Triathlete Jack still the one to beat
JACK Mc Cullough remarkable sporting career reached new heights when he made a successful defence of his All- Ireland Aquathon Under-15 Championship title in Salthill at the weekend.
The Clogherhead schoolboy was one of 30 qualifiers for the event as they embarked on a 400m sea swim, followed immediately by a 3,000m run.
It proved to be a hotly contested event and Jack, representing Drogheda Triathlon Club, scrambled from the beginning of the race to get a good position in the water. He got held up in traffic from the beginning and needed to take a wide position in the first 200m swim out to the buoy.
At the 200m mark on the turn it was Ben Walsh from Westport Triathlon Club who led the strung-out group, closely followed by Adam Dunne (Midland Triathlon Club) and then Jack who took a wide left line and held off fourth-placed Ronan Dirrane (Predator Triathlon Club).
The first four exited the water in those positions and headed towards the transition area while loosening their wetsuits. Jack opted for the short non-triathlon wetsuit which isn't as buoyant or fast in the water but is easier to take off in transition and that tactic worked out well as he had the fastest transition time of the day by some five seconds.
However, the positions didn't change going into the gruelling 3,000m run.
Jack set about hunting down the leading runners from the start and quickly caught Dunne within the first 500m. There was no response from Dunne as Jack glided past him with his sights firmly fixed on the Westport athlete ahead of him. Some 200m later Jack rubbed shoulders with Walsh and the fight was on to lead the race.
Jack started to break away, but Walsh kicked a number of times to stay with the pace. However, at the 1500m mark the Dunleer AC club athlete moved into a different gear and started to widen the gap, with no response from the following athletes.
Jack sprinted for home in the last 200 metres to rapturous applause from the large crowd, enjoying a 60-second winning margin at the finish, and as he is still competing a year out of his age he will have an opportunity to clinch a hat-trick of Under-15 Irish titles next year.
At the presentations Jack - who has also won Irish titles in athletics and swimming - was awarded the gold medal, the National Youths Trophy and some sponsored sports goods to mark the occasion.