Weekend Preview:  Local athletes chase gold at AAI National Senior Indoor Championships…

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Weekend Preview:  Local athletes chase gold at AAI National Senior Indoor Championships…

The major Championship bandwagon roles on as the Indoor track and field season begins to hit its peak before attention turns to outdoor competition.  A plethora of local talent will travel to Abbotstown just outside Dublin (Ireland) for the main event of the weekend, the Irish Life AAI National Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Also this weekend, familiar faces will be in action at the British Athletics Indoor Track & Field Championships and the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) Indoor Track & Field Championships.

Closer to home, events management company Atlas Running will host their increasingly popular ‘Last One Standing’ event, which also incorporates the Castle Ward Trail Races.

Irish Life AAI National Indoor Track & Field Championships (Abbotstown, Ireland):

In-form athletes Amy Foster (City of Lisburn AC / David Reid), Emma Mitchell (QUB AC / Eamonn Christie), Sommer Lecky (Finn Valley AC / Niall Wilkinson), Kate O’Connor (St Gerard’s AC Dundalk / Gough, Kerr, McMullen, O’Connor, Reynolds), Leon Reid (Menapians AC / James Hillier) and Adam McMullen (Crusaders AC / Alan Kennedy) and are just some of the local athletes who will be chasing gold at this weekend’s Irish Life AAI National Indoor Track & Field Championships in Abbotstown (Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2018).

After setting a new IUAA Indoor record of 7.33 over 60m last weekend, Amy Foster will again line up over the same distance.  At the same Championships in Athlone last weekend, Emma Mitchell was also in record breaking form, clocking 9:15.86 for 3,000m gold; Emma will race over 3,000m and 1500m this coming weekend.  In the 1500m, the QUB AC athlete will face fellow NI runners Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle AC / Richard Rodgers) and Kelly Neely (City of Lisburn AC) – Olympian Kerry will also compete alongside Emma over 3,000m.  Last night, both Emma and Kerry helped NI & Ulster to 2nd place in the ladies team competition at the Armagh International Road Race 3k – Emma ran 9:19 for 6th place, with Kerry following in 9:35 for 17th place.

Sommer Lecky equalled her High Jump personal best and Irish Under 20 record with a winning leap of 1.86m at the IFAM International in Ghent, Belgium last week and will take that form into the High Jump, where she will be joined by another local star, Anna McIlmoyle (City of Lisburn AC / Wendy Phillips).  Multi-Event athlete Kate O’Connor has kicked off 2018 with several top performances, with the highlight being the improvement of her own Irish Pentathlon record – in Abbotstown, Kate will take on the 60m hurdles, 200m and Long Jump.

Last month, Adam McMullen again showed his potential when broke the Northern Ireland indoor Long Jump record with a stunning 7.97m leap in Jordanstown.  Adam will again be competing in his favourite Long Jump event; the Crusaders AC man will also be in action at the British Athletics Indoor Championships in Sheffield this weekend.

Sprinter Leon Reid was one of the most impressive athletes at the recent AAI Games and the Birchfield Harriers man will line-up in the 60m and 200m – in the 60m, Leon will come up against Ballymena & Antrim AC pair Dean Adams (Alan Kennedy) and Jonathan Carleton.

AAI National Age Group Champion Craig Newell (Ballymena & Antrim AC / Ian Neely) will be in action over 200m, while Crusaders AC athletes Jason Harvey (Paul McKee) and Andrew Mellon (Brendan McConville) will come up against each other in the 400m competition.  In the ladies 400m, Beechmount Harriers’ star Davicia Patterson (Paul Magee) should place well.

Commonwealth Games bound Ben Reynolds (North Down AC / Tom Reynolds) will compete on home soil for the first time this year and will race in the 60m hurdles.  Danny Mooney (Letterkenny AC / Teresa McDaid) and Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC) will compete over 1500m and 3,000m respectively, while Lifford Strabane AC’s Alan McGinley is scheduled to race over 800m.

In the field, decorated Finn Valley AC thrower John Kelly (John Kelly Snr) will compete in the Shot Putt.  Shane Martin (Ballymena & Antrim AC / James Alexander) is in the Pole Vault line-up, while Mark Burton (QUB AC / Kenny Faulkner) will be in action in the Triple Jump. Ellen McCartney (City of Lisburn AC / James Alexander), Lydia Mills (Ballymena & Antrim AC / Alan Kennedy) and Erin Fisher (City of Lisburn AC / Rhiannon Rose) are amongst the local medal hopefuls in the ladies field events, with Ellen and Erin competing in the Pole Vault and Lydia the Long Jump and Triple Jump.

