Victories for Jai Benson and Cormac O’Rourke highlighted a successful Ulster Championships for St. Malachy’s. Sixteen College athletes had earned themselves a place in the Ulster Schools Track and Field Championships thanks to their top three placing in the previous weeks South Antrim District Championships. This event is the biggest day of athletics in the province each year with provincial titles on the line and coveted places at the All-Ireland Championships for top three finishes to be fought for.
The distance athletes got things underway on Friday evening. Conal McClean ran a great race to claim the silver medal in the Inter boys 3,000m race. He challenged all the way to the line and was only half a second behind the winner in a huge new personal best of 9.10. Adam Ferris sliced a large chunk of his previous best to claim fourth in 9.14, only one second behind his training partner and St. Malachy’s AC athlete Tony McCambridge (running for St. Patrick’s). As a year 11 Adam will still be eligible for this age group next year and should be rewarded for his excellent performance with a place in the U16 mile field at the All-Ireland’s.
Tim Scott was next up in the Inter boys 1500m steeplechase and produced a fine display to claim the bronze medal with a 12 second best in 4.45. Tim narrowly lost out on the silver in a sprint finish in only his second steeplechase race ever.
Events started early on the Saturday morning with the sprinters leading the way. Aidan Dickey and Joe McGann both qualified with ease in the Senior boys 100m and ran fantastic races to claim fifth and sixth places respectively in the final. Joe McGann doubled up to gain 5th place in the 200m final.
In the 800m events Cormac O’Rourke retained the Inter boys title he won last year with a blistering turn of speed over the final 150m. Cormac ran a composed race, sitting on the shoulder of the leader until he unleashed his strong finish and pulled away for victory in 1.59. Fionn McQuillan finished in 10th. Diarmuid Hanna recorded a superb six second best to claim 6th place in 2.23 in a competitive Mini boys 800m. Matthew Lavery and Ruari Gallagher gained valuable experience finishing in 10th and 12th places respectively in the Minor and Junior 800m races. In the field Jai Benson continued his great run of form in schools championships, claiming triumph in the Inter boys Long Jump with an outstanding leap of 6.24m; winning by over 20cm. In the Inter boys shot Aidan McGeown launched the shot over 11m for the first time to pick up a fine 6th place. Conall Browne claimed a comfortable third place in the Inter boys 1500m in 4.15, without ever really getting into the race for the top two spots. He needs to improve his tactics and take a position closer to the front throughout the race to give him a chance of producing the performance he is capable of.
Daniel McComiskey ran a really gutsy race in the Junior boys 1500m, pushing the pace for every step of the first 1300m, before fading slightly over the last 200m into 5th place in 4.34. He was rewarded for his determination with an 11 second personal best. Callum Morgan claimed 11th place in the same race.
The day ended on a slightly disappointing note. The Inter boys relay team of Turlough McDonald, Cormac O’Rourke, Aidan McGeown and Jai Benson failed to get the baton round in the final of the 4 by 100m. They had recorded the fastest qualifying time of 45.8s in the heats earlier in the day, a time which would have been good enough for second place and a berth in the All-Ireland’s.
As it is six College athletes have qualified to contest the All-Ireland Championships in Tullamore, Co. Offaly on Saturday 3rd June.