Sofia Kerr (Castlecomer CS) puts clear daylight between herself and her rivals
With Athletics Ireland competitions taking a short break it was the turn of schools track and field athletes to deliver some top class performances.
Schools Track and Field is a great way of encouraging youngsters to get involved in competitive athletics. While many who compete with clubs will take part, there is every chance that a schoolkid will come along and wow an audience in their first race on a track.
Kilkenny had a number of athletes come through the South Leinster and East Munster regional events to compete in both Leinster and Munster competitions during the week. From here, athletes who finished in the top three will go on to the national finals in Tullamore on June 1.
A warm but windy day greeted athletes from St Joseph’s and St Senan’s who travelled to Cork for the Munster Schools championships which were held at the Cork Institute of Technology.
Rachel Foley (St Joseph’s) was one of the first in action. She managed a new long jump personal best (PB), beating her old mark by 10cm. Another PB was to follow with Clodagh Monahan (Waterpark and St Senan’s) knocking two seconds off her mark in the intermediate girls’ 300m hurdles.
Personal bests were the order of the day for the Monahan family when Clodagh’s sister Sophie wiped 12 seconds off her best in the junior 1,200m walk.
With some of St Senan’s more established athletes competing towards the latter half of the day, the medals came rolling in. Sophie Jackman ran a very tactical race in the senior 800m event.
Keeping pace with the leaders, the first lap was somewhat slow. Jackman moved up on the shoulder of Cork’s Jo Keane, two years her senior, and the pace started to quicken up rapidly.
For the next 200m it was Keane and Jackman with Lucy Holmes (West Waterford) 10 metres behind. In the end Keane fought off Jackman, the 62 second last lap creating the lactic acid that gave her heavy legs for the last 50m.
Tara Ramasawmy was back to her old winning ways in the senior 1,500m. In what was another tactical race Ramasawmy was locked with Alyce O’Connor (Kenmare) and Ellen Moran (Cork) for much of the race. It was a somewhat slow pace but, blessed with natural speed, Ramasawmy was comfortable as she knew she had a faster 400m than O’Connor and Moran.
With 400m to go O’Connor shifted up a gear and brought Ramasawmy with her. With 200m to go the Kilkenny athlete made her move and pumped down the home straight, finishing comfortably and well ahead of the Kenmare girl.
Tadgh Connolly was another Kilkenny athlete who impressed in Cork. Competing in the discus, after one throw he had to start his 1,500m competition. After just 600m of the race completed he felt comfortable and hung on in behind Cian Spillane and Niall Murphy.
At the 1,200m mark they called for him to do his second throw of the discus. He sped up, overtaking Spillane and Murphy to power ahead for the ultimate victory, capped with a 15-second PB.
After waiting to congratulate Spillane and Murphy he ran over to the discus, took his throw and created a 6.53m PB in the process. Now in first place, he maintained that position for the remainder of the competition to make it two victories in just a few minutes!
Day one of the Leinster Schools in Santry saw the minors, juniors and all the steeplechase athletes in action. The boys’ steeplechase was first on the track, with Brogan McAviney (St Kieran’s College) and Cathal O’Reilly (Castlecomer CS) in action.
Brogan finished fourth in a new PB, one place ahead of O’Reilly, who also scored a new PB. For the first half of the race both Kilkenny athletes were among the leaders with Morgan Mac an Chleirigh (Colaiste Eoin) and James Hyland (St Fintan’s).
The Dubliners cleared the water jump at 1,000m and started their pull away from the Gowran and Castlecomer athletes. With 600m to go Mac an Chleirigh found a new gear and surged ahead to victory.
At senior level Kevin Burns (St Kieran’s) decided to give the steeplechase another go this year. While John Fleming and Daniel Stone of Belvedere College looked like they were working together from the start, Burns took the first jump well and remained in contention.
He cleared the second and heaved a sigh of relief. Nervously approaching the third jump, the water one, he strode long and hit it perfectly, landing on the lip after the water.
For the next two laps he stayed behind the Belvedere boys, happy for them to control the pace but with 800m to go the Dubliners increased the pace, leaving Burns and Oisin Kelly in a race for the bronze medal. Kelly moved up a gear at the 400m mark and strode ahead of Burns, who tried hard to keep in contention, but it was Kelly who was third at the line.
Aine Kirwan (Loreto and Thomastown AC) tried the steeplechase for the first time at the South Leinsters and was pleasantly surprised at the outcome.
While steeplechase specialist Roisin O’Reilly (Wexford) pulled ahead from the start a slight mishap at the water jump after 700m saw her plunge into the water headfirst. She emerged just as Kirwan approached her.
