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Graded meets in a league of own

SUMMER only arrives officially in these parts with the Dublin Graded Leagues - an essential part of the year for runners, jumpers and throwers over the past 60 years.

This year's series gets underway at Santry next Wednesday (7pm), and, as always, athletes from all over the country are expected.

Traditionally each meet includes a sprint, at least one middle distance race, a jump and a throw; something for all!

Next Wednesday, athletes can sign on for the 100m, 800m, 3,000m, hammer, high jump and long jump. Men have a choice of four grades; women have two grades so everyone can compete at their own level.

At the second event on May 16 in Irishtown, the programme includes the 200m, 1,500m, shot, discus and triple jump. Also scheduled is the Dublin 10,000m championships - one of only two 10,000m track races run in Ireland over the summer. Last year, more than half of the Irish top 20 performances for 2011 came in this race.

Over the summer, every event will get covered at least once. For most, the target is a personal best, or at least a sign that a personal best may be on the way.

Most popular events tend to be the 1,500m, mile, 3,000m and 5,000m, with record numbers turning out for these races over the past few years.

Many signing up are converted road runners, while masters and juniors are also well represented.

Next Wednesday's meet will see a number of athletes seeking London Paralympics qualification, and team manager James Nolan is hoping that some at least will book their places.

Other dates are May 23, June 6 and 20, July 4 and 18 and August 1. The meets alternate between Santry and Irishtown stadiums. Entry is €8 or €5 for juniors per night. Or enter the entire series for a bargain €45 (juniors €30) - less than the fee for a single marathon! Full details www.dublinathletics.com

* Also starting next Wednesday at Bray Head is the annual Leinster Summer Hill Running League - a series of 13 races with the top seven results to count. Entry is €7 per night, with a pre-season fun relay taking place tonight (Wed) at Killiney. Details www.imra.ie