Record-breaker Lavin has hero O'Rourke firmly in her sights
SHE is another petite blonde 100m hurdler from Munster and when she set two more Irish records in less than two hours, it proved exactly why Sarah Lavin is tipped to be Irish athletics' 'next Derval.'
Just four days after her 19th birthday, the Limerick teenager, who runs for Emerald AC, broke Derval O'Rourke's 13-year-old Irish junior record (13.61) twice in Geneva last Saturday, posting 13.50 in her heat and winning the 'B' final in 13.45.
It was no huge surprise as Lavin had already broken O'Rourke's Irish junior (U-20) indoor record – again twice – this season.
She also broke her coach Noelle Morrissey's record at the Irish Schools' Championships last summer with a time (13.73) that qualified her for the World Junior Championships. Unfortunately, in the semi-finals, she clipped the penultimate barrier and took the heaviest tumble of her career.
"I was gutted but in some ways I took a huge amount of confidence from the experience because the first two in my semi-final both made the podium," Lavin reveals.
Since then, she has had to make the toughest decision of her young life. Bright enough to gain a scholarship to study Pre-Med in Princeton University last autumn, Lavin decided not to return to the Ivy League school after Christmas.
"It was a huge decision," she admits. "It was my dream to go there for so long and when it all went belly-up, it was very hard, but the training was very intense (30x100m for example), it just wasn't for me."
Lavin returned with shin-splints but after hooking up again with Morrissey and John Cleary, the Institute of Sport's strength and conditioning coach, she is back to peak form. However, she feels she is far from the finished article.
"It is actually my flat speed that is getting me to the finish line, technically I'm not excellent, so I still have a lot more improving to do," she says.
Princeton's loss is UCD's gain as she will start physiotherapy in Belfield next September, but her focus this summer is on next month's European Juniors in Italy.
Like schools sprint star Marcus Lawler, she will compete at Sunday's AAI Games in Santry and is hoping to be part of the Irish 4x100m team for the European Team Championship, which Ireland is hosting on June 22-23.
Injury has ruled Ciaran O'Lionaird out of that team, which will be announced next Monday.
Of the four Irish athletes who qualified for the ongoing NCAA Division One finals in Oregon, Dunleer's Tomas Cotter (Wichita State) made it into today's steeplechase final after finishing fifth in his heat.
Tallaght's Anthony Lieghio (Arkansas) didn't make it through the 800m heats. DSD's Breandan O'Neill (Florida State, 10,000m) and Naas' Claire Mooney (St John's 4x400m team) have yet to race.