TWO senior races have been added to Sunday's Woodie's DIY Junior and U-23 Indoor Championships in Athlone IT to help some of the rising stars of Irish athletics to achieve qualifying for next month's European Indoors.
But one of them, Donore Harriers' John Travers, has already been boosted this week after discovering that he has already qualified.
Travers, a student at AIT, ran the 1500m time (3:43) when he clocked 3:42.52 at the midweek warm-up event held on the college's new track before its first major event (the AAI Games), but he was initially told it would not be accepted as this was not an officially sanctioned event.
However, Athletics Ireland have since been assured that the timing and supervision of that event was competition-standard and have now recognised his time as qualification for Gothenburg on March 1-3.
Travers will still be looking to reproduce that good form again in a fast metric mile on Sunday in which Letterkenny's Darren McBrearty and Metro St Brigid's John Coghlan will also be targeting European qualification.
Kilkenny and UCD's Ciara Everard is another looking to make the breakthrough in the women's 800m. She has been second fastest over 800m this season behind Raheny's Siobhan Eviston (2:04:35), winning the Intervarsities last weekend in 2:04:81, but both still need to get a second faster to meet the 2:03.50 standard; Laura Crowe (An Riocht) should push Everard hard.
Carlow sprinter Marcus Lawler (St Laurence O'Toole) will open his season in the Junior Championships in which Limerick hurdler Sarah Lavin (Emerald AC), a world junior semi-finalist, will be testing her early-season speed over the flat and hurdles.
Fresh from finishing fourth at the European Clubs Cross Country last weekend and winning another Leinster schools cross-country title midweek, DSD's Siofra Cleirigh Buttner, who has already run an Irish junior 800m record of 2:05.26 this season, drops down in distance to compete in the junior 200m and 400m.
Ferrybank's Thomas Barr, a 400m hurdler who has already run a flat personal best of 47.46 behind Brian Gregan this season, should be the one to watch in a particularly competitive U-23 400m that will include Jason Harvey (Crusaders).
The Irish Masters Indoors also take place in Athlone tomorrow and, with the European Masters Indoors scheduled for March 19-24 in San Sebastian, former European Indoor 400m medallist Paul McKee is one of those expected to run fast times.
Elsewhere, Mary Cullen is being tipped to run in the Armagh International 5km on Thursday, a race that is desperate to get Ireland's top runners back supporting it and which always dovetails nicely with Dunleer's international cross-country Ras na hEireann, which is taking place on Sunday, February 17.