There were records galore at the Letterkenny International Track & Field meeting which took place on Friday night at the Danny McDaid track. The crowd were treated to five meeting records across a host of world class events, as well as World championship and Commonwealth Games qualification standards. The two feature events on the programme delivered exactly what the crowd came to see. In the women’s feature event, American Mel Lawrence smashed the Irish All-comers record in the Divers Hyundai 3000m steeplechase, winning in a personal best time of 9:36.65, and a World championship qualification standard. The men’s feature event, the Donnelly & Foley Mile, produced an exciting finish with American Robert Domanic dipping under the 4-minute barrier with a time of 3:59.98, sending the crowd wild. Meeting records were set in the women’s 800m, 3000m steeplechase and shot putt, as well as the men ‘s 3000m and shot putt, enhancing the reputation of the event on the European athletics circuit.
The evening got off to a swift start with the Donegal Athletics Board women’s 400m hurdles, a new event on the programme. Meghan Beesley from England took the win with a time of 58.32 seconds, holding off Ballymena & Antrim’s Christine McMahon in 2nd, and South African Jean-Mare Senekal in 3rd. In the Hegartys Auto Services 3000m Men, American Drew Hunter lowered the meeting record with the win in 8:14.95, racing away in the final lap from English duo Patrick Dever in 2nd and Alex Teuten in 3rd. In the BM Blinds/Crumlish Appliances 100m Men, Australian Michael Konomanyi was fastest out of the blocks and held on to win, dipping on the line to win in a time of 10.88 seconds, a good run considering the strong headwind. Omolulu Abiodun from England was close behind in 2nd place, with Welshman Lemarl Freckleton in 3rd.
The Letterkenny Credit Union men’s 400m produced another exciting finish up the home straight, with less than half a second separating the top 3 athletes. In an English clean sweep, Nicholas Atwell edged it for the win in 47.86 seconds from Christian Byron in 2nd and Tom Sommers in 3rd. Down at the throwing circle, the SMR Windparks Shot Putt men was producing some truly World class throwing, and England’s Scott Lincoln got a massive putt out for a meeting record of 18.53m. In the Irish battle, Finn Valley’s John Kelly held on for 2nd place with Galway City Harrier’s Sean Breathnach finishing 3rd. The shot putt circle was the place to be for meeting records, with another one being set in the Letterkenny Glass women’s shot putt, where Christina Nick from England won impressively with a throw of 13.10m. Another field event competition which was creating a stir on the infield was the 4 Lanterns men’s javelin. England’s Joe Dunderdale sent the javelin high in the air, with his biggest throw of 73.41m, setting him up for the win ahead of fellow Englishman Joe Harris in 2nd, and Scotland’s Greg Millar in 3rd place.
The tension was now mounting as we approached the Diver’s Hyundai women’s 3000m steeplechase with World and Commonwealth Games selection at stake. The crowd gathered around the waterjump, a strong pace was set from early on and it looked like the World standard was on the cards. The crowd got behind the athletes, and with 800m to go, American Mel Lawrence moved to the front, and pulled away from the field to win in 9:36.65, and in doing so etched her way in to the record books with the fastest women’s steeplechase time ever recorded on Irish soil, as well as a World championship qualification standard. Scotland’s Lennie Waite got under the qualifying time for the Commonwealth Games in 2nd place with 9:43.87, with Jessica Kamilos holding on for 3rd place. Next up we had the McDonalds/Donegal Daily women’s 800m with our second meeting record of the night. After some good pacemaking, American Dana Mecke led at 300m to go, but it was another American Kaela Edwards who made her move down the backstraight, holding on to win in a personal best time of 2:03.38, shaving 4 hundredths of a second off the meeting record. Mari Smith from England was close behind in 3rd place.
The barriers were back on the track again for the Aine Fisheries men’s 3000m steeplechase, and this race produced one of the closest finishes of the night. In a stacked race, six athletes came off the final waterjump in contention, and it was American Jordan Mann who broke free for the win, celebrating in style in a new personal best of 8:36.73. It was an American 1-2-3 with Arron Nelson and Brandon Doughty taking 2nd and 3rd. There were two Commonwealth Games standards for Derry Track Club’s Adam-Kirk Smith in 8:37.41 and Dougie Musson from England in 8:38.54. Kirk-Smith really gave the North-West crowd something to shout about, storming through the field up the home straight, announcing his name on the international steeplechase stage.
It was back to the sprinters again, and the McGee Memorials women’s 200m produced another dramatic finish, with a photo finish being needed to separate the top 3 athletes. Nardhia Kidd Walker from England was given the nod in a time of 25.24 secs, only two hundredths of a second ahead of Janine Boyle from Finn Valley, with Mullingar Harriers’s Vicky Harris taking 3rd place. In the Spar Glencar men’s 200m, Brazilian Bruno de Barros took to the starting blocks, and he produced a fine win in 21.41 secs ahead of England’s Omolulu Abiodun, his second podium finish of the night, and St. Laurence O’Toole athlete Adam Murphy following closely in 3rd.
The anticipation was building as the crowd awaited the feature event of the night, the Donnelly & Foley men’s mile, and it did not disappoint with a sensational race. As the field of 16 athletes lined up, the starters gun went, and the pace was fast. There was drama in the first 50m with a number of athletes almost falling as they battled for position. As the field stretched out, they reached the halfway mark in 1:59, and the sub 4 minute mile looked like it was on. More drama again in the 3rd lap, as the athletes settled themselves for the big finish, letting the pace drop, hitting the bell in 3:01. Daniel Herrera from Mexico was first to hit the front with 400m to go, but it was down the back straight with 250m to go where American Robert Domanic made his move. He was followed closely by Joe Stilin and Julian Oakley. There were 8 athletes in contention coming off the bend, but Domanic kicked again up the home straight, running all the way to the line for the win, stopping the clock at 3:59.98 to the delight of the crowd, and with the narrowest of margins to spare. Americans Sam Prakel and Blake Haney came so close to going sub 4 with 4:00.26 and 4:00.99, as did Clonmel AC’s Sean Tobin with 4:01.10, American Joe Stilin 4:01.20 and New Zealand’s Julian Oakley 4:01.71. Letterkenny’s Danny Mooney finished in 4:04.21.
As the curtain came down on another successful international track & field meeting, Letterkenny Athletic Club can be very pleased with the fifth staging of the event, with 100 athletes from 25 countries from all over the World taking part. Georgina Drumm, president of Athletics Ireland, commented on the high quality of competition that was put on in Letterkenny, and she was delighted to be there representing Athletics Ireland. The support of Athletics Ireland, Donegal County Council and all the event sponsors as well as a team of volunteers make this event possible each year. Ray Flynn, Irish record holder for the mile, performed the official opening of the meeting, and it was fitting that he was in Letterkenny on Friday night, exactly 35 years ago to the day that he broke that Irish record of 3:49.77 at the Dream Mile in Oslo. Those who turned out in Letterkenny on the night were treated once more to a memorable spectacle of World class athletics with five meeting records being smashed along with yet another sub 4-minute mile in Donegal.
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