From an initial figure of around 20,000, over a thousand young athletes have made it through zones and provincial qualifiers to Saturday’s Aviva All Ireland Track and Field Championships in Tullamore ‑ the biggest track and field competition of the year.
For some it will be a nerve-racking first time, for others it will be a sad farewell as they face the Leaving Cert a few days later.
Among those saying goodbye this year is Síofra Cléirigh Buttner of Coláiste íosagáin, who runs in the 800m and 1500m
In a six-year career, Buttner remains unbeaten at schools level. Taking her on in the 800m is Aislinn Crossey of Sacred Heart Newry, who ran 2:10.80 for 800m at the AAI Games last Sunday. Last year, Buttner knocked a staggering seven seconds off Elizabeth McWilliam’s record when she came home in 2:03.81. In the 1500m, the record of 4:19.00 was set in 2010 by Ciara Mageean and Buttner will certainly aim to come close.
Favourite to win the senior boy’s 100m and 200m is Zak Irwin of Sligo Grammar, who made it an inter double last year. Irwin has a 100m best of 10.83 this year and has run 21.53 for 200m. Among his rivals is Leinster champion Keith Doherty of Drimnagh Castle.
Hot favourite to retain his senior 400m title is Harry Purcell of Castleknock who is a much faster athlete this season with a time of 47.82 secs to his credit.
Sprint race of the day could be the inter girls’ where Gina Akpe-Moses of St Vincent’s Dundalk takes on Ulster champion Megan Marrs of Strathern Holywood as well as her great rival Molly Scott of Coláiste Chonglais. Akpe-Moses and Marrs also go in the 200m, while Scott goes in the 80m hurdles.
Over the longer distances, Kevin Mulcaire of St Flannan’s is the class of the field in both the inter boys’ 1500m and 3000m, while international cross-country winner Paddy Maher runs the junior 1500m.
In the senior 1500m, Leinster champion Andrew Coscoran of St Mary’s Drogheda faces a formidable challenge from David Harpur of Rice College, Westport.
Aaron Hanlon of St Mary’s Drogheda hopes to end his schools career with victory in the senior 5000m - the longest race of the day.
Lining out in the girls’ inter 1500m are Nadia Power of St Mac Dara’s, Clodagh O’Reilly of Loreto Cavan and Rhona Pierce of Skerries CC
In the field, expect a Kelly shot putt double. John, the defending senior champion, set an Ulster schools record of 17.51m recently, while James competes in the junior competition. Both are pupils at Royal and Prior Raphoe. In the inter girls’ shot, Michaela Walsh from Swinford could well threaten a record that goes back to 1977.
Wesley’s Stephen Rice is the one to watch in the senior javelin, while Jamie Murtagh of Ashbourne CC and David Cussen from CSN Cork will battle it out in the senior high jump.
A packed day begins at 9am.