Letterkenny AC’s Mark English is the new National 800 metre champion folowing his gold medal run at the National Track and Field Championships at Santry Stadium, Dublin on Sunday afternoon.
The 18-year-old, who won the National Indoor back in February, in Belfast, captured the 800m outdoor in impressive fashion seeing off the challenge of David McCarthy - the fastest Irishman over the distance this year so far - in the final. In doing so he became the first Donegal man ever to win the 800 outdoor title.
English was just one of three Donegal gold medal winners at the championship with Tir Chonaill AC’s Mary McLoone and Finn Valley AC’s Tori Pena the other two.
McLoone, from Doochary and a teacher at St. Columba’s N.S. in Glenswilly, won a seventh Triple Jump title and capped a brilliant weekend with a first ever Long Jump crown while Pena swept all before her to win the pole vault.
There were also bronze medal places for Theresa McGloin, Finn Valley, 5000 metres and Ciaran Doherty, Letterkenny AC, in the 3000 metre steeplechase. Walker Brendan Boyce, was just outside the medals in fourth place in the 5k walk.
English won his race in a time of 1:50:22 with Brian Kelly (1:50:33) in silver medal position and Anthony Lieghio, third in a time of 1:50:88.
“It is brilliant especially as when I woke up this morning I had a sore head and a sore throat. I had it all week but I had to just get out and do it to get over the disappointment of Estonia two weeks ago,” Mark said afterwards.
With his club colleague, Dan Mooney, setting the pace over the first 400 metres, English came with a late burst after being boxed in to win a highly tactical race.
“The plan was to keep and eye on the two fast men David McCarthy and Anthony Lieghio. I had been third fastest in the heat and I knew if I kept an eye on the two boys that I was in with a great chance. I was boxed in at the half-way stage, but I managed to get out of it and when I did McCarthy was ahead of me so with 200 to go I went for it. I went by McCarthy at 100 and when I passed him I knew I had it because I could see he was dying and I raced to the finish. It is a brilliant feeling.”
Having won the 800 Indoor earlier in the year, the 800 outdoor gold caps a great year for the promising young Letterkenny man and most definitely makes up for the disappointment of failing to qualify for last month’s 800 final at the European Junior Championships in Estonia.
Mark is off to Belgium next weekend to race in a Grand Prix meet where he is chasing a personal best and fastest time of the year.
His performance on Sunday drew glowing praise from both Gerry Kiernan and Eamonn Coghlan on RTE on Sunday night with Kiernan, in particular, feeling that the sky is the limit for the young Letterkenny athlete.