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Elite star maria shines in Santry

NOT only the weather dampened the atmosphere at last weekend's Woodie's DIY National Track and Field Championships in Santry. Because it was no longer compulsory for elite athletes to turn out at the championships, the middle distance events in particular were painfully thin.

Full credit then to an athlete such as Maria McCambridge, the only Irish athlete with an A standard who will not compete at the London Olympics.

McCambridge had run a 5000m at the Dublin Graded League three days earlier but no way would she miss a national championships.

Again running the 5000m, McCambridge struck for home early with only Siobhan O'Doherty attempting to stay with her. She won the race in just over 16 minutes -- a brave race by a brave athlete.

Another athlete who could have stayed away was Joanne Cuddihy, particularly considering the tactless manner in which the selection for the 4x400m squad was handled.

Cuddihy did more than turn up -- she won both 200m and 400m in imperious style. Behind her in the 400m came the 4x400m squad -- Marian Heffernan, Michelle Carey, Claire Bergin and Caitriona Cuddihy, who had been so cruelly de-selected. Jessie Barr, also on the 4x400m squad, stuck to her specialist 400m hurdles.

Then there was Stephanie Reilly, who will run the steeplechase in London and finished a fighting fourth in the 1500m. Credit also to American-based Tori Pena who made the effort to show up and duly won the pole vault.

Despite the absence of big names, the women's 800m, won in a sprint by Siobhan Eviston, was a thriller, as was the men's 1500m, where Colin Costello out-leaned Eoin Everard for victory.

But it was the sprinters who deserved the most credit. Jason Smith and Steven Colvert have been chasing around Europe trying to make the London A standard. They still checked in at Santry, as did Paul Hession, who with Olympic qualification in the bag, has not been under the same pressure.