Sommer season off to a flier with an eye on Junior Euros
World Junior high jump silver medallist Sommer Lecky started her outdoor season in style at the weekend when she defied endlessly changing weather conditions to dominate her event with an emphatic victory of 1.83m and a narrow failure at 1.87m.
The 18-year-old from Castlederg was competing in the well-supported Northern Ireland and Ulster Senior Championships at the Mary Peters Track, where athletes faced a frustrating mixture of sunshine and showers.
A clearance of 1.87m would have placed Finn Valley's Lecky second in the current European U20 list. However, her 1.83m clearance still sees her fourth in the standings and a firm medal contender for the European Junior Championships in Sweden in mid July.
North Down sprint star Aaron Sexton, who did not compete at the weekend, is also a strong podium prospect in the 200m.
Lecky, who turns 19 this Friday, showed remarkable maturity in dealing with the showery weather which at a late stage required a roller to remove water from the high jump approach. She cleared 1.79m relatively easily and then sailed over 1.83m at the third attempt.
Her first attempt at 1.87m only just failed after a slight brush with the bar.
Coach Niall Wilkinson reflected the mood of a smiling Lecky by commenting that her performance was a great opener to the season. He said that despite her youth, her experience at both World Junior and Commonwealth Games level will assist her hugely for the challenges in Sweden.
Irish international Conall Kirk was also in a class of his own when he was untroubled in securing a rare 800m/1,500m double.
In the longer event, he just did enough to hold off North Down's Craig McMeechan in a time of four minutes.
The 23-year-old Annadale man had earlier adopted a more aggressive approach in his specialist 800m event. He led for the entire race to secure gold in 1.51.89, just ahead of arch-rival Andrew Wright of Willowfield.
Kirk commented: "I just decided to take the 800 out from the start and ran 55 seconds for the first lap as planned. I got a personal best recently over 1,500m and will race over that distance a few times this season."
The men's 400m was a classy event with Andrew Mellon making up for last year's bronze. The Crusaders man won in 47.94 seconds ahead of Cathal Crosbie of Ennis (48.22) and Kilkenny's Jack Manning (49.08).
Rugby AC's Hayley Murray threw consistently in the hammer to win in 54.98m, which is just short of her season's best.
Murray, who set a new NI record of 59.57m at this meeting two years ago, said her season was starting off slowly as she wanted to peak for the UK Championships in late August.
Cheltenham's Mollie Courtney, who narrowly missed Commonwealth Games selection last year, took another high hurdles title in 14.03 seconds.
The biggest surprise of the day came in the 5,000m where Commonwealth Games steeplechaser Adam Kirk-Smith failed to capitalise on his lead.
On the last lap, he was overtaken by eventual winner Neil Johnston of Springvale (14.50.67) and last year's runner-up Conor Duffy of Glaslough (14.53.80).
There was a double sprint victory for Finn Valley's Janine Boyle in the 100m (12.28 seconds) and 200m (25.69 seconds). In the men's 100m, Ballymena's Dean Adams bridged an eight-year gap to take his second win in 10.84 seconds ahead of team-mate Michael McCauley (10.96 seconds), who went on to take the 200m title in 22.14 seconds.
Olympian Kerry O'Flaherty of Newcastle added another title to her collection with victory in the 5,000m in 16.50.68.