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Major athletics meet in Athlone this weekend

Friday, 31st January, 2014 1:49pm

Major athletics meet in Athlone this weekend

The Woodie’s DIY Athletics Ireland Open Indoor Games takes place on Sunday, February 2, with an array of international and top Irish athletes set to clash in Athlone IT’s International Arena (first event, 11am).

Sprints & Hurdles
Max Kessler and Eric Franke, both of Germany, return to the indoor games after impressive victories in the 2013 event. Kessler, who dominated the 60m (6.81) and 200m (21.30) at last year’s event, will target a fast time over 200m, while Franke is set to double up in the 60m and 200m. Both athletes will have to contend with Irish athletes David Hynes (Menapians AC), Steven Colvert (Crusaders AC), Jamie Davis (Raheny Shamrock AC), and Jason Harvey (Crusaders AC). Hynes tops the 2014 Irish indoor rankings after his 6.81 season opener at the National Indoor League on January 5.

The women’s sprint fields are also loaded with talent; Irish international sprinter Amy Foster (City of Lisburn) makes her 2014 debut on the boards in the 60m, where she will come up against the in-form Phil Healy (Bandon AC). Healy has blazed a trail this indoor season with a 7.43 clocking in Cardiff on January 12, to move to seventh place on the Irish all-time lists. Other athletes likely to feature are Catherine McManus (Celtic DCH) and Joan Healy (Bandon AC). Ian McDonald (Crusaders AC) lines up in the men’s 60m hurdles, as he continues his comeback after some time out from the sport.

The International men’s 400m features four athletes with sub-47 second personal best times to their name. Leading the entries are Spanish duo Mark Ujakapor and Samuel Garcia, Both were members of Spain’s 4 × 400m relay team that finished fifth at the 2012 World Indoor Championships. Rory Evans (GB) and Onkabetse Nkobolo (Botswana) are the next quickest, boasting personal bests of 46.47 and 46.80 seconds respectively. The 2013 national 400m indoor silver medallist, Timmy Crowe (Dooneen AC), leads the home challenge.

The women’s 400m is a largely domestic one with the 2013 silver and bronze medallist over 400m at the Outdoor National Championships, Sinead Denny (Dundrum South Dublin AC), and Shauna Cannon (Brothers Pearse AC) set to battle it out.

Distance Preview
Mark English (UCD AC), the second fastest Irishman ever over 800m outdoors (1.44.84), headlines the men’s international 800m field. English will target a fast time with the indoor championship standard of 1.47.00 as a goal. Alex Rodriguez of Spain has a personal best of 1.45.97 and Thijmen Kupers of Holland (1.46.46) will pose the biggest threat to English on Sunday. Ciara Everard (UCD AC) is the star attraction in the women’s 800m field. Everard enjoyed a fantastic 2013 indoor campaign, which culminated in a sixth place finish at the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Other International athletes lined-up for the race include Polish athletes Anna Rostkowska and Ewa Jacniak, along with Adriana Cagigas of Spain. The 2012 world Indoor 800m silver medalist, Jakub Houlusa (CZE) starts as favourite in the men’s 1500m, however, he will need to be at his best to hold off the challenge of 2013 World University Games bronze medallist, Andreas Vojta of Austria. European cross-country representative Sarah Treacy (Moynalvey/Kilcloon AC) goes in the women’s 1500m.

The men’s 3,000m includes three sub-8 minute athletes. Victor Corrales of Spain is a former European junior silver medallist over 1500m and has a personal best of 7.57. Adel Mechaal of Spain is also in the line-up. John Travers (Donore Harriers AC), a student in Athlone IT, leads the Irish charge after an impressive season opener with a 4.01.47 mile victory in Athlone two weeks ago. Recently declared Irish International Alex Wright (Calry A.C.) targets a fast time in the 3,000m Walk event. Wright has moved to Cork recently to train with Irish athletes Brendan Boyce (Letterkenny AC) and world champion Rob Heffernan (Togher AC).

Field Events
Claire Wilkinson (Ballymena & Antrim AC) and Zoe Brown (Raheny Shamrock AC) are set to clash in the women’s pole vault event. Many of Ireland’s top domestic male pole vault athletes are entered including multiple national champion David Donegan (Clonliffe Harriers AC).
Newly crowned Irish U23 champions, Niamh Murphy (Blarney/Inniscara A.C) and Tony Stafford (Menapians AC), will compete in the respective shot-putt and long-jump events. Junior athlete Jamie Murtagh (St Andrews AC) equalled his personal best of 2.10m on route to victory at last weekend’s Irish championships, and he goes in the high jump with 2014 National combined event champion, Michael Bowler (Kilkenny City harriers AC) also in the field.

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