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Wallace on form as 1500m finals at National Juvenile Indoors deliver

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By Damian Lawlor

On Saturday 6th April there were eight 1500m finals to be decided at the National Juvenile Indoors and with some very promising juvenile talents lining up, expectations for exciting championship racing were high.

First up were the Under 16 Girls and Sophie Maher from Ennis Track AC was out hard from the start. A group of three had broken clear by 400m, which Maher passed in 70 seconds. Then Eilidh Dallas representing Croghan AC started to move up through the field. At 800m Dallas surged into the lead with Emma Haugh from Fergus AC following her into second. With two laps to go Dallas had got a lead of almost two metres and looked to be in control. However on hearing the bell Maher struck for home and surged passed Dallas and Haugh. Maher ended up with a three second victory over Dallas, crossing the line in 4:39.09.

A questionable new regulation in the Juvenile Booklet 2024 which stipulated that 1500m heats would be seeded with Heat 1 having “3rd and 4th place regional qualifiers and ALL Direct Entries”, while the second heat would comprise of “1st and 2nd place regional qualifiers” and that medals would be decided based on fastest times, raised some eyebrows when coaches first became aware of it. In the second All Ireland to be contested the questionable logic of seeding heats like this was clearly demonstrated. In Heat 1 of the Under 16 Boys Letterkenny AC’s Daragh Naughton set a blistering pace from the gun passing 200m in 28 seconds and 400m in 65 seconds. At this point David Wajrak of Portlaoise AC was in sixth place biding his time. On the third lap Wajrak moved up to second but with Naughton continuing to push the pace he sat there right up to the kilometre mark when he took the lead. He was able to sustain the fast pace right to the line and his winning time of 4:12.09 was a significant PB. In Heat 2 it quickly became obvious that the race was going to be a classic tactical championship race with no one prepared to take on the pace. The field was tightly packed after 400m which they passed in 68 seconds. The next two laps were even more cagey as the pace slowed markedly and at times there were four athletes running astride one another at the front. The pack passed 800m in 2:23 and only then did things start to pick up. Donore Harriers Charlie O’Neill took the lead with two laps to go and after a lap had a lead of over ten metres. He was never challenged as he raced for the finish line and the fact that he ran the last 400m in 60 seconds is a sign of how talented the young Dublin runner is. His heat win though was only in a time of 4:15.25, which relegated O’Neill to the silver medal spot with Gearoid Tuohy of Sligo AC who finished in 4:19.41 marginally ahead of Ciaran Considine from Heat 1 who raced to a time of 4:19.48.

The Under 17 Girls race was a more straightforward affair. Willowfield Harriers Emer McKee led to field out at a fast pace passing 200m in 32 seconds and 400m in 72 seconds. McKee was aware of the brutal pace she was setting as she checked her watch after each lap. However on the third lap the pace dropped markedly. McKee was still in the lead but after this 42 second lap Emily Bolton of Donore Harriers moved into the lead with Emma Hunt of Bohermeen AC right on her heals. The pace though remained controlled and a second last lap of 40 seconds by the leading duo allowed Leia Ryan of Metro/St. Brigid’s to make her way up the leaders. Ryan and Bolton were neck and neck for most of the last lap and it was only in the final straight that Bolton pulled clear winning in a time of 4:41.95, having run a 31 second final lap. Ryan held on for silver with Hunt picking up the bronze.

The Boys Under 17 final was fast right from the start with Craughwell AC’s Declan O’Connell leading through 800m in 2:12 with Lorcan Forde Dunne from Ace AC tracking his every move. It was only with 300m to go that Forde Dunne struck for home but he quickly built up a decisive lead and at the finish was over two seconds clear of silver medalist Liam Morris from Donore Harriers. Morris himself crossed the finish line only .11 of a second ahead of Lucas Lyons from North Leitrim.

1500m finals excite at National Juvenile Indoors

In the Under 18 Girls race Jennifer O’Leary who did not race in the Munster championships found herself in Heat 1 despite her 1500m PB of 4:30.17. O’Leary led her heat throughout and finished seven seconds clear of the nearest challenger effectively time trialling 4:45.49. In Heat 2 Eimear Cooney from Ace AC set a steady pace in the early laps bringing the pack through 200m in 37 seconds and 400m in 77 seconds. Over the next two laps the pace remained even and the girls reached 800m in a very controlled 2:33. It was then that Gemma Galvin from Ennis Track AC swept in to the lead. Galvin could not break away from Saoirse Fitzgerald of Lucan Harriers and at the bell the Dublin athlete took the lead. The young Clare woman hung on though and her steely determination was rewarded as she was able to overhaul Fitzgerald down the finishing straight, winning in a time of 4:37.19. Fitzgerald was not far behind in second running a new PB of 4:38.02, while Cooney’s early front running paid off with a bronze medal finish.

The new format for seeding had an impact on the Under 18 Boys final with Cillian Gleeson of Celbridge AC finding himself in Heat 1. Gleeson benefited from the fast early pace set by Daire O’Donnell of Nenagh Olympic and won his heat in a time of 4:01.39 five seconds clear of O’Donnell. In Heat 2 Noah Harris of Parnell AC was determined not to set off too slow and to be outdone by the runners in the first heat. Harris led through 400m in 58 seconds and 800m in 2:03. Caolan McFadden of Cranford AC was the only athlete to go with Harris’s fast pace but even he could not match the young Wicklow athlete and with 300m to go Harris pulled clear and went on to win the heat by five seconds in a time of 3:56.45. McFadden crossed the line in second but his time of 4:01.95 meant that he was relegated to the bronze medal position on the podium as he was slower than Kildare’s O’Donnell.

Like Harris Aimee Wallace was not hanging around in the Under 19 Girls race. After running the first 400m in 70 seconds the young Mullingar Harriers athlete was five metres clear and she kept on pushing and at 800m her lead had extended to forty metres. Wallace finished in a time of 4:36.80, a new Championship Best Performance improving by four seconds on the mark Shona O’Brien set in 2018. In the silver medal position was Maebh Caffrey of St. Coca’s AC with Lucy Foster of Willowfield Harriers not far behind in third.

In the Under 19 Boys race Oisin McGloin of Lagan Valley led the early stages and ensured an honest effort from all the racers. McGloin passed the 800m mark in 2:10 and continued to lead until 300m to go when Frank Buchanan from Enniskillen moved to the front. Buchanan has plenty of experience of high level competition having competed at the Commonwealth Youth Games last August in Trinidad and Tobago and he was able to hold on for a narrow win over Philip McGee of Letterkenny AC, the pair running respectively 4:00.74 and 4:01.00. Though McGloin had led for a long time he seemed happy to be on the podium after his third place finish.

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