Rhasidat Adeleke shines again to stake her claim for Olympics place

Israel Olatunde earns title of Ireland’s fastest man for 2021 in winning the men’s 100m

Rhasidat Adeleke was victorious again on Saturday as she staked her claim for an Olympics place. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Rhasidat Adeleke was victorious again on Saturday as she staked her claim for an Olympics place. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

 

Rarely in the 149 consecutive years of the National Track and Field Championships have two teenage sprinters taken their first senior titles in such quick and impressive succession, Rhasidat Adeleke also putting her hand up for Olympic selection in the process.

In winning the women’s 100 metres, Adeleke might well have improved her own Irish Under-20 record in the process too, her time of 11.29 seconds (just shy of Phil Healy’s national record of 11.28) ruled out given the tailwind was just over the legal limit. Still only 18, Adeleke will be back at the Morton Stadium on Sunday looking to add the 200m title, arguably her favoured event having already broken the senior record earlier this season.

Minutes earlier Israel Olatunde earned the title of Ireland’s fastest man for 2021 in winning the men’s 100m, the UCD student clocking 10.49 seconds to snatch victory on the line from defending champion Stephen Gaffney, who clocked 10.50: Olatunde only turned 19 in May, like Adeleke was born and raised in Dundalk after his family moved over from Nigeria, also learning his sprint trade at Tallaght AC under the keen tutelage of Daniel Kilgallon.

“To be back at home after a long season, and still be able to run fast, I can’t be mad at that,” said Adeleke, who enjoyed a highly successful freshman year at the University of Texas, and a comfortable winning margin her over Molly Scott of ST Laurence O’Toole AC, who clocked 11.46. (The wind reading was +2.6m/s over the permitted +2.0.)

Adeleke is also now in contention for a spot on the mixed 4x400m relay team, already safely qualified for Tokyo. “Oh yeah, definitely, I’d be really open to that. I actually didn’t think I’d like the 4x400m, but I really do, so that would be a great experience, a really honourable thing to do.”

For Olatunde, there are also the European Under-20 Championships next month to look forward too, the teenager showing real maturity to take Gaffney on the line: “It’s a great feeling, so hard to put into words, on this journey the last few years, it’s one of those things you dream of,” he said. “I have to give a big shout out to my coach Danie, my whole training group down in Tallaght, my friends and family, my local club back in Dundalk AC, they’ve all put in so much work to get me to where I am.”

For those Irish athletes already Tokyo-bound or else close to earning their ticket it also proved a rewarding afternoon. Thomas Barr won title number nine in the 400m hurdles, after a two-year absence (winning the previous eight in succession), the swirling wind clearly favourable for fast times. He clocked 50.66, with Jack Mitchell, only 21, chasing impressively hard to take second, the Carlow athlete from St Laurence O’Toole clocking 52.03.

“It’s brilliant, after missing the last two years, it’s nice to be back at nationals, competing on home soil,” said Barr. “With the wind I had to go out a little harder than I would have liked, and that takes it out of you on the home straight. Confidence is really good though, getting that Olympic qualifier in my equal third fastest time, and I’m definitely in way better shape than I’ve ever been at this time of year.”

Israel Olatunde of UCD AC wins the 100m ahead of Stephen Gafney. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho
Israel Olatunde of UCD AC wins the 100m ahead of Stephen Gafney. Photograph: Bryan Keane/Inpho

Phil Healy took on the 400m looking to add more to her Tokyo ranking points, and did exactly that, winning comfortably in 52.33 seconds. Showing all her style and class to move clear on the top bend, it was her first senior outdoor title over 400m, number 16 in all.

“I’m actually surprised the time is as quick as it is, for the conditions today,” said the Bandon AC woman. “The wind down that back straight and the first bend here too is woeful. So to come out with a win, a 52.3, I’d delighted, and hopefully that will put me inside the rankings.

There was a worry there however for Sharlene Mawdsley from Newport, part of the 4x400m mixed relay team that secured Olympic qualification, as she pulled up injured with 50m to go, leaving a question mark over her fitness for Tokyo.

No such worries for Sarah Healy, the 20-year-old UCD student now virtually certain of her Tokyo place in the 1,500m, as she also turned on the style here to take the win in 4:15.08, with 800m specialist Nadia Power left chasing to take second in 4:18.34; Healy closed with a 64-second last lap, and 30-second last 200m, kicking impressively off the front down the backstretch, opening a winning margin within a matter of strides, after taking up the running with two laps to go.

“I wanted it to be a decent pace, knew there were some really fast girls in there,” she said. “I was so nervous. But managed to stay in the front, and had an extra gear, with about 250m to go. We’ve been trying that in training, so delighted it’s working in the races.

There was certainly more pushing and shoving in men’s 1,500m, favourite Andrew Coscoran possibly working a little harder than anticipated before taking the win in 3:48.89: coached by Feidhlim Kelly at the Dublin Track Club, representing Star of the Sea, Coscoran hit the front with 500m remaining, only for Kevin Kelly from St Coca’s AC to get past him around the top bend; still Coscoran had the class to come again, Cathal Doyle of Clonliffe finishing fastest of all to take second in 3:48.98, with Kelly third in 3:49.40.

Kelly Mcgrory won a second women’s 400m title, five years after her first, the Tir Chonaill athlete also rewarded with a personal best of 59.41 seconds. Chris O’Donnell of North Sligo AC lost out on four 400m titles in succession, having run 45.86 earlier this month, stunned on the line by Cillin Greene from Galway City Harriers, recently moved up from 200; he took the win in 46.38 to O’Donnell’s 46.43.

In the women’s 800m, Louis Shanahan from Leevale, the PhD at Cambridge University, upset some of the more fancied names, sneaking up on the inside in the final 100m after a small crack opened up in her favour; she didn’t need to be invited in twice, winning in 2:03.6

In the men’s 800m, Luke McCann from UCD AC hit the front from the gun and looked poised for the win, only for John Fitzsimons to somehow get back on the line to win his first senior title in 1:49.48, McCann still showed great potential when taking second in 1:49.51.

In the earlier session, two more Dublin Track Club training partners won both titles in the 3,000m steeplechase, Tokyo-bound Michelle Finn from Leevale AC taking almost 10 seconds off her won championship best performance with her winning time of 9:36.94, before Brian Fay of Raheny Shamrock dominated the men’s race to take the win in 8:52.88.

Two more Dublin Track Club training partners then battled it out between them for the men’s 5000m title, Sean Tobin and Hiko Tonosa frequently exchanging the lead and it seemed the determination the win, before Tonosa made his winning move with 300m to go, breaking Tobin in the process, the Dundrum-South Dublin athlete taking the win in 13:52.53, to Tobin’s 13:54.92. The plan is for Tonosa to added the 10,000m title on Sunday.

In the field, Colin Quirke of Crusaders AC won another discus title with a best of 54.84 metres, Niamh Fogarty of Raheny taking the women’s title with a best of 53.73, while Conor Callinan of Leevale won the pole vault with a best of 4.40m.

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