A number of other Northern Ireland and Ulster athletes will also be in action at the Irish Life AAI National Indoor Track & Field Championships.  A full entry list and timetable are available HERE.

The event will also be streamed LIVE via the Athletics Ireland facebook page.

British Athletics Indoor Track & Field Championships (Sheffield, England):

As previously mentioned, Adam McMullen will also be in action at the British Athletics Indoor Track & Field Championships in Sheffield this weekend (Saturday 17th – Sunday 18th February 2018).  There, the Long Jumper will be joined by familiar faces Mollie Courtney (Cheltenham AC / David Warner), Megan Marrs (City of Lisburn AC / Jerzy Maciukiewicz) and Naomi Morgan (City of Derry AC / Tom Reynolds).

All three ladies will compete in the 60m hurdles. In 2017, in Sheffield, Mollie produced a personal best performance (8.32) to secure the British Athletics 60m hurdles title; the Cheltenham AC athlete will be hoping for a similar standard of performance.

So far, this season, Megan has taken 0.41 off her 60m hurdles personal best – this culminated in a performance of 8.19 at the AAI Games, which fell an agonising 0.05 outside the World Indoor Championships standard of 8.14.  Spartan athlete Naomi has also been chipping away at her 60m hurdles best, reducing it to 8.91 when taking silver at the AAI Age Group Championships last month (January 2018).

British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) Indoor Track & Field Championships:

City of Lisburn AC athlete Ben Fisher (Rhiannon Rose) will be one of a number of local athletes who will be travelling to the British Universities & Colleges Sport (BUCS) Indoor Track & Field Championships, which will also be held in Sheffield (Friday 16th – Sunday 18th February 2018).

Last One Standing (inc Castle Ward Trail Races):

Over the course of this weekend (Saturday 17th and Sunday 18th February 2018), Atlas Running will welcome approximately one hundred participants to the 3rd annual running of their ‘Last One Standing’ endurance race at the scenic Castle Ward Estate in County Down.

As part of the race programme, there were also two associated events, the Castle Ward 4.2 mile and 8.4 mile Trail Races.

The unique endurance spectacle will see athletes take to the start-line at 12pm on Saturday – the runners then have one hour to complete a 4.2 mile lap before making their way back at the start line ready to go again at 1pm, then again at 2pm and so on.  Any runner not finishing the 4.2 mile lap inside the time limit and back on the line ready to start again on the next hour was disqualified (for want of a better phrase!).

This will happen every hour until only one runner returns to the start line, at which point that runner must complete a solo lap inside the time limit to be crowned the winner.  All runners with the exception of the winner were awarded an official DNF (did not finish) medal and any competitor still in the race at 24hrs (100.8 miles) will receive an Atlas Running 100 mile medal.  A full description of the event is available on the Atlas Running website HERE.

In 2017, Louise Smart (County Antrim Harriers) was the last lady standing, after completing 109.2 miles.  There was no official winner in the men’s event, after Peter Cromie (Roe Valley CC) and Richard Cranswick (Unattached) timed out having covered 151.2 miles.

Looking ahead to this weekend, Louise, Peter and Richard will all return and are almost certainly going to be in the mix for top honours.  Previous winner, Bobbie Irvine (Seapark AC) will also start, as will fellow endurance specialists Guillaume Arthus (France) and Richard Coey (Ballydrain Harriers).

In the associated Castle Ward Trail Races, Willowfield Harriers duo Duncan Bell and Russell Hughes should lead the way in the 8.4 mile race.  In the 4.2 mile race, Jog Lisburn’s Karen Wilton will start as favourite in the ladies race and could very well lead the field home overall.

Parkrun:

As always, Northern Ireland’s twenty-five parkrun events will take place this weekend, for more information on these, or to locate your nearest event, please visit our dedicated ‘parkrun’ section within our fixtures page.

Note:  AAI National Indoor Track & Field Championships (and British Athletics Indoors / BUCS Indoors) article compiled for use by Athletics NI.