Sarah Healy reflects on a strong season and looks ahead
Irish runner has opted to remain and study in UCD after 601 points in the Leaving Cert
Irish international athlete Sarah Healy was on hand to launch the SPAR Cross Country Xperience which will take place at the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus. Photo: Sam Barnes/Sportsfile
Like any athlete calling time on their season Sarah Healy is filled with thoughts and reflections. How pleasing was that? What needs to change? And just how disrupting was the Leaving Cert?
It’s a little easier when the results speak for themselves, especially her Leaving Cert. That was always going to take priority, and Healy made sure of that too, scoring 601 points, just off the maximum 625, more than enough to secure her first-choice preference to study law at UCD.
Either side of that, her 2019 season was similarly pleasing, winning a sixth consecutive Irish Schools Cross Country title in March, plus a National senior indoor bronze medal, before signing off her schools career with victory in the 3,000m, with another record of 9:24.52.
Her Leaving Cert then duly completed, Healy came out in July and won the silver medal at the European Under-20 Championships in Sweden over 1,500m, and seven days later won her first senior title over the same distance in utterly convincing style, the 18 year-old from Blackrock AC hitting the front with a lap and a half to run and not once looking back.
She wasn’t finished yet: on the day of the Leaving Cert results she got an invitation to run at last Sunday’s IAAF Diamond League meeting in Birmingham, where she clocked a new personal best of 4:40.72 for the mile.
Now she’s on a well deserved break, only already looking ahead to the rest of 2019, including the European Cross Country in Lisbon in December. Healy is also still eligible for the Under-20 race in 2020, when the event is staged in Dublin.
No wonder she feels like nothing much needs to change. Despite the offer of several US college scholarships, Healy is perfectly content to develop her athletic and academic career from home, under her existing coach Eoghan Marnell, while entering UCD on the Ad Astra Academic scholarship programme.
“I definitely feel I have all I need here,” says Healy. “And yes, very pleased to get my first choice college here as well, which is great, doing Law in UCD, and looking forward to that.
“With the Ad Astra programme, there will be good facilities, and they also offer a lot of academic support, which will be helpful, and obviously having my own coach her as well, because I don’t want to be coached by anyone else. And living in Dublin too, quite close to college, I didn’t think there was much to gain in going to America.
“And with all the support, from UCD, Athletics Ireland, the Institute of Sport, I have everything I need, and hopefully I can keep on improving.”
The Leaving Cert, Healy admits, did take priority over her running for much of season, but certainly no regrets about that: “I was very surprised by the results, but very happy, obviously. That was tough at times, and I think at times my running suffered a little bit, but I don’t really mind too much about that now, it’s only one year.”
Speaking in Dublin at the launch of the Spar Cross Country Xperience, set for the Sport Ireland National Sports Campus on Sunday, October 20th, Healy also admits the immediate disappointment of not winning gold in the European Under-20 event has somewhat subsided.
“At the time I was definitely disappointed, because I tried to win, but on reflection I know it was still a great achievement, and I know the girl who beat me as well is very accomplished (the Swiss runner Delia Sclabas), so there’s no shame in finishing second to her. With the senior title, I didn’t expect to win, and when I did I was even happier than I thought I’d be. So overall I wouldn’t say completely satisfied, the silver medal was good, but it was a little harder because of the Leaving Cert.”
Her best times of 2:02.76 for 800m and 4:09.25 for 1,500m were set last year, both not impossibly far away from the Tokyo 2020 qualifying times - only it’s a bit too soon to be thinking about that: “Obviously the Olympics are the dream, but I just want to keep improving and we’ll see what that takes me. I’d love to go someday, and hope someday I will, I don’t care when that happens.”