St Senan’s runner David Williams won the first gold of the weekend for Kilkenny in the boys’ under-18 1,500m event
Kilkenny athletes were at the forefront as the All-Ireland juvenile indoor championships made a triumphant return to the race calendar.
The first indoor championships to be held since 2019, the county’s juveniles helped themselves to six gold medals across multiple disciplines. They also won seven silver and bronze medals throughout the two-day competition in Athlone.
The first gold medal of the weekend was won by David Williams (St Senan’s) in what was the closest finish of the day. Championship races are often more about strategy than fast times and this certainly was the case for the boys’ under-18 1,500m event.
Williams was always in control, covering every move on every lap as he tucked in behind the leader. With 800m to go, the pace increased significantly. The St Senan’s man increased the speed to match the surge in pace. As the lead changed hands, he slipped right in behind the new leader.
With 200m to go Benjamin Caullier (Lucan) went to the front and quickly created a five metre lead. Williams chased hard and came shoulder to shoulder with the Dublin athlete as they came off the final bend. With Cian Hodgkins (Nenagh) chasing hard, the battle down the home straight was on, but Williams passed Caullier to clinch victory, his first ever All-Ireland title. He had another good race the next day, finishing fourth in the 800m.
Hannah Kehoe (Thomastown) delivered a powerful performance as she ran to the gold medal in the girls’ under-19 1,500m final at the juvenile All-Ireland indoors in Athlone
The very next race was the girls’ under-19 1,500m where gold again went to Kilkenny and the in-form Hannah Kehoe (Thomastown).
For much of the race Kehoe lay in fourth place, with Leinster winner Ruby Steuvens (Tullamore) leading the way. Midway through the race the lead group had dwindled to four athletes - Steuvens, Kehoe, Catherine Martin (City of Lisburn) and Ennis Track’s Nessa Ní hAinifein.
Ní hAinifein moved to the front with 150m to go with Kehoe following her. Coming down the home straight, it was Kehoe who had the slight margin on Ní hAinifein. The Ennis athlete took a tumble close to the line, leaving Kehoe certain of victory. She took the gold, equalling her previous best which she recorded three years ago.
Evan O’Toole (St Joseph’s) has shone in the jumping events throughout his juvenile years, initially in the high jump and long jump before taking on the triple jump.
The St Joseph’s athlete has been on the podium for all three events at various championships. While he has come to favour the triple jump, he returned to his roots on Sunday when he won the high jump.
Now in this final year of juvenile athletics, O’Toole easily won the national title and was unlucky not to clear 1.85m on his second jump, clipping the bar with his heel on the way down. Coached by his father Dave, O’Toole also competed in the long jump and finished sixth . He will be in action again on April 2 in the triple jump.
Ellen Daly (KCH) won gold in the girls’ under-13 hurdles
Kilkenny City Harriers (KCH) athlete Ellen Daly was a surprise winner of the girls’ under-13 hurdles, an event that she only took up recently. With her mother, Fiona Norwood a former Irish hurdles champion and Irish international, and her father Joe an Irish international 400m runner, genetics was always going to play a part in her sporting ability!
Both Ellen and her older sister Molly had qualified for the 60m hurdles final. Ellen moved into the lead over the final hurdle and crossed the line in first place. She also competed in the 60m on the first day.
The final two gold medals came from the 60m and from two young girls who were making their All-Ireland championship debuts.
Jasmine Timmins McEneaney (KCH) won the girls’ under-12 60m while Rachael Duff (Gowran) won the girls’ under-13 60m. Timmins McEneaney, the Leinster champion, competed in the first heat which she won. The second heat was won by Lucy McGuirk of Belgooley in a faster time.
The final promised to be a thrilling head to head. Although there was a false start when the gun was fired for the second time Timmins McEneaney had the quickest reflexes of all the athletes and was ahead after just a few metres. With the other athletes playing catch-up, they simply ran out of track as the Kilkenny girl crossed the line in first place.
There were three Kilkenny athletes in the girls’ under-13 event as Aisling Phelan (Castlecomer), Rachel Duff (Gowran) and Ellen Daly (KCH) lined up for the final. Phelan and Daly qualified for the final from heat one with Duff qualifying from heat two.
It was a pleasant surprise when, halfway through the race, there were two Kilkenny girls competing for the lead. Duff reached the line first from a fast finishing Phelan in second while Daly was sixth.
Elsewhere, the jumping events proved to be the best producers for medals for Kilkenny over the weekend. Keelin Roche (St Senan’s) was second in the under-18 long jump, while Louis Raggett (KCH) was second in the under-16 high jump.
Alex Cullen clinched the bronze in the under-17 high jump. Mateusz Balcer (KCH), in his final juvenile year, was second to Evan O’Toole (St Joseph’s) in the under-19 high jump. Elsewhere Evan Walsh (St Joseph’s) won silver in the under-15 walk while Pia Langton (KCH) and Louisa Gilmore (KCH) were third and second in the under-16 and under-17 800m events respectively.
Gowran’s Rachel Gardiner was second in the under-16 shot-put.
Elsewhere there were some very exiting races over the two days. None other than the girls’ under-17 and under-18 1,500m events. Lucy Foster (Willowfield) won the girls’ under-17 in a new championship record. Fifteen minutes later, her elder sister Kirsti won the under-18 1,500m in another championship record time.
Over the course of the two days all five Foster girls, having qualified from the Ulster Championships, competed in their respective middle distance events - quite a remarkable family indeed!
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