A: Grange, Mullingar, Co. Westmeath, Ireland | E: info@mullingarharriers.com

Week ending Saturday 6th June


Generous additional benefit to Harriers membership at Belvedere

Mullingar Harriers is an annual ticket holder at Belvedere, which up to last week allowed members to run on the woodland trails on Saturday and Sunday mornings up to 12 noon. This changed to our advantage last week when Westmeath County Council told us that our members can now visit Belvedere any two mornings over the course of the week, rather than just Saturday and Sunday. Members can now choose whatever two mornings suits them better and visit Belvedere up to 12 noon. The limit remains two mornings per week, but it’s an open choice.

Members must adhere to Government guidelines on travel distance, meet in groups of no more than four, maintain 2m social distance at all times, and when approaching other users to give them as wide a berth as possible when passing. We can also use the cross country course at any time, but the use of the woodland trails during the week is a brilliant extra resource for members, so sincere thanks to the Council and the Management and Staff at Belvedere for extending us this generous offer.

No immediate return to general training at the Club

Last week we held trial sessions at the club grounds with a small number of invited athletes to test our new pre-booking and attendance systems. It was also an opportunity to see how social distancing might work in practice. It went well, but numbers were small (three groups of three athletes with one coach each), so it was quite straightforward and we know it will be very different with much larger numbers at training. At the moment, under phase 1, the Athletics Ireland guidelines restrict numbers attending training to groups of four, three athletes with one coach, but from next week, that will change and larger groups will be able to attend training. It’s phrased as “small group team sport training”, which is vague and this week we expect Athletics Ireland to put a number on the size of the groups. If the group sizes are much larger than four, we may be able to recommence group training. The increase in travel distance to 20km will also see all our coaches return to training, which will be a huge help. However, it’s too early to throw open the gates just yet, so we’re asking members to continue to be patient while we work thorough the fine details. With a bit of luck we’ll all be back training at the club soon, but it all depends on the details released for phase 2. In the meantime, keep on running yourselves from home.

The response to the request last week to update contact details has been patchy, so we’ll repeat it. All club members, or their parents or guardians, need to send an e-mail to info@mullingarharriers.com, using “contact” as the subject, with phone number, e-mail address and home address (with Eircode, if known). As advised last week, without confirming these contact details, you will not be allowed to attend training sessions at the club grounds. This request applies to everyone in the club.

Social Distance League

The wild winds from last weekend had eased by round 2 of the Social Distance League but participants had to battle temperatures rising into the mid 20s. Nevertheless, 41 Harriers took on the challenge of running either 5k or 10k on their own over a course of their choosing.

Once again it was Maurice Looby who ran the quickest 5k of the week, securing his position as league leader. Club stalwarts Nollaig McEntegart and Nicky McCabe benefitted from the grading scores to put the heat on Evan McCormack to see who will complete the top three next week. Brigid McCabe repeated her fine performance from round 1, establishing her position as leader in the 5k league.

In the 10k competition, a superb run by Alan Crowley saw him leap ahead of the leaders from round 1, but it was a new entrant to the league, Tom McGrath, who put in the best performance of the weekend and finished top of the table. The women’s competition will also have to wait until round 3 before the victor is decided, as Mary Stuart finished ahead of Terri Greene this week, giving each athlete a turn at the top of the leader board.

The league is taking place over three consecutive Saturdays with the final round this Saturday 6th June. All participants are tasked with racing solo and recording their run on a GPS watch on race day. The results are then submitted to the race referee for validation. Athletes are free to choose their own race route, so long as they stay within the 5km limit from their homes. While giving club members something to focus on during a period when all competitions are cancelled, the league will also benefit local business with all registration fees being returned as prizes in the form of vouchers for businesses closed during the recent social restrictions.

What were we doing this time last year?

Normally at this time of year we would be wishing our Leaving Cert and Junior Cert exam students the best of luck and we’d be putting the finishing touches at the club grounds in preparation for hosting the Westmeath Community Games T&F Finals, but of course this year everything is utterly changed.

Last year, twelve Mullingar athletes qualified for the All-Ireland Schools T&F Finals in Tullamore, and on the day eleven competed. Aisling Lane (Mercy Ballymahon) won the junior girls walk and with Oisin Lane (Mercy Ballymahon) winning the senior boys walk, they joined that small select group of brother and sister All-Ireland Schools Champions. Race walk success continued with gold for Matthew Glennon (St. Finian’s) in the intermediate boys walk, bronze for Andrew Glennon (St. Finian’s) in the junior boys walk, fourth place for Jennifer Fidgeon (Loreto) and fifth for Jayne Walsh-Smith (Mercy Ballymahon) in the intermediate girls walk. Charles Okafor (St. Finian’s) took bronze in the intermediate boys 100m and followed up later in the afternoon with silver in the closest of finishes in the 200m, running personal best times in both races. The medals continued to come in the junior girls 800m when Aimee Wallace (St. Finian’s) timed her move to perfection and swept into the lead with 200m to go and was just too fast to catch and took the gold medal and schools title. Finally, in the girls u/16 mile, Phoebe Bate (Loreto) unleashed a terrific sprint on the final bend to move into third place, holding it to the finish to win the bronze medal. Also competing was Shannon Liston (Loreto) in the junior girls shot in her first All-Ireland schools final and Ross Killalea (Colaiste Mhuire) in the minor boys 800m where he finished a very creditable seventh place.

The following day Mullingar enjoyed a medal feast at the Leinster Senior and Masters T&F when all nine Mullingar athletes that competed won a medal, some more than one. Andrew Nevin took bronze in the senior men 3,000m steeplechase and bronze in the senior men 5,000m run. Eddie Newman won his category of the master men 1,500m and master men 5,000m. Colm Walsh and Sean McMullin won their respective categories in the master men 3,000m race walk with great performances in this highly technical event. Making her debut on the track, Michelle Kavanagh was somewhat apprehensive before the master women 800m but of course found that once the gun fired, it was race on and she was delighted to come home in third place in her category to win her first Leinster Championship medal. Vicky Harris and Awa Fane lined up for the senior women 200m where Vicky stormed to victory with Awa in third, and later in the afternoon Vicky won the senior women 100m to Awa’s second place. We finished the day with the senior women 4x100m relay where Awa Fane, Vicky Harris, Eve Wallace and Maimouna Fane were simply in another class and won at a canter, their third Leinster senior relay title in a row.

Finally, the Executive and members of the Club extend sincere sympathy to Vera McCool and the Flynn family on the death of her sister Mary Flynn last Saturday. Many in the club will remember Mary as a regular entrant in the Pat Finnerty Memorial 5k in Belvedere in recent years. May she rest in peace.