Testing times for junior athletes

Junior National Athletics Championship


Greshan Dananjaya, who established a