The Thomastown athlete tried to hold on for third but O’Reilly was just too strong and passed her with 200m to go. Kirwan finished fourth but was a full 10 seconds faster than her previous outing.
Sofia Kerr faced very tough opposition in the junior girls’ 100m and 200m. The 100m went well for Kerr, who was happy with her time and her sixth position. In the 200m, her favourite event, she started well and attacked at the 100m mark. She gained ground on her nearest competitors Rita Kelly and Kate O’Connell, but had to settle for sixth place in the end.
David Williams, competing for St Kieran’s, raced well in the 800m. For much of the race the Kilmacow man remained in a group consisting of the third to seventh-placed athletes.
Williams knew he was a bit younger than all but one in the group, but that did not deter him. In the end he finished sixth with a new PB, four seconds faster than his old mark.
There was better news for his fellow St Kieran’s man Tom Lodge in the 1,500m. Tom came into the race as the South Leinster champion, taking a surprise victory over Myles Hewlett of CBS New Ross. Both battled it out for the first three laps of what was a fast race. Hewlett pushed the pace - Lodge couldn’t respond, but was happy with his second-place finish and a new PB.
Billy Coogan (CBS Kilkenny and Gowran) was fifth in the minor 1,100m. He was happy with his form and happy with his placing, but was even happier when clubmate Hannah Kehoe scored the most convincing victory of the day.
Kehoe, who had been training well, came into the junior girls’ 1,500m event as the All-Ireland junior girls cross-country champion.
She wanted victory from the moment she set foot on that track and, racing in the Loreto singlet, she left no-one in doubt as to her intention as she went about 10 metres ahead after the first 200m.
From there Kehoe’s leading margin grew and grew. She had perhaps the largest ever victory in the history of the Leinster Schools Athletics, finishing some 100m ahead of her nearest opponent.
The McEvoy twins both came home with medals. Shay won the senior boys’ 1,500m. Crossing the line in a time of 3.54 he was five seconds ahead of Alan Browne (Portmarnock). The St Kieran’s man looked comfortable and strode down the final straight with his rivals always chasing hard but never looking like catching him.
Shay’s sister Annie ran well in the senior girls’ 3,000m. Her task was always going to be hard with European Youths double champion Sarah Healy in the same race.
Having missed the track season in 2018, she wanted to avenge the injuries that took her out last year. She wanted a medal and a new PB. She got both, finishing in 10.29 to claim the silver medal.
Jordan Knight competed in the intermediate 400m. Normally associated with the combined events and his speciality event, the long jump, he is attempting to join that elite group of Kilkenny 400m runners that the county seems to churn out year after year.
Competing for Grennan College, the St Joseph’s athlete started well. At 200m he had already moved ahead of five of his opponents and was in third spot, chasing down Jed Walsh (Ratoath) and Robert Byrne (Terenure).
As the three athletes rounded the bend into the final 100m the real race began. With Byrne’s legs tying up, Knight blew into second place. He chased down Walsh, coming to within half a second of victory. With a new PB, a silver medal and another shot at both the Tailteann games and the Nationals he was more than happy with his day.
Peter McDonald (Good Counsel and St Senan’s) competed in the throwing arena. Still carrying an ankle ligament tear, but getting better, he was compromised a little with his run up.
McDonald had thrown 42m from a standing throw into a strong headwind at the South Leinsters and got a new Leinster record.
Using just three steps this time Peter threw high and long, and produce a massive 43.97 enough to take second place behind the record-breaking Carlos Krugis of Dunleer.
Another Kilkenny athlete in action was Kate Cullen (Castlecomer CS and Brow Rangers). Kate had already thrown well and was now on her final round of throwing. She was in third place and stayed there to win bronze in the senior hammer, together with a new PB.
Across the field Tara Maguire was competing in the junior shot-put for the Presentation. The KCH athlete threw a massive throw in round three to surpass the 9m mark, a new PB. She threw all three remaining throws near her new PB to maintain her second place and her first ever Leinster Schools medal.
Back on the track Fiona Dillon was in front in the 1,500m. Substantially ahead at the 700m mark the experienced Roisin O’Reilly (Wexford) and Ava O’Connor (Portlaoise) clawed back the ground in the latter half of the race. While O’Reilly took the lead at 1,200m Dillon managed to hold on for second place and finished in 4.48 a great time for an early season 1,500m run.
