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Athletics: Donegal's golden girls

Tori Pena, Finn Valley AC, Donegal, clears 4.20m on her way to winning the Women's Pole Vault Final.

BY CHRIS MCNULTY

DONEGAL was toasting the arrival of three gold medals to the county from its golden girls at the weekend.

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Letterkenny AC’s Maria McCambridge, Finn Valley’s Tori Pena and Tir Chonaill AC’s Mary McLoone were all top of their respective disciplines at the National Track and Field Championships at Santry’s Morton Stadium.

On Saturday, McCambridge won the women’s 5,000m while Pena topped the charts in the pole vault.

Yesterday, it was McLoone’s turn to shine. With a silver medal from from Saturday’s long jump already in the bag, McLoone yesterday won gold in the triple jump.

McCambridge showed that she has bounced back from the agony of missing out on a place at the London Olympics by taking gold in the women’s 5,000m on Saturday.

The Letterkenny AC woman made the ‘A’ standard for the women’s marathon at the Olympics, but was the unfortunate party to miss out on a place when the selectors made their call.

However, she was back to winning ways again in Santry on Saturday. McCambridge scooped her 16th national title by scoring a blistering win in the women’s 5,000m.

She led from start to finish to score one of the weekend’s most comprehensive victories.

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The marathon specialist was dropping down in distance for Saturday’s race – but it certainly didn’t hold her back anything.

After bursting from the gun, McCambridge built up a commanding lead and she was almost in cruise control by the finish, as she crossed the line in 16:02.52 – 53 seconds ahead of Borrisokane’s Siobhan O’Doherty in second (16:56.16).

Finn Valley Olympian Pena won her third national title in a row as she cleared 4.35 to take pole vault gold. The Californian is heading to London and the Irish record holder cleared 4.20m at the second attempt before making 4.35 the first time around.

While she didn’t manage to scale 4.45, she was still a comfortable winner of the gold – Raheny’s Zoe Browne won silver with a clearance of 3.95m.

Pena now heads to France for a top-class meet that is expected to include Olympic queen Yelena Isinbayeva among her competitors. The Russian is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and is the women’s world record holder (5.06m).

Pena then moves onto Lucerne before touching down in London for the Olympics.

There was a silver for Tir Chonaill AC’s Mary McLoone in the long jump on Saturday. McLoone leapt 6.17 metres, which was good enough for second, with gold going to Ferrybank’s Kelly Proper, who made 6.33m.

Yesterday, McLoone went one better.

She was a clear victor in the women’s triple jump as her leap of 12.69 metres saw her take gold.

It was also a big day yesterday for Letterkenny AC’s Ciaran Doherty, who won silver in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase.

Doherty went at it from the gun and gave a strong performance all the way. Doherty was mere yards away from taking gold, having matched Clonliffe Harriers’ highly-rated David Flynn stride-for-stride until the dying seconds of the race. Flynn just pulled away at the end to take gold in a time of 9:06.58, with Doherty second in 9:10.05.

His Letterkenny colleague Darren McBrearty took bronze in a tight men’s 1,500m. Colin Costello just nicked gold from Eoin Everard at the line, while McBrearty was only .36 seconds behind the winner in third.

Elsewhere, Danny Mooney was tenth in that men’s 1,500m final, Pauric McKinney – another LAC man – was ninth in the men’s 10,000m, Finn Valley’s James Speight was seventh in the men’s 3,000m steeplechase, Blaithnaid Patton of Finn Valley was seventh in the women’s high jump and Kieran Dolan was sixth in the men’s long jumpo.

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