Track doubles don't come much harder than the 400/800 metres, and yet Harry Purcell pulled it off in real style – and with some terrific excitement – with the star performance at the Irish Schools Track and Field Championships in Tullamore.
The Castleknock student – coached by Eamonn Coghlan – first won the senior boys 800m in a brilliant 1:49.42, breaking the 1:50 barrier and also the schools' record of 1:50.65 set last year by Sean Tobin. Purcell was pressed all the way, however, with Rob Tully of Gormanston a close second in 1.49.95, with Danny Lawlor from Presentation Carlow third in 1.52.25.
It was even closer when Purcell was back on the track just over an hour later for the 400m, his victory there coming in 47.83 seconds, very close to Brian Gregan's six-year old schools' record of 47:66. Andrew Mellow from Bangor Academy was right on Purcell's heels there, clocking 47.93, with Paul White Nenagh CBS was third in 49.18.
"A big thanks to Eamonn Coghlan, and my other coach, John Shields, who always believed me," said Purcell, a native of Trim, and only running competitively for two years.
“It wasn’t easy, and I certainly didn’t have it my own way in either the 400 or 800m.”
Indeed Purcell was hoping for a third gold medal in the 4x100m relay, but pulled up with a hamstring injury.
There was an upset in the senior girls 800m, however, when Aislinn Crossey, Scared Heart Newry, finished second behind Alannah Lally, after the student from Presentation Athenry put in a sprint finish with 100m to go. Lally’s winning time was 2:08.28.
Siofra Cleirigh Buttner from Coláiste Iosagáin concentrated on the 1,500m only, and took her 14th schools title to all when winning in 4.25.23.
Elsewhere on the track and field the doubles were coming thick and fast, with Zak Irwin Sligo Grammar underlining his sprint potential by winning the senior boys 100m in 10.73, then adding the 200m in 21.38, despite running into a headwind of -1.3; likewise with Gina Akpe Moses from St Vincent's Dundalk, who completed the intermediate girls sprint double in 12.01 and 25.08.
Kevin Mulcaire from St Flannan's Ennis first took the intermediate 3,000m in a very classy 8.33.92, beating a record that stood for 36 years. Mulcaire also later won the 1,500m in 4.10.91, beating 800m champion Mustafa Nasir from Rathcoole.
Among the more unique doubles was a senior 110m hurdles/long jump by Sam Healy from Carrigaline, while Kate O'Connor from Dundalk set a new schools record in the junior girl's javelin, throwing 40.77m, before later adding the 800m in 2:21.08.
Other records fell to Katelyn Furlong in the intermediate hammer (47.61m), Maria Carey in the intermediate triple jump, while the senior girls from Loreto Kilkenny improved the 4x100m relay record to 47.61, improving on St McDara's time of 48.16 set back in 1996.