Friday 15 December 2017

First athletics camp a runaway success

THE FIRST-EVER Athletics Wexford summer camp for children was held last week at the Taghmon Community Centre. With local club Taghmon A.C. acting as host, the two-day event was adjudged by all to have been a runaway success.

While the country is coming down with summer camps of one kind or another, this one can be said to have had teeth such was the level of expertise on hand.

It would not be an exaggeration to say that this may well have been the first step on the road to future Olympic glory for some of our top young athletes.

As if to emphasise how seriously Athletics Wexford was taking the event, recently-appointed A.A.I. Regional Development Officer Colin Byrne was present throughout the two days. Byrne, a former international 400 hurdler and multi-eventer, displayed a genuine hands-on approach and attention to detail. Add in the fact that he knows what he is talking about and it is no surprise that he is already making a real difference in the region.

The summer camp, which drew athletes from throughout the county, was held on Tuesday and Wednesday of last week from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day.

On day one, athletes were divided into four groups, roughly by age, with each group getting to spend time with specialist coaches. Colin Byrne was joined by former international athlete Kevin Cogley for the sprints module.

Cogley was only too happy to pass on the tricks he learned from his buddies Bolt, Blake, Gay and Powell on a recent trip to The States!

Athlete and P.E. student Catríona Corcoran was joined by her father, Jim, for the high jump module. Catríona's participation was especially appreciated as she is still recovering from a cruciate ligament operation.

The walks session was one of the most engaging of the day as it was overseen by three-time Olympian Jimmy McDonald. This was a masterclass in how to effectively communicate your message to a young audience! His mentioning to his charges that he placed sixth at the Olympic Games in Barcelona in 1992 was met with a respectful hush.

Day two started with the necessary warm-up and stretching before the groups got down to serious business.

Throws coach John White was joined by son Brian in getting across the technical aspects of the shot (suffice to say that there's putting and there's throwing!), and the javelin (the younger ones got to use non-lethal foam 'rockets').

The hurdles module was taken by coach Jennifer Dempsey and Gorey A.C. athlete Orla Furney. Just a few weeks back Orla won the Under18 100m hurdles; she was also a close second in the 100m at the Senior Track & Field championships.

Long jump was looked after by coach Ronnie Bent and former international athlete, and multiple national champion, Antoinette Stafford. Whether it was Stafford's effortlessly stylish jumping or the fact that children just like jumping into sand, this module was a favourite with all groups.

As the second day drew to a close the athletes donned their special edition Athletics Wexford tshirts for the press photograph.

Lauren Kinsella said she enjoyed the summer camp 'because I learned new things and tried events I never did before'.

Rachel Foley echoed these sentiments, adding that she had had a whole lot of fun.

Cathal Byrne also enjoyed the experience, saying that 'I made new friends and learned that I am good at events I have never tried before'.

Development Officer Colin Byrne reckoned that the event was a great success. 'It's important that athletes of this age get a chance to try out different track and field events in the right environment with experienced coaches,' he said.

'On the other hand, summer camps such as this are also about fun and friendship as well as rewarding athletes at the end of the athletics season.'

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