Letterkenny Challenge set to be bigger and better in 2015

Donegal native Mark English won the 400 metres at last year's event  
Inside Track with Malcolm McCausland

INTERNATIONAL athletics will be returning to Donegal this year, with the Letterkenny AC Sub 4-Minute Mile Challenge Event set for Friday, July 10. 

Last year’s event was an outstanding success, with Mexico’s speedy Juan Luis Barrios cracking four minutes in the mile for the first time in Tír Chonaill. Other world class athletes took part in the feature race, as well as the undercard, including hometown favourite Mark English, who flew around the track to win the 400m.  

This year’s event promises to be even better, with signs that the fields already assembled are significantly higher in both quality and quantity than the 2014 edition. The organisers are hoping for meeting records, more sub-four minute miles and qualification standards for both the World Championships and Olympic Games.

The men’s feature race continues to be the classic distance of 1609 metres, better known as the mile. Last year’s race produced the first ever sub-four clocking on Donegal soil, with Juan Luis Barrios taking his place in the county’s athletics history by stopping the clock at 3:59.43. 

Kenya’s Vincent Mutai also dipped under the four-minute barrier in a very exciting finish and was followed closely by a number of athletes who were just outside the still-prized mark. 

While the Mexican has still to confirm he will return to defend his title, South Africa’s Jerry Motsau is a sure starter. Motsau has a personal best of 3:36.74 for 1500m and has already been under 3:40 this year in his native land. 

The 25-year-old is also a bronze medallist from the World Student Games in 2013. Emanuel Rolim of Portugal, Austria’s Andreas Vojta, Scotland’s Cameron Boyek and England’s Matt Clowes will all add to the international flavour of the race.

Tommy Schmitz, Jon Peterson, Jack Bolas, Johnny Gregorek, Will Geoghegan and Jake Hurysz will represent the United States, while the host club’s Danny Mooney has the unenviable honour of carrying local hopes.  

Mooney has been edging closer to four minutes since competing at the 2014 Commonwealth Games and 2015 European Indoor Championships.

The women’s feature event this year will be the 3000m steeplechase. This race is aimed at producing qualification standards for the World Championships in Beijing (9:44) and Olympic Games (9:45) in Rio de Janeiro.  

Letterkenny athlete Ann-Marie McGlynn will be hoping the quality field assembled will help her to achieve the goal of gaining qualification for a major championships. 

American Ashley Higginson, with a personal best of 9:27.59 from last year, will be sure to push the pace. Her compatriots Jamie Cheever, Sarah Pease, Addie Bracy and Maggie Callahan are also in the field along with Begium’s Sofie Gallein and Ronja Bohrer of Germany. 

A number of Irish athletes are also on the cusp of making the breakthrough to world and Olympic level in the steeplechase with Michelle Finn, Sara Treacy and possibly Kerry O’Flaherty all coming to Letterkenny for the ’chase. British number one Lennie Waite is a late addition.

When the Letterkenny AC Sub 4 Minute Mile Challenge Event was first held at the opening of the Danny McDaid track in 2013, there were 11 international athletes competing from seven countries. 

At the 2014 event, this had grown to 27 from 11 countries.  The action gets underway at the Danny McDaid track at 7pm and it promises to be an evening of world class athletics.

Any Irish athletes who wish to declare their interest in competing please email For more event information and updates, visit Facebook or Twitter. 


ATHLETICS NI announced this week that Tom Crick is to take up the post as Director of Coaching and Athlete Development on July 1. 

It is initially a three-year appointment that has arisen from a reorganisation of the staffing within Athletics Northern Ireland. The job has a wide-ranging remit including athletics development from foundation to elite level.

The 34-year-old has been employed by British Athletics over the past six years, during which time he has been involved in a number of coach and athlete development programmes. He has had hands-on coaching experience with Paralympic champion Libby Clegg and Commonwealth Games 200m finalist Elaine O’Neill. One of his research topics related to the training methods of successful coaches. 

“It is a challenge but it is an opportunity to do some really good stuff in Northern Ireland,” Crick said. 

“The main question we have to decide on is the strategy in terms of what Athletics Northern Ireland should focus on and I shall be asking the coaches and the athletes what they think our strategy should be. 

“We had a review done just after the Commonwealth Games and one of the key questions in the review was whether Athletics Northern Ireland should focus on the whole sport from grassroots right through to winning Olympic medals or whether we should focus on a part of the pathway. 

“So, for example, should we develop athletes up to junior international level and then potentially pass them on to the British and Irish systems?”

Crick now plans to conduct a wider online survey with coaches, athletes and club communities. His aim is to get as many people as possible to feed into that. He is going to use that to make decisions on the best way forward. He also plans to meet with performance athletes and their coaches, such as those who have gone to the Commonwealth Games or have been involved in any kind of Northern Ireland team, to ask their opinions.

The former Loughborough Students’ AC coach only started in athletics in 2004 after being involved in football, basketball and springboard diving. He was inspired to begin sprints coaching after reading about how to improve sprint performance while working as a strength and conditioning coach for several team sports in early 2000. To fast track his athletics coaching development he spent considerable time from 2000-2004 interviewing and researching the training methods of many successful athletics coaches from around the world.  

He has coached a range of athletes (including both disabled and non-disabled athletes) on a voluntary basis across the sprints, hurdles and horizontal jumps. Previously he worked as CPD Manager for UKA and ran uCoach ( – an online coaching resource for UK-based coaches. In his spare time he writes on coaching and training related matters for Athletics Weekly.


6.30pm: Ards Half Marathon and Walk - Newtownards Leisure Centre

9:30am: Parkrun - various venues
12pm: Dromore 10K and 5K Fun Run - Co Tyrone

10am: Run for Paul - Heron’s Nest, Delamont Country Park


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