the ladies 800m on Saturday. Competing in the first heat was Sophie Jackman (St Senans). This was the first national championships for the 18 year old Kilmacow native. Back in January she ran 2.15 for 800m indoors and was poised to take 3 or 4 seconds off that time. Lockdown and leaving cert changed those plans. With no track to facilitate speed work, training plans became fitness plans. By June when the 5km became 20km she could finally access the track again. Happy with a revised plan, she had new goals. The National Seniors was never on the cards for Sophie but with race after race cancelled – it provided the opportunity for some competition. Her goal was 2.16 and that is exactly what she achieved. We will see plenty more of this young talented athlete in the future.

Maggie O’Connor (St Josephs) raced in the ladies 5,000m walk on Saturday, finishing 4th one place ahead of long-time rival Sinead McConnell (Finn Valley). The race was won by Kate Veale (West Waterford) claiming her 9th national title. Maggie is well known in race walking circles having been part of a maters team that got silver in the world championships in Madrid 2 years ago. Earlier this year she claimed Silver in the National Road Walks. Consistently at the top of her game, she will be back next week for the National master’s track and field.

Having made the final in the 400m the first weekend, Jack Manning (KCH) was back again last weekend, competing in the 200m. Up against the very much in-form Mark Smyth (Raheny) he had his hopes on an u23 medal. However it was another Kilkenny 4th place, when Jack was marginally outside the medals to claim 4th in the u23 event. The race was won by Mark Smyth. In the senior men’s race, Jack was in the first heat, drawn against the favourite – Irish International Marcus Lawlor. With 48 athletes spread over 6 heats, it was just the winner of each heat to qualify with two fastest loosers from the 6 heats. This made it very difficult for the athletes – especially when they are drawn against guys like Marcus. Jack finished 2nd in his heat – alas not good enough for the sport in the final.

It certainly was a day of 4th places for Kilkenny athletes. Aoife Allen (St Senans) was the third of three St Senans athletes to compete in this year’s national seniors. Like Sophie Jackman and Bronagh Kearns this was also Aoife’s first every National Seniors. At 19, it was a new experience. Aoife raced in the Steeplechase – a race that had Michelle Finn (Leevale) written all over it. The Leevale athlete is currently number one in the world rankings for this year. Aoife did very well to achieve 4th place and will take much from her experience at this level.

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