It has been an exciting albeit difficult year for athletics as one of the few sports that was able to continue throughout the pandemic. UCD’s athletes competed worldwide to secure all-important Olympic qualifications.
At the Irish Life Health Elite Micro Meet, Darragh McElhinney won the 3000m, breaking the U23 national indoor record and gained European qualification with a time of 7:50.87. In July Darragh continued his impressive year and joined a unique set of athletes as he achieved a sub-4 minute mile. He ran a personal best and an incredible time of 3:58.20 at a meet in Wimbledon.
Also at the Micro Meet, UCD’s Luke McCann had a brilliant run in the 1500m with a PB of 3:40.06 that also earned him European qualification.
Eighteen-year-old Ad Astra Elite Scholar Israel Olatunde broke his own U20 record in series 2 of the 60m. Olatunde’s second 60m run of the day saw him cross the line in a record-breaking 6.73, having already broken the record an hour previously in 6.74 to secure European qualification with his UCD teammates.
Otalunde earned the title of “Ireland’s Fastest Man” for 2021, winning the men’s 100m at the National Senior Championships, the UCD student clocking 10.49 to snatch victory on the line from defending champion, former UCD Sport Scholar, Stephen Gaffney. The victory will come as a massive boost as he heads to the European U20s in July.
At the end of May at the Belfast Milers Meet at Mary Peters Track in Belfast, Olatunde claimed the 100m in 10.61 with Darragh McElhinney taking the 1500m in a PB of 3:43.87.
UCD’s Luke McCann continued his fantastic running form with a big PB of 3:37:77 at the World Athletics Continental Tour Gold in Ostrava.
In June, Montreuil hosted the International Athletics Meeting at the Jean-Delbert Stadium. Luke McCann ran another fantastic race clocking a PB of 3:36.81, again just off the 3:35.00 qualifying time.
Sarah Healy, winner of both European 1500m and 3000m titles in 2018 made a winning return to track racing at the British Milers Club Grand Prix in Manchester in May where she was the comfortable winner of the women’s 1,500m in 4:11.98, a European U23 qualifying time.
She was at Gateshead for the Müller Grand Prix. Facing a tough field, Healy finished a fantastic fourth, with a season’s best of 4:09.92.
At the Folksam Grand Prix meeting in Gothenburg she took the win in the women’s 1500m, clocking 4:07.78, knocking almost two seconds off her previous best.
A week later Healy boosted her Tokyo prospects by winning the women’s 1500m at the Sollentuna Grand Prix, Sweden with yet another PB of 4:07.12.
At the Senior National Championships, Healy looked confident and comfortable throughout her 1500m win, coming home in style in 4:15.08 to claim the title, and her spot on the team for Tokyo.
UCD Physiotherapy graduate and former Ad Astra Elite Athlete, Ciara Mageean qualified for Tokyo in the 1500m, with a PB of 4:00.15, which she set in the 2019 world final against Dutch athlete, Sifan Hassan. Mageean is the first Irish woman to qualify for a 1500m olympic final since Sonia O’Sullivan, more than two decades ago.
Sarah Lavin, who like Mageean, is a physiotherapist, won the 100m hurdles at the National Championships in Dublin with a 13.17 run. The time was her second fastest ever, behind her magnificent 12.95 finish the week beforehand in Madrid which made her the second-ever Irish woman to break the 13-second barrier along with another former UCD sports scholar and Irish star, Derval O’Rourke.
Former Ad Astra Elite scholar and medicine graduate, Mark English, left it to the very last day of qualifications to see him secure his place on the team for Tokyo. He did so in tremendous style, not only achieving the automatic qualifying time but running 1:44.71, breaking the Irish 800m record which has been held by UCD alumnus and two- time Olympian, David Matthews for 26 years.