The elite young athletes of the country will gather in Tullamore on Saturday for the prestigious All Ireland schools track and field finals – and as ever there will be a number of Laois competitors in action.
Grainne Lalor of Mountmellick Community School was the only Laois female athlete to take two individual medals at the Leinster finals.
Following a very successful indoor season and a double sprint gold at the South Leinster Schools finals, Grainne lined up against the best U-15s in Leinster in the 100m and 200m.
In the 100m Grainne turned in a very strong performance to take the title just ahead of Nadislane Kabongo of St. Colmcille’s Community School in 12.80 seconds (to Kabongo’s 12.83).
Significantly Kabongo won the All Ireland Minor (U-14) title in 2017. This victory over last’s year’s champion will be a huge confidence boost for Grainne ahead of this year’s All Ireland’s.
In the 200m Grainne made a very strong start and had a slender lead over 4 other athletes entering the home straight including Helen Ikpotokin of Colaiste Iosagain Portarlington who she had edged into second place in the South Leinsters.
Down the home straight the two Laois girls battled head to head all the while pulling away from the rest of the field. In the final 30m the taller Ikpotokin who was racing on fresh legs edged ahead to reverse the South Leinster result.
The two Laois girls will now be the sole representatives for Leinster in the All Ireland Junior 200m final when they will compete against the best the other three provinces have to offer. Battling performances can be expected as both try to get on the podium.
Ikpotokin backed up her 200m win with a very solid run in the Junior 4 x 100m relay to give Colaiste Iosagain every possibility of a Leinster medal.
Supported by Heather Murphy, Isobel O’Dea and Abbie Whitelegg the Portarlington team romped home in second place in a time of 54.12 seconds. The title was won by Presentation Carlow in 52. 21.
The final junior girls’ medal was won by Ava O’Connor of Scoil Chroist Ri Portlaoise in the 1,500m. Turning in one of the performances of the finals in a gun to tape victory, Ava recorded a new personal best run of 4:44.33 for the distance.
The fact that this was literally a solo run makes the winning time all the more significant. Ava will also be hoping for national honours.
In the girls U-16 events Ella-Cyndy Banjoko-Johnson of Colaiste Iosagain, Portarlington was the sole medal winner with silver in the shot put.
Relatively new to the event Banjoko-Johnson recorded a throw of 10.43m. With ongoing training and improvements in technique she will be hopeful of improving on this in future years.
There will be a number of other Laois athletes in the mix in the senior girls events too. Ruby Millet of St Abban’s AC brought all her experience to bear to win the senior 100m Hurdles in the colours of Kilkenny College.
Ruby’s winning time was 14.38 seconds which will set her up nicely for a competitive run in the All Irelands.
Jana Joha of Colaiste Iosagain showed a return to form to take silver in the triple jump with 10.94m. Jana will now hope to break 11m in the All Irelands. Once in this territory she will be hoping to challenge to be on the podium.
Sorcha Moloney, a Ballyroan Abbeyleix & District A.C. athlete, represented her school, the Presentation Thurles in the Munster Schools Track & Field Championships.
Sorcha, in her usual great form, ran well to secure a gold medal in the Senior girls 3000 metre event. Sorcha then went on to compete in the Senior girls 1500 metre race, where she finished second.
After two very strong performances last week, Sorcha will, in no doubt, be one of the contenders for All Ireland Schools Track & Field victory.
In the boy’s events four athletes took home five medals in the Leinster events and will compete for All Ireland glory. Anthony Idres of CBS Portlaoise won bronze in the minor javelin with a throw of 34.26m.
Colin Kelly of Knockbeg College was the only athlete to claim two gold medals at the championships. Colin won both the junior 80m Hurdles in 12.03 seconds and the 200m in 24.25 seconds.
A further two medals were secured for Knockbeg by Jack Murphy in the junior long jump with a leap of 5.33m and Ger Kelly in the senior hammer with a throw of 40.13m
The All Ireland Track and Field finals take place in the Tullamore Harriers on Saturday.