Ireland’s Fastest Females: The Ones To Watch At Nationals
Elizabeth Egan brings us this peice on all things women’s sprints as we look forward to this weekend’s National Championships, as well as a brief look at the main contenders for the World Championships in Beijing later this month.
The Young Guns
The new generation of sprint stars are fast. Very fast!
Over the past few months, an exciting bunch of young athletes have been lighting up the tracks of Ireland and Europe. Ciara Neville is EYOF 100m champion. Gina Akpe-Moses is EYOF 200m silver medallist. Sharlene Mawdsley is a European Junior Championship 200m finalist. Cliodhna Manning and Phil Healy just missed out on the 100m final at the European U23 Championships. The U23 4 x 100m relay team ran an Irish records on their way to the European U23 final. The junior team finished 4th in their European age-group final. A relatively young 4 x 200m team finished 5th at the World Relay Championships. The future of Irish female sprinting looks very bright!
These talented young athletes, along with their coaches and support teams, will be acutely aware of the difficult transition from junior to senior sprinter, and the lack of previous Irish success in the short sprints at a world level. History, of course means little, and while individual Olympic gold may not be a realistic target for Neville, Akpe-Moses, Manning, Healy, Mawdsley or any of our other sprint starlets, this group of athletes are more than capable of picking up Ireland’s first female major championship relay medals.
The Ones To Watch
Kelly Proper has been around a while, and her impressive collection of National Senior titles demonstrates her quality and versatility. Such is her success, it’s sometimes difficult to believe that Proper is just 27. Having started out at the long jump, before sampling the heptathlon (both events in which she holds the Irish senior records), Proper is now Ireland’s top 200m sprinter. She has been agonisingly close to the world qualifying time all season, and will be looking to make the team for Rio next year. Her recent personal best over 100m suggests that her best days are yet to come.
Amy Foster, too, has been on the scene for some time. The two-times World University Games finalist has been Ireland’s top 100m runner this season and is the reigning Irish champion. Next summer she will look to add the Olympic Games to her impressive list of international selections which, to date, includes three European Championships and two Commonwealth Games. The Olympic Games standard of 11.32 is, however, considerably faster than the 11.40 current Irish record which Foster shares with Ailish McSweeney.
Ciara Neville is the hottest property in Irish juvenile athletics at the moment. Her times, and most importantly her performances, at just 16 suggest that she has a bright future ahead of her. With a seemingly mature head on young shoulders, the EYOF title is surely just the beginning for Neville.
Phil Healy was involved in a thrilling finish at last year’s National Senior Championships, recording the same time as Foster, the eventual winner. She is ranked third over 100m this season, but has yet to find the sort of form that saw her move to equal fourth on the Irish all-time list last season.
Cliodhna Manning, the Irish U23 200m champion, will look to build on her performance at the European U23 Championships.
Steffi Creaner, the double Irish University sprint champion, is another consistent performer. She is ranked third behind Proper and Foster over 200m this season and has a best of 23.72 from 2013.
Gina Akpe-Moses recent EYOF medal has shot her into the spotlight as has Sharlene Mawdsley’s European Junior final spot. Double Irish Schools Champion Phoebe Murphy is another to look out for in the future.
