Rush goes on for the Euro slots
With the European Indoors in Prague just over three weeks away, the rush for qualification continues.
At the weekend, Clonliffe's Declan Murray, Ger O'Donnell of Carrick-on-Shannon and American-based Tori Pena all booked their places.
In Gent, Belgium, O'Donnell ran a personal best of 7.73 secs to win the 60m hurdles; inside the 7.78 secs time he needed to make the team for Prague. O'Donnell, who is the national 110m hurdles champion, had broken eight seconds for the first time a week earlier.
Murray was aiming for a time under one minute 48.50 seconds in in the 800m, and at a college meet in Boston ran 1:48.32 secs.
Next up is the 1000m at Saturday's Millrose Games. where he hopes to break the Irish record before returning to Athlone for the nationals on the weekend of February 21. All athletes with qualification marks must run that weekend.
Pena, who is back competing after a long period of injury, added a centimetre to her own Irish pole vault record when she soared over 4.46m in Albuquerque, New Mexico.
Four other athletes have already qualified for Prague. Paul Pollock of St Malachy's ran under the eight minutes qualifying mark for 3000m in early January, while Donore's John Travers has the time for the 1500m after a superb sub-four-minute mile in New York a few weeks ago.
At the AI Indoor Games in Athlone ten days ago, UCD's Ciara Everard and Danny Mooney of Letterkenny nailed down their places.
Everard, who has had more than her fair share of injuries and accidents, proved that she is right back in form when she ran 2:03.37 in the 800m, while Mooney clocked a personal best 3:42.69 in the 1500m.
An Irish 4x400m men's team will also compete in Prague, with Thomas Barr and Dara Kerwick among the contenders for places after fine runs at the Irish Universities Indoors last Friday.
Still gunning for a qualifications mark is Ciaráin ó Lionáird, who limped off the track at a mile race in Boston last weekend, despite a good mile split for the Irish distance medley team a week earlier.
If fit, he will run in the Deloitte Mile at next Wednesday's Athlone International Grand Prix. Also pencilled in are Eoin Everard, John Travers, John Coghlan, Conor Bradley, Danny Mooney and Joe Warne.
A number of big international names will also be in action, most notably world indoor high jump champion Mutaz Essa Barshim from Qatar and veteran American sprinter Carmelita Jeter, who could push the Irish girls to fast times in the 60m. Jamaican sprinter Asafa Powell, who returned from a doping suspension last year, will also make an appearance.