Jennifer Leahy, who finished third in the intermediate girls’ high jump early in the morning, continued her great day when competing in the long hurdles. Running over 300m, she knew every inch of her stride pattern and every inch of that track she was about to cover. Coming up to the first hurdle she approached it perfectly, setting the tone for the rest of the race. At the second hurdle she knew she could medal. She earned the bronze, finishing just two seconds adrift of the silver medal and in a new PB, sealing her ticket to the Tailteanns and the Nationals.
Another Kilkenny athlete to achieve new heights at the Leinster Schools was Rory MacGabahann. Competing for Kilkenny College, the KCH athlete was doing well. Having already cleared 1m 96cm this season he had his sights set on making the 2m mark for 2019. Standing 6’5” the Kilkennyman cleared 2m on his second attempt, as did his main rival. The countback clause was called upon, earning Mac Gabhann a silver.
The final events of the day were the relays. After a long day of waiting the Loreto girls’ junior 4x100m relay team of Amelie Foley, Ella Delahunty, Orla Kenny and Claire Doheny were good enough to medal and did just that, picking up the silver.
The national schools championships will be run on Saturday June 1. Some exciting races and competitions lie ahead.
Kilkenny results, Munster Schools
Minor Boys 75m Hurdles 8 Naoise Gilmartin (Abbey CC/St Senan’s)
Minor Girls Long Jump 6 Rachel Foley (Abbey CC/St Joseph’s)
Junior Girls Walk 4 Sophie Monahan (Waterpark/St Senan’s)
Junior Boys Discus 1 Tadgh Connolly (Abbey CC/St Senan’s), 1500m 1 Tadgh Connolly (Abbey CC/St Senan’s)
Inter Girls 300mHurdles 6 Clodagh Monahan (Waterpark/St Senan’s)
Senior Girls 800m 3 Sophie Jackman (Yeats College/St Senan’s) 1500m 1 Tara Ramasawmy (Ursline/St Senan’s)
Kilkenny results, Leinster Schools
Minor Boys 1,100m 5 Billy Coogan (CBS Kilkenny/Gowran), 75mH 6 Luke Phelan (St Kieran’s/Gowran)
Minor Girls 75mH 5 Blaithin Holden (KCH/Loreto), 800m 11 Orla Kirwan (Loreto/Thomastown)
Junior Boys 800m 6 David Williams (St Kieran’s/St Senan’s), 1500m 2 Tom Lodge (St Kieran’s/St Senan’s), Javelin 2 Peter McDonald (Good Counsel/St Senan’s)
Junior Girls 1500m 1 Hannah Kehoe (Loreto/Gowran), 100m 6 Sofia Kerr (Castlecomer CC/Castlecomer AC, 200m 6 Sofia Kerr (Castlecomer CC/Castlecomer AC, Shot 2 Tara McGuire (Presentation/KCH), Long Jump 4 Amelie Foley (Loreto/KCH), Triple Jump 6 Orla Kenny (Loreto/KCH), Relay: 3 Loreto Amelie Foley, Orla Kenny, Ella Delahunty & Claire Doheny
Inter Boys 400m 2 Jordan Knight (Grennan/St Joseph’s), Steeplechase 4 Brogan McAvinney (St Kieran’s/Gowran) 5 Cathal O’Reilly (Castlecomer CC/Castlecomer AC) 800 7 Cathal Kearney (St Kieran’s/KCH), 3000m 7 John Muldowney (St Kieran’s/KCH), Triple Jump 6 Evan O’Toole (Good Counsel/St Joseph’s)
Inter Girls: 1500 2 Fiona Dillon (Loreto/Thomastown) 3000m 4 Hannah O’Keeffe (Loreto/Thomastown) Steeplechase: 5 Aine Kirwan (Loreto/Thomastown) 300mH 3 Jennifer Leahy (Loreto/KCH), High Jump 3 Jennifer Leahy (Loreto/KCH), Shot 4 Eve O’Dwyer (Loreto/Gowran) Javelin 6 Eve O’Dwyer (Loreto/Gowran)
Senior Boys: High Jump 2 Rory McGabhann (Kilkenny College/KCH), 1500 1 Shay McEvoy (St Kieran’s/KCH), 5000m 10 Luke Whelan (St Kieran’s/KCH) Steeplechase 4 Kevin Burns (St Kieran’s/KCH)
Senior Girls: 3000m 2 Annie McEvoy (Loreto/KCH) 400mH 4 Linda Lawlor (Grennan/St Joseph’s), Hammer 3 Kate Cullen (Castlecomer CC/Brow Rangers)
For more on Kilkenny People sport read here.