ATHLETICS | St Gerard’s AC juveniles shine at Leinster Championships in Tullamore

O’Connor sails past European qualification mark

Orlagh Conway, Kate Smyth, Niamh Belton, Kate O’Connor and Caitlin Mulholland at the Leinster Championships in Tullamore

After the brilliant showing by the club’s pairs and U12 athletes the previous weekend it was St Gerard’s AC’s older juveniles that stepped forward for days two and three of the Leinster Championships on Saturday and Sunday last in Tullamore.

With brilliant sunshine and high temperatures, conditions were perfect for the speed based events but torturously difficult for the distance runners.

Representing Dundalk St Gerard’s AC were Joe Lennon, Keanu Van Beek, Jamie Wynne, Mia Keely, Nicola McElroy, Patricia and Patience Jumbo-Gula, Ellen McBride, Maria Smith, Kate O’Connor, Caitlin Mulholland, Kate Smyth, Orlagh Conway and Niamh Belton.

With the province’s finest to contend with. the competition was, as always, stiff and the stakes were high with All-Ireland qualifications up for grabs.

For Kate O’Connor and Patience Jumbo-Gula, there was the added pressure of European qualification standards to aim for in the long jump and 100m respectively.

Left: Michael O’Connor, who received the perfect Father’s Day present when his daughter Kate achieved the European junior qualifying standard in the U18 girls long jump at the Leinster Championships in Tullamore. Right: Nicola McElroy and Mia Keely lining up for the U12 girls long jump at the Leinster Championships in Tullamore

Kate shows her class with sensational display

On Saturday, Kate made a bold statement of intent in the U18 girls shot putt and high jump.

First up in the shot, she exceeded the championship record four times in the competition to take gold with a new PB of 14.45m. In the high jump, she was in super form, winning with a 1.73m clearance and going very close to beating the championship record, just missing with her efforts at 1.76m.

On Sunday, buoyed by her excellent efforts on the previous day, Kate was ready to show the crowd just how good she is. She exceeded the qualification standard of 5.95m with her first jump with a leap of 5.97m. However, with the wind gauge not functioning, the jump was inadmissible as a qualifier.

It’s said that what differentiates a good performer from a great is defined by what goes on above the shoulders. The ability to compartmentalise a disappointment and continue to focus on the job at hand is a vital component.

With a great series of jumps almost complete, her only admissible jump was two centimetres short going into the last round but, saving her best until last, Kate executed a stunning effort, sailing out to 6.10m, to comfortably make the standard.

This was a fantastic achievement for Kate, made all the more impressive given that it is a junior (U20) standard and she will not turn 17 until the end of the year.

Niamh Belton (second from left) on her way to victory in the U19 girls 200m at the Leinster Championships in Tullamore

Patience edging closer to her best

Elsewhere, Patience Jumbo-Gula was looking to continue her improvement as she moves toward full fitness after her return from injury.

With the conditions good for sprinting, she was aiming to move closer to the European Youth Olympic qualifying time of 12.05 seconds and with an impressive 12.13 seconds in the head, she broke the championship record.

In the final, Patience looked like she is nearing full fitness with another great performance that saw her speed to victory in 12.10 seconds, agonisingly close to the qualifying time.

Despite the disappointment of the missed qualification, she was delighted with the remarkable progress she has shown over the last month and will have one last chance to make the standard when she represents Leinster at the Tailteann Games.

Bronze for Ellen

Ellen McBride (right) of Dundalk St Gerard’s AC who finished third in the U15 girls 100m at the Leinster Championships in Tullamore

Ellen McBride and Patricia Jumbo-Gula ran solid races in the U15 girls 200m.

In the 100m, both girls qualified for the final in very different circumstances. Patricia won her heat well to go through automatically but Ellen had a real battle on her hands going through as a fastest loser from a very fast heat.

In the final, their fortunes flip-flopped with Ellen running a great race to snatch bronze. Unfortunately, Patricia had a bad start which left her with a proverbial mountain to climb and the lost ground proved insurmountable.

Third gold on the trot for Maria

Maria Smith (centre) who won the U16 girls 100m at the Leinster Championships in Tullamore

Maria Smith belied her inexperience in the U16 long jump, using her speed to great effect to take bronze with a new PB.

In the 100m, the effects of the six rounds of jumps looked to have taken a toll when she finished second in her heat to qualify for the final.

Maria, though, upped her game, showing she had plenty of her dad’s Cavan cuteness by not playing her hand until it was needed to win the shorter sprint for the third year running and underline her great talent.

Girls Round-Up

Left: Caitlin Mulholland who finished second in the U18 girls steeplechase with winner Eva Cummings of Boyne AC. Right: Ellen Murphy, Ellen McBride and Maria Smith

Caitlin Mulholland ran another brilliant race in the heat to finish with a silver medal in the U18 girls 2000m steeplechase.

Kate Smyth bravely covered the U19 girl’s steeplechase and took second also in an event which both athletes have adapted to very well since taking it up over the last few months.

Multisports women Niamh Belton and Orlagh Conway lined up in the U19 girls 200m and 1500m and Niamh showed her class with an excellent victory while Orlagh ran a fine race in the searing heat.

Competing at their first Leinster Championships, Mia Keely and Nicola McElroy took part in the U12 girls long jump. Both girls recorded PB’s on the day, qualifying for the top-eight jump off where Mia edged her teammate on the day, finishing a great fourth to qualify for the All-Ireland Championships.

Boys Round-Up

Keanu Van Beek enjoyed a memorable debut in the U16 boy’s discus. With his best throw in excess of 39m, Keanu marked himself down as an athlete with great potential and took a superb silver medal home despite being a relative newcomer to the sport.

Jamie Wynne was just shaded out of the U16 boys 200m final by one place with a solid performance and also gave his all in the long jump and hurdles.

Joe Lennon, whose training was restricted for much of the season due to injury, showed that he has all the potential to achieve at this level with very promising displays in the U15 boys 100m, shot and long jump.

Patricia Jumbo-Gula (centre) receiving some advice from her sister Patience before her race at the Leinster Championships in Tullamore


In the inter-county relays, there was more success for St Gerard’s AC.

Patricia Jumbo-Gula and Ellen McBride were part of the silver medal-winning Louth U15 team while Maria Smith and Patience Jumbo-Gula took gold for the county in the U17 relay. Joe Lennon was in the medals too with bronze in the U15 boy’s relay.

The athletes can rightly be proud of their performances and standards they have achieved. Everyone involved with the club is tremendously proud of each and every one of them and they have shown themselves to be great role models for the younger children to look up to.

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