Veale the star turn at Tullamore

THERE was a larger than usual attendance for the early morning start of the AVIVA Irish Schools Track and Field Championships at Tullamore on Saturday when star racewalker, Kate Veale (St. Augustine’s, Dungarvan), made her first appearance on home soil since winning the bronze medal in the junior walk at the European Cup in the Algarve.

The West Waterford starlet did not disappoint, as she powered her way to a new Irish schools record with a 13:40.09 win on her debut in the Senior Girls 3,000m. — clipping a massive minute and 11 seconds off the old mark set by the World Youths silver medallist Ann Loughnane, younger sister of world silver medallist Olive.

And she had two world-class walkers battling it out for the minor placings. Maeve Curley (Presentation, Thurles) claimed the silver medal for the second year but her time, 14:04.34, was almost 40 seconds inside last year’s time while Emma De Prindibheal (Pobal Scoil Chorca Dhuibhne), the defending champion, had to settle for third in 14:12.62.

Those girls finished 20th and 24th, respectively, in the European Cup in Olhao, two weeks earlier when Veale finished third, beating the Youth Olympic champion Anna Clemente (Italy) into fourth place with one of the Russian walkers further back.

Now she is looking forward to renewing rivalry with Clemente and the Russians as well as the up and coming Chinese racewalkers at the World Youths Championships in Lille next month, when she will bid to replicate Ann Loughnane’s medal winning performance.

“It will be nice to meet them all again,” she said. “There are a couple of very good Chinese walkers so the competition is going to be good.”

Saturday also saw the emergence of a new racewalking star. Sinead Burke (Maynooth Post Primary), who had cardiac surgery just three months ago, was just six hundredths of a second off Veale’s junior record when she won the Junior Girls 1,500m walk in 5:27.33.

Marco Pons (Wexford CBS) erased one of the oldest records from the list when he won the Senior Boys discus with a third round throw of 54.17 metres and that bettered by the old mark of 53.60m set by Frank O’Brien in 1983. Pons also had a throw of 54.08m in the fifth round.

Cara Kennedy (Waterford CFF) maintained her record-breaking sequence when she threw the Senior Girls hammer 55.31m to break the record Rachel Akers set in 2004 record at 52.91m. But the Akers name remains on the record books as Rachel’s sister, Alice (Scariff CC), had four throws better than the 46.33m record set by Gabby McNally in 2007 en route to the Junior Girls discus title. She had throws of 47.09m, 48.09m, and 49.02m in the first three rounds before going on to win the javelin with a throw of 34.15m and complete an impressive double.

Three time world indoor 1,500m champion Marcus O’Sullivan, now head coach at Villanova University, flew in from US for Saturday’s meet. The object of his visit was Amy O’Donoghue (Villiers, Limerick), who the three time world indoor champion is obviously interested in adding to his sensational Villanova women’s team.

O’Donoghue, who is related to twice world indoor 3,000m champion, Frank O’Mara, could not have been more impressive, leading the Senior Girls 800m from gun to line to win in 2:13.61 before turning in a tactically perfect performance to win the 1,500m in 4:46.61 with fellow international, Mary Mulhare (Chríost Ri, Portlaoise) second in 4:48.01.

Grainne Moynihan (St. Mary’s Macroom) won the Intermediate Girls 100m in 12.42 secs followed by the 300m in 39.42 secs while Ciara Giles Doran (Mercy Waterford) won the 200m in 25.04 secs and the 300m hurdles in 42.38 secs.

Marcus Lawlor (CBS Carlow), son of the former international sprinter, Patricia Ammond, won the intermediate 100m in 11.17 and the 200m in 22.10. He has qualified at 200m for both the World Youths Championships and the European Youth Olympics.

Tommy Casey (Sligo Grammar) kept long time leader Shane Quinn (De La Salle Waterford) in his sights all the way before grabbing the initiative on the last lap to retain his Senior Boys 1,500m title in 3:52.47. Son of former international racewalker, Michael Casey, he leaves for Oklahoma State on scholarship at the end of the summer.

Ben Kiely (Tramore CBS), who won the Senior Boys 400m hurdles impressively, has the European junior qualification mark looming up ahead of him but the big distraction is his Leaving Cert which leaves him with very little opportunity to achieve the time.

His twin sister, Megan (Ursuline, Waterford), completed a family double when she won the Senior Girls 400m hurdles.

Dean Cronin (Colaiste an Phiarsaigh, Cork) took control of the Senior Boys 800m at the 200m mark and held off all challengers to win in 1:53.72.

Sean Tobin (Clonmel HS), who has a European Youth Olympic qualifying standard, won the Intermediate Boys 3,000m in 8:40.86 while Siofra Clerigh Buttner (Colaiste Iosagain) moved up a grade to win the Intermediate Girls 1,500m in 4:29.83.

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