Mark English (UCD AC) delivered a stirring performance on Sunday as he powered his way to a new Irish men's senior 800m indoor record of 1:46.82 at the Woodie's DIY AAI Games in the International Arena at Athlone IT.
The previous record of 1:47.21, held by Daniel Caulfield of Dublin City Harriers, had stood for 13 years. The new record was also inside the qualification time of 1:47.00 for the World Indoor Track & Field Championships which take place in Sopot, Poland, in March.
English, who is coached by Teresa McDaid and is studying medicine at UCD, was just edged out of the top spot by Thijmen Kupers of Netherlands in 1:46.78. Alex Rodriguez of Spain was third in 1:48.82.
"I had it in the back of my head that I wanted to run the World Indoor standard," a delighted English (20) said. "I set an Irish record as well; it was a huge bonus. It helped to have a pacemaker and David McCarthy (Le Chéile AC) brought us through the first 400m in 51 seconds. I was hanging on for dear life in the last 200m and thankfully I held on."
Poland's Anna Rostkowska won the women's 800m in 2:04.01. Ciara Everard (UCD), who is targeting the World Indoor standard time of 2:03, finished second in 2:04.69.
David McCarthy was another Irish athlete with good reason to be pleased with his performance in the 1,500m, where he posted a fast 3:39.14 in finishing second behind Jakub Holusa of the Czech Republic, who set a national record of 3:38.79. McCarthy's time was also inside the qualification standard of 3:41.00 for the World Indoors.
The West Waterford AC athlete, who is coached by Chris Jones, will compete in the 800m in the Inter-Varsities Indoor Track & Field Championships next weekend. John Coghlan (MSB) was third in 3:43.31.
Adel Michaal of Spain won the international men's 3,000m in 7:52.29, with Alberto Sanchez (Spain & Sligo AC) second in 7:57.63. Eoin Everard (Kilkenny CHAC, 8:14.45) was fourth.
Alex Wright (Calry AC), who has recently declared for Ireland was the clear winner of the 3,000m race walk ahead of Brendan Boyce (Letterkenny AC) and Luke Hickey (Leevale AC). Wright, who is coached by world 50k gold medallist Rob Heffernan, looked smooth and confident and should be a big addition to the Irish race walking squad.
Amy Foster (City of Lisburn AC) ran her fastest season-opener to win the women's 'A' 60m in 7.40 seconds from Phil Healy (Bandon AC) in 7.43, with Catherine McManus (Celtic DCH) third in 7.59. Foster, who is targeting European and Commonwealth qualification this season, was delighted. "It's good to get in there and get the win and have my fastest season-opener ever by a significant margin," she said.
Craig Lynch (Shercock AC) was a surprise winner of the men's 60m, in a new a PB of 6.88 seconds – a big improvement on his previous best of 7.01 set in 2007.
McManus went on to set a PB when winning the senior women's 60m hurdles in 8.64 seconds. Gerard O'Donnell (Carrick-on-Shannon AC) also set a PB, posting 8.23 to win the men's 60m hurdles.
Zac Irwin (Sligo AC) was best-placed of the Irish athletes in the men's 200m. Irwin ran 21.93 seconds, as Maximilian Kessler of Germany won in 21.25.
Kelly Proper (Ferrybank AC) won the women's 200m in 24.90 seconds. Earlier in the day, the versatile Ferrybank AC athlete won the long jump with three jumps over 6 metres, with the best of 6.23m.
There was a nice mix of international and domestic events at these games and the international athletes brought the best out of the home-grown talent.