Marcus Lawler and Kelly Proper saved the best until last at the Woodie’s DIY National Senior Indoor Championships in Athlone when they powered around their respective 200m races in record-breaking fashion while Amy Foster snaffled a world indoor qualifying time in the 60m, pipping Phil Healy in the process.
In what was a fairly lacklustre championships, particularly on Saturday, in terms of atmosphere, it was up to the effervescent Lawler and Proper to whip the crowd into action.
Proper (Ferrybank) was the standout performer over the weekend winning her 16th national indoor title. On the first day she equalled Robert Heffernan’s record of wins as she leapt to 6.35m in the long jump ahead of Sarah McCarthy (Mid Sutton) 5.90m and Annie Stafford (Menapians) 5.67m.
Proper’s stadium record leap punctuated the first day’s action, or lack thereof, and a 23.75 second run in the 200m heats promised much for day two with an outright haul of medals an odds on certainty. And so it proved with Proper running the last event of the day in her powerful pomp to eclipse Heffernan who was competing in an invitational one-mile walk race at the fabled Millrose Games in New York on Saturday night.
“You’d think they’d give me a bit of cash,” quipped Proper of her record haul of medals. Her 16th medal was earned with a quality run from the favoured lane 6 that was also a B qualifying time for the European outdoor championships in Zurich this summer.
“I’d love to run in an international outdoor championships,” said the Ferrybank athlete whose international championship appearances have been confined to the long jump pit thus far. Niamh Whelan (Ferrybank) in 24.50 and Joanna Mills (Ballymena and Antrim) in 25.31 were in her slipstream. “It would be great to get the vibe of running in an outdoor championship,” Proper said of the heightened atmosphere for running in a track event. “I’ve done the long jump a good few times but this would be something different.”
Her next target will be to become the first Irish woman to break 23 seconds for 200m, a feat she achieved last summer but doesn’t count for record purposes.
Preceding Proper was Marcus Lawler (SLOT), the schoolboy sensation now studying in IT Carlow. A silver medal in the 60m was the prelude to his favoured 200m. Again the start scuppered his plans in the short sprint that is ultimately decided in the first 20m.
“I don’t know what the story is with the start,” said Lawler who ran 6.95 behind David Hynes of Menapians, who was the fastest man going into the race. The stocky Wexford man kept to the script to win in 6.85. Raheny Shamrock’s Jamie Davis was third in 6.95.
Fast forward to the penultimate event on the track and the sense of excitement was palpable as Lawler settled into his blocks in lane 6 — the lane he wanted and got by virtue of being the fastest qualifier.
Lawler didn’t disappoint and the ‘Carlow cheetah’ completed the lap of the blue boards of Athlone in 21.19 — a national junior record and stadium record to boot.
“It was great to get the win and the record,” confirmed Lawler who was pushed hard over the opening half of the race by Sligo’s Zak Irwin who was second in 21.71. Leevale’s David Quilligan was third in 21.94.
Earlier in the day, Amy Foster (City of Lisburn) ran the world indoor standard of 7.32 to get the better of Bandon’s Phil Healy in a thrilling duel. Healy ran 7.37 with Niamh Whelan a distant third in 7.65. “She pushed me all the way,” said Foster of Healy’s presence but is unsure about competing in the world indoors in March.
Poles apart from Athlone was Frenchman Renaud Lavillenie’s 6.16m world record in the pole vault in Donetsk. He broke the record under the gaze of previous holder Sergey Bubka (6.15m). The lighting, music and entertainment was a timely reminder to what can be aspired to by Athletics Ireland.
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