Irish 100m Top 10, 2015
- 11.41 (+0.7) Amy Foster
2. 11.54 (+1.2) Kelly Proper
3. 11.64 (+1.2) Phil Healy (U23)
3. 11.64 (+1.4) Ciara Neville (Youth)
5. 11.71 (+1.0) Cliodhna Manning (U23)
6. 11.81 (+1.2) Gina Akpe-Moses (Youth)
7. 11.82 (+1.2) Catherine McManus
8. 11.88 (+1.8) Molly Scott (Youth)
9. 11.91 (+1.8) Lauren Ryan (Youth)
10. 11.92 (+1.4) Janine Boyle (Youth)
Irish 200m Top 10, 2015
- 23.24 (+2.0) Kelly Proper
2. 23.62 (+0.3) Amy Foster
3. 23.86 (+0.7) Steffi Creaner
4. 23.94 (-1.1) Cliodhna Manning (U23)
5. 24.05 (+0.9) Sharlene Mawdsley (Junior)
6. 24.14 (-0.9) Phil Healy (U23)
7. 24.15 (+1.1) Catherine McManus
8. 24.33 (+2.0) Phoebe Murphy (Junior)
9. 24.37 (+0.9) Gina Akps-Moses (Youth)
10 24.40 (+1.5) Ciara Neville (Youth)
Success for the Irish female sprinters at a world level has been rare, and to date Maeve Kyle (1956 and 1960 and Sarah Reilly (2000), have been our only Olympic representatives over 100m and 200m. Ciara Sheehy has European Junior and U23 medals, Emily Maher did the sprint double at the 1998 World Youth Games, while Sheehy, Foster, Fiona Kelly, Niamh Whelan and Roseanna McGuckian are among the previous medal winners at European Youth Olympics. Ireland’s biggest relay success came in the form of a bronze medal for Derval O’Rourke, Anna Boyle, Aliis McSweeney and Emily Maher at the 2005 World University Games.
The national junior and U23 100m records are held by Michelle Carroll (11.43). Sarah Reilly holds the national senior 200m record at 23.02, the U23 record is held by Ciara Sheehy (23.21) and the junior record belongs to Emily Maher (23.34). Anna Boyle (600m; 7.30) and Ciara Sheehy (200m; 23.17) are the national indoor record holders. Expect some of these, along with Foster and McSweeney’s senior 100m record to be broken in the coming seasons.
Irish 100m All-Time Top 10
- 11.40 (+0.8) Amy Foster
1. 11.40 (+1.7) Ailish McSweeney
3. 11.43 (+1.4) Michelle Walsh
4. 11.49 (+0.5) Phil Healy
4. 11.49 (+0.9) Ana Boyle
4. 11.49 (+1.2) Sarah Reilly
7. 11.52 (+1.2) Ciara Sheehy
8. 11.54 (+1.2) Kelly Proper
8. 11.54 (+2.0) Derval O’Rourke
10. 11.56 (+0.9) Emily Maher
Irish 200m All-Time Top 10
- 23.02 (+0.3) Sarah Reilly
2. 23.15 (+0.3) Kelly Proper
3. 23.17i Ciara Sheehy
4. 23.30 (+1.3) Niamh Whelan
5. 23.33 (+1.0) Joanne Cuddihy
6. 23.34 (+0.6) Emily Maher
7. 23.51 (+1.5) Michelle Walsh
8. 23.53 (+0.0) Amy Foster
9. 23.60 (+0.2) Karen Shinkins
10. 23.65 (+0.5) Sarah Lavin
10. 23.65 Pauline Mullins
Sprinting at a world level
Shelly-Ann Fraser Price (JAM), English Gardner (USA), Blessing Okagbare (NGR), Tori Bowie (USA) and Murielle Ahoure (CIV) are the fastest athletes in the world over 100m this year, and likely to be the ones contesting the medals in Beijing later this month. Dafne Schippers (NED), who only recently dropped the heptathlon to concentrate on the sprints is likely to lead the European charge, and may even cause an upset. Teenager Dina Asher-Smith is one to look out for in the future. She recently became the first British female to break 11 seconds, but will only contest the longer sprint in Beijing.
The absence of Fraser-Price, the reigning champion, and 2014 Diamond League winner Alison Felix from the 200m line up has thrown the event wide open. Schippers will again be looking to make an impact, along Jenna Prandini who dominated the US Trials. Candyce McGrone, who was runner up to Prandini at the US trials, will be the fastest on paper curtesy of her narrow 22.08 victory over Schippers in Monaco. Okabare and Elaine Thompson (JAM) are also likely to feature.
The sprint relay in Beijing is likely, as always, to be a battle between the USA and Jamaica, though the British women will look to cause an upset. The Irish team are outside the top 16 ranking required for qualification, but will surely look, in 2016, to become the first Irish women’s 4 x100m team to compete at Olympic level.