The 2011 Woodie's DIY Irish Indoor Championships got underway at the Odyssey Arena in Belfast today. The highlight was the women's 3,000 metres walk which was won by Laura Reynolds from Mohill AC.
In the first event on the programme, Reynolds had to wait until the last lap to shake off the persistent challenge of Kate Veale from West Waterford AC. Reynolds won in a time of 12:47.55, well inside her previous best of 13:09.99, with Veale once again smashing her own Irish junior record with a time of 12:49.21 to take a huge slice off her previous best of 13:10.86.
Tori Pena from Finn Valley won her first Irish indoor pole vault title with a jump of 4.10 metres, with Claire Wilkinson of Ballymena & Antrim clearing 3.85m for second place.
The men's 5,000m walk saw Togher star Robert Heffernan move away from his rivals from the gun and he then went on to lap everone to win his second Irish title in a matter of weeks - he won the 30km road title at the end of last month.
The effort on that occasion probably put paid to any hopes he had tonight for another record, but Heffernan's winning time of 19:09.56 was still a world class performance and bodes well for the season ahead.
Kelly Proper from Ferrybank added another long jump crown with a 6.22m effort, while Kerry Harty from Newcastle & District AC won the 3,000m in 9:31.81.
Four heats were needed in the men's 800m and the four winners looked classy - Niall Tuohy (Ferrybank AC) in 1:52.62, Mark English (Letterkenny AC) in 1:53.65, Darren McBrearty (Letterkenny AC) in 1:52.94, and Mark Patterson (North Down AC) in 1:51.81. Tomorrow's final could well be the race of the meet.
A big entry for the men’s 3,000m meant there were two heats needed, resulting in two impressive winners - Dan Mulhare (North Laois AC) in 8:04.26, and Mark Hanrahan (Leevale AC) in 8:08.53.
There was little between the three women's 60m heat winners. Claire Brady (Celbridge AC) 7.55, Amy Foster (University of Ulster AC) 7.54 and Ailis McSweeney (Leevale AC) 7.54.
Dean Adams (Ballymena & Antrim AC) was the fastest of the men's 60m heat winners, hitting the line in 6.85.
For some athletes this weekend represents their last chance to achieve international qualifying times and impress the Irish team selectors, who will be meeting tomorrow evening to pick the Ireland team for the European Indoor Championships which takes place in Paris between March 4 and 6.