THE hunger of athletes for competition was evidenced with a record entry for the Irish Life health national senior track and field championships at Morton Stadium in Dublin over the weekend.
The numbers meant that the championships were held over three sessions on Saturday, and another two sessions on Sunday, with the stadium cleared after each session to comply with Government guidelines on gatherings.
A year ago, Nicola Tuthill of Bandon finished fourth in the hammer at the schools international in Swansea.
Competing for Colaiste na Toirbhirte, she was selected for the Irish team after finishing second to Ciara Sheehy of St. Mary’s Charleville in both the All-Ireland schools and Tailteann Games.
Both were back in action in the hammer on Saturday, their first time competing at this level.
Tuthill, who will be 17 in December, opened the competition with a throw of 53.40m, improving to 55.27m in the third round, and 55.71m in the fourth round.
Then, in the fifth round, she had the throw of her life, lofting the hammer an amazing 60.04m! Her final throw was ‘just’ 55.04m.
Her previous best was 58.24m at the Leevale meet at the end of July.
Sheehy, competing for Emerald, was second with a best throw of 49.37m, while Megan Moynihan of West Muskerry made it a good day for Cork throwers by finishing third with 48.80m.
The scale of Tuthill’s performance can be judged by the fact that she has become the sixth Irish woman ever to throw over 60m!
The Bandon club added a second gold medal in the men’s long jump. Adam McMullen of Crusaders, whose best for the event is 7.99m, opened the competition with 7.31m before Shane Howard of Bandon jumped 7.44m in the third round.
In the blustery conditions, neither athlete was able to improve on these marks, leaving Howard to defend the title he won for the first time last year.
It was also the tenth national title he has won since winning the U9 long jump and 60m titles in 2002.
Another attempting to defend a title won for the first time last year was David Cussen of Old Abbey. Competing in the high jump, he entered the competition with the bar at 2.00m and cleared at the first attempt.
He also cleared first time over 2.05m and 2.10m. Then, with the bar at 2.17m, he cleared at the third attempt, adding 1cm to his previous best.
This was his 16th national title after winning his first and second title in 2008, the U13 high jump and long jump.
John Travers of Donore Harriers took the lead early in the men’s 5,000m and was immediately tracked by Darragh McElhinney of Bantry and UCD who signalled his intent by covering every move by the leader.
The order remained the same until the last 200m when the man from Glengarriff finally took over the lead and raced to an excellent win in 13:56.00, his second time under 14 minutes.
Liam Harris of Togher, who was on an athletics scholarship in Providence College, was fourth in 14:37.67.
It was a good day for west Cork when Phil Healy of Bandon won the women’s 100m with plenty to spare.
She won in a time of 11.71, well outside her Irish record of 11.28 to reflect the weather conditions and the lead up to the championships.
Her sister Joan, running in the Leevale colours, ran strongly to finish third in 11.85.
The women’s 5,000m was turned into a procession when Michelle Finn of Leevale stormed into the lead after a couple of laps and stayed on to win unchallenged in 16:37.49.
Clubmate Sinead O’Connor ran on strongly to take second in 16:47.40.
Later in the day, Finn competed in the heats of the 1,500m and qualified for the final on Sunday, where she finished fourth in 4:25.02 behind Amy O’Donoghue of Emerald who won in 4:21.51.
Grainne Moynihan of West Muskerry fought all the way in the women’s 400m to finish a good second in a time of 54.22 behind Sophie Becker of Raheny Shamrock in 54.06.
Aoife O’Sullivan of Liscarroll cleared 1.76m for second in the high jump, just behind Sommer Lecky of Finn Valley on 1.79m.
The men’s U23 weight for height saw Padraig O’Callaghan of Leevale finish second with 4.40m, while clubmate Conor Morey was fifth in the men’s 100m in 10.84.
Away from the championships, Louise Shanahan of Leevale finished a close third in the 800m at a meet in Bromley, London on Friday evening.
Her time of 2:03.17 was a new PB for her, but the race was paced by a man so the time won’t count.
A week earlier, she raced in Belfast where she finished a close second in a time of 2:03.71 to Katie Kirk who won in 2:03.31.
This race was paced by Conall Kirk, brother of the winner, so it was another time that won’t count.