Temperatures were in excess of 30°C on Saturday night in Madrid as the World Continental Tour Silver level meet took place at the Estadio Vallehermoso. With only a week to go until the Irish Life Health National Senior Track and Field Championships at Morton Stadium, Santry and now less than a month to the World Athletics Championships in Eugene, Oregon, stakes were high for those in action. The trademark green track may have provided some bonus luck for a couple of the Irish athletes who excelled in the balmy conditions.
The first Irish athlete to take to the track was Chris O’Donnell (North Sligo AC). The 24-year-old competed at the Tokyo Olympics last summer and was an integral part of the Irish Mixed 4x400m Relay team that made the final in Japan. In recent weeks O’Donnell had shown signs of being capable of a very quick time however conditions had hindered him particularly in Samorin, Slovakia where it was very breezy. His first sub 46s clocking of the season came last Tuesday night in the Czech Republic where he clocked 45.91s.
The field was stacked, with entrants including Belgium’s Dylan Borlee and London 2012 silver medallist Luguelín Santos of the Dominican Republic. Drawn in Lane 7 O’Donnell was left with no choice but to get out hard and hold on up the home straight. He executed his race brilliantly and despite being overtaken by Santos in the closing stages came away with a new PB of 45.26s, 0.29s quicker than he had ever ran in the one lapped event. This moves the Sligo man to joint second on the Irish All-Time list for the 400m, alongside Brian Gregan. Only David Gillick has ever ran faster, his 44.77s remains well ahead of what anyone else has achieved to date. O’Donnell has now secured automatic qualification to the European Championships in Munich this August.
Sarah Lavin (Emerald AC) raced in the 100m Hurdles. Lavin has had a very good season to date running a PB of 12.94s in Samorin, Slovakia recently. The Estadio Vallehermoso undoubtedly brings back great memories for the Limerick woman as it was there that she ran a PB last summer and broke the 13s barrier for the first time when she clocked 12.95s to all but secure qualification for the Olympic Games. Nearly a year on and she is still getting quicker. Racing in Lane 5, Lavin had the presence of Zoe Sidney of the Netherlands and Mette Graversgaard of Denmark alongside her. Sidney crashed out badly hitting a hurdle, while Lavin remained almost side by side with Graversgaard. The Dane pulled away slightly after the final hurdle to take victory in a new National Record of 12.89s. Lavin, however, will be delighted as she secured another new PB of 12.93s to finish second. This also was an automatic qualifying standard for the European Championships in August.
Michelle Finn (Leevale AC) was also in action in the 3000m Steeplechase. Finn finished in sixth position in a time of 10.03.96, outside her Season’s Best of 9.46.93.
All three athletes are expected to be in action at this coming weekend’s Irish Life Health National Senior Track and Field Championships. A great opportunity to see some of our best International athletes as well as domestic talent in action.