Sophie Jackman (St Senan's) won a bronze medal
Eight golds and a new national record were the high points of what proved to be a very successful national juvenile championships in Tullamore for Kilkenny at the weekend.
Blistering heat and temperature of up to 27 degrees made the Midlands seem like the Algarve - ideal for the field events and sprints, but not the middle distance. However, despite the searing heat it was the middle distance athletes who really sizzled, with the 3,000m and 1,500m events delivering top results.
St Senan’s took home three gold and a bronze medal as well as six fourth places. Kilkenny City Harriers (KCH) took home a gold, silver and bronze while St Joseph’s scored two gold, a silver and one bronze. Gowran celebrated with a gold and two fourth place finishes, with Thomastown also earning a gold and a fourth place.
Pride of place goes to Hannah O’Keeffe (Thomastown), who won the girls’ under-17 3,000m in a time of 10.36, smashing the national record.
Like most races of this distance, groups form early on with no athlete prepared to take on the pace. O’Keeffe made a break with two laps to go, coming home 13 seconds ahead of Holly Carroll (Blarney/Iniscarra). It was the second leg of a record-breaking double for O’Keeffe, who set a new Leinster record last month.
In the girls’ under-16 3,000m Hannah Kehoe (Gowran) stayed with the main bunch for just over half the race. She then pushed the pace and three athletes went with her - Catherine Martin of Loughview and Wexford’s Clara Keane.
Keane made a move with two laps to go but Kehoe stuck right behind her. With 600m to go the Gowran girl took the lead and never let it go, taking the gold in 10.49 with two seconds to spare over Catherine Martin. Victory was all the more sweeter as Kehoe was nursing a foot injury.
There was more Kilkenny glory as Annie McEvoy (KCH) won the girls’ under-19 3,000m race. A race she also won at under-17 level two years ago McEvoy has been running well of late, reducing her 1,500m times in the process.
Once again ran as part of a group of girls, breaking away with Alyce O’Connor (Kenmare) with three laps to go. In a head-to-head race between the pair McEvoy made a break with 180m to go and held on, winning in 10.27.
Tadgh Connolly ran a very tactical race in the boys’ under-16 1,500m. Similar in style to his performance in the All-Ireland schools in June Connolly led the race from the start with fellow Kilkenny athlete Tom Lodge and Aidan Burke (Waterford AC) on his shoulder.
When Lodge moved level at the 700m mark Connolly didn’t panic. He stayed cool when, with 250m to go, Burke made a burst up the back straight. At this point the pace quickened and the athletes who finally featured in the top three led the race. Rounding the top bend Burke tried to make a break again but Connolly stormed down the home straight to win in 4.19, one second ahead of Burke with Oisin Kelly (Cranford AC) third.
Ben Wallis (St Senan’s) won gold in the boys’ under-14 walk. Despite sustaining a hand injury he led from start to finish and looked a class walker. Injury, however, prevented him from competing in the discus on Sunday.
There was another gold for St Senan’s when Peter McDonald broke the 50m mark to win the boys’ under-16 javelin title. McDonald’s best was a massive throw of 51.38, but all six throws were good enough for the gold medal.
Jordan Knight (St Joseph’s) managed a double gold and a bronze medal over the weekend. A multi-event specialist, this year Knight focused on the 400m and the longer 300m hurdles. The endurance needed to run 400m works well with 300m hurdles and the extra training has also results in constant jumps of over 6m for the long jump.
On Saturday Knight claimed his first outdoor long jump gold with a new personal best of 6.38. He finished third in the 400m, then rounded off a great weekend by winning the 300m hurdles. He looked good in the heats and looked brilliant in the final, winning by a clear margin.
Evan O’Toole (St Joseph’s) also had a great championships finishing second in the triple jump with a new personal best (PB). He also finished fifth in the high jump with a PB and was seventh in the long jump.
Annie McEvoy won another medal on Sunday, this time the silver when she was second in the under-19 girls’ 1,500m. Maeve Gallagher (Swinford) attacked the race from the start and was well in front all the way. Back in second the battle was between Annie and Alyce O’Connor (Kenmare). Similar to the 3000m, Annie kicked for home on the final bed and Alyce could not match her pace.
Sophie Jackman (St Senan’s) picked up her second medal from the championships. Second in the 800m the previous week, she finished third in the 400m hurdles. She was just pipped on the line for second place, the two athletes recording the same time.
Rory MacGabhann (KCH) came back from injury to finish third in the under-19 high jump. It has been an up and down season for MacGabhann, but he will be back with a bounce for next year.
The county had a lot of fourth-placed athletes, many emerging athletes or others on the way back from injury. Peter Dunne (Gowran) was fourth in the boys’ under-18 high jump and pole vault. David Williams (St Senan’s) had the race of his life, scoring a five-second PB when finishing fourth in the boys’ under-15 1,500m.
