AAI National Senior T&F 2020 – days 1 & 2 (22nd/23rd Aug)
National honours for Claire Fagan
Despite a large field the women’s 5,000m at the AAI National Senior T&F in a very wild and windy Santry on Saturday 22nd August, the first of four days this year, was a straight final and included Claire Fagan who was one of the pre-race medal favourites. Due to strict Covid-19 restrictions and limitations, Santry stadium was empty of spectators and only athletes and officials were allowed, so it was eerily quiet for a National Championships but that didn’t take from the quality of the competition. Choosing to ignore a break at 2k by eventual race winner, Leevale AC’s Michelle Finn, Claire kept with the main group maintaining a steady 3:20 per kilometre pace through 3k but with three laps to go she made her move and was soon among a small chasing group of just three, leading it through the bell. Passed on the back straight, Claire kept her form and chased hard, closing slightly on second place in the home straight but the line came too soon and she finished third in 16:48.26 reinforcing her ranking as one of the top distance athletes in Ireland. Claire also won the u/23 title in her final year in the category.
Earlier in the day, first into action for Mullingar was Euan Lagan in the second of three heats of the men’s 5,000m where a very slow opening few laps did him no favours and when the pace suddenly increased with 2k to go, lacking races due to Covid-19 showed and Euan initially struggled a bit to find a response but rallied and pushed on to finish well in 16:18.80 but it wasn’t enough to advance to the final. Colin (P) Smith ran in heat 3 of 4 of the men’s 1,500m heats late on Saturday evening and after seeing the first two heats knew he needed a big performance, definitely a personal best and possibly even running under 4 minutes to advance to the final. However, a very pedestrian opening lap put paid to a fast time and even though Colin ran a really good race and finished sixth, 4:13.37 was too slow to advance to Sunday’s the final. Colin really needed to be in the fast first heat to have any chance of a personal best but the experience of competing at this level will certainly stand to him.
A very large entry meant there were six heats of the men’s 100m on Sunday afternoon, so qualification was extremely tough, with only the winner of each guaranteed to advance along with the next four fastest times to fill the ten lanes in the final. A strong headwind added to the challenges for the sprinters. Charles Okafor ran in the second heat and after a terrific start settled quickly into his running and sprinting hard all the way to the line finished a close third in a season’s best of 11.13 seconds into a noticeable one metre per second headwind, putting him in the mix for a non-automatic fastest time place in the later final but unfortunately he just missed out by two places or a mere three hundredths of a second. This was an excellent performance by Charles in his first outdoor National Championships and he’ll draw on it for the 200m on Sunday 30th August.