Week ending Saturday 29th August
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 last Saturday, 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 under 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 next Sunday.
Irish Life Health Mile Challenge
The Irish Life Health Mile Challenge was set up to see what County and Club could take the prize as the fastest and fittest. The week long challenge started last Monday, the 35th anniversary to the day, when four of Ireland’s top milers (Frank O’Mara, Ray Flynn, Eamonn Coghlan and Marcus O’Sullivan) ran the World record at the time for the 4 x 1 mile relay in Dublin. For athletics clubs nationwide, there was €1,000 on offer for the fastest 4 x 1mile relay, male and female.
To coincide with the challenge, Mullingar Harriers AC members ran a mile race at training last Wednesday evening. Weather conditions were far from ideal with Storm Ellen on the way and the most recent Government Covid-19 restrictions required the athletes to run in groups no greater than 15 in size. The first group of runners set off under a downpour but recorded some impressive times with James Keegan leading the field across the line in 4:58 followed closely by Andrew Nevin in 5:05. Áine O’Reilly was quickest woman in that group recording 5:51 but it was Catriona Kennedy, running in the second wave, who ran the fastest woman time of the night in 5:41.
On Thursday morning a number of Club members who missed the Wednesday night challenge ran their own timed mile. When Sinead Whitelaw (5:51), Jenny Algar (5:59) and Amy Mahony (6:02) submitted their times, the Mullingar Harriers women had taken the lead in the National challenge. The lead was short lived though and it wasn’t long before Mayo AC took the lead, so calls went out for help. Elizabeth Carr included a flying mile of 5:46 during a triathlon training session, which included a cycle followed by a number of running intervals. Then Joan Flynn’s rest week was disrupted when asked to throw in a surprise time trial but she produced a great solo effort of 5:41 bringing the Club within touching distance of victory.
One last hope lay with Claire Fagan who was busy racing at the National Senior T&F Championships. Following a tough 5,000m race, where Claire won a National bronze medal, she still produced a mile in 5:30 which put the Mullingar women in the lead. Unfortunately, Dublin City Harriers (DCH) kept the best for last and on the final day of the competition had their athletes out, determined to make their mark. Just like being passed on the finish straight, the DCH women jumped ahead of the Mullingar team and stole the victory with a last gasp effort.
A similar week played out for the men. When Pauric Brady’s solo mile of 5:01 was added to the team’s scores from Wednesday, the Mullingar men were well represented at the top of the overall leader board. A few late additions were submitted but it was Club-leading time of 4:41 by Maurice Looby which made the biggest difference. The overall score wasn’t quite good enough for victory though, but as we go to press before the official results were announced, the Harriers men are in third place in the National challenge.
This is the second virtual event organized by Athletics Ireland this summer and the second time both the Mullingar women and the Mullingar men have made an appearance on the National virtual podium.
For the latest news, results and details of fixtures check the Club’s Facebook page or the website at www.mullingarharriers.com.