St Senan’s athlete Eoin Aylward was fourth in the under-14 high jump with a new PB of 1.55. Fiona Dillon (Thomastown), on her way back from injury, was fourth in the under-16 1,500m.
Aoife Allen (St Senan’s) was fourth in the girls’ under-19 3,000m, a great result after suffering an injury when winning the steeplechase last week. Alex Cullen (KCH) did fantastically well to get over the 5m mark in the long jump and finish fifth.
Sophie Becker (St Joseph’s AC) competed in the European under-23 championships in Sweden. She finished third in the semi-final of the 400m, her time of 53.67 just one place off qualifying for the final. Becker, who was placed ninth overall, recorded an outdoor PB over 400m. Speaking live after the race on TV she expressed great satisfaction with her run.
Donagh Mahon (Gowran) competed in the high jump on the strength of his 2.18 result at a university meet in December. He came in at 1.97m, clearing that height on his first attempt. At the next height of 2.02, he cleared the bar on his third attempt but did not manage any attempt over 2.07.
Cliodhna Manning (KCH) was in action at the World University Games in Naples last week. She ran really well in the heats, finishing third to make the semi-finals, but inflamed ankle ligaments meant that she was unable to compete any further.
Manning has been unfortunate with injuries in the last year or so. The KCH athlete and Carlow IT student won the national senior 400m title at the age of 22 in 2017 and also qualified for the World Championships in London last year, but injury sustained in her final month of training prevented her from competing there. She still hopes to be back for the Nationals this summer.
The Junior Europeans will be held in Sweden next week and Ireland’s team will feature two athletes from the county. Shay McEvoy (KCH) will race in the 3,000m while David Murphy (Gowran) will feature in the 4x100m relay team.
Kilkenny results (club code: BR = Brow Rangers, G = Gowran, KCH = Kilkenny City Harriers, SJ = St Joseph’s, SS = St Senan’s, TT = Thomastown)
Boys’ Under-14: Walk - 1 Ben Wallis (SS). High Jump - 4 Eoin Aylward (SS), 7 Alex Cullen (KCH). Long Jump - 6 Alex Cullen (KCH), 9 Eoin Aylward (SS). Hammer - 9 Eli Dunne (BR).
Boys’ Under-15: 1,500m - 4 David Williams (SS). Triple Jump - 5 Conor Byrne (KCH). 100m - 7 Conor Byrne (KCH).
Boys’ Under-16: Javelin - 1 Peter McDonald (SS). 1,500m - 1 Tadgh Connolly (SS), 6 Tom Lodge (KCH). Triple Jump - 2 Evan O’Toole (SJ). Discus - 4 Tadgh Connolly (SS). Long Jump - 7 Evan O’Toole (SJ). Shot - 4 Tadgh Connolly (SS).
Boys’ Under-17: 300m Hurdles - 1 Jordan Knight (SJ). Long Jump - 1 Jordan Knight (SJ). 400m - 3 Jordan Knight (SJ). Shot - 11 Ted Doyle (SS). Discus - 7 Ted Doyle (SS).
Boys’ Under-18: High Jump - 4 Peter Dunne (G). 3,000m - 12 John Muldowney (KCH). 1,500m - 16 Cathal Kearney (KCH). Pole Vault - 4 Peter Dunne (G).
Boys’ Under-19: High Jump - 3 Rory MacGabhann (KCH), 3,000m - 11 Luke Whelan (KCH). 1,500m - 7 Kevin Burns.
Girls’ Under-14: Discus - 6 Charlotte Hutchinson (BR).
Girls’ Under-15: Walk - 6 Sophie Monahan (SS). 250m Hurdles - 8 Orla Kenny (KCH). 100m - 11 Amelie Foley (KCH); fourth in heat.
Girls’ Under-16: 3,000m - 1 Hannah Kehoe (G). 1,500m - 4 Fiona Dillon (TT). 250m Hurdles - 8 Tara McGuire (KCH). 100m - 10 Jennifer Oboh (KCH); fourth in heat. Javelin - 8 Pia O’Grady (G).
Girls’ Under-17: 3,000m - 1 Hannah O’Keeffe (TT). 300m Hurdles - 7 Clodagh Monahan (SS).
Girls’ Under-18: 400m Hurdles - 3 Sophie Jackman (SS). 1,500m - 8 Tara Ramsawmy (SS).
Girls’ Under-19: 3,000m - 1 Annie McEvoy (KCH), 4 Aoife Allen (SS). 1,500m - 2 Annie McEvoy (KCH).
For more on Kilkenny People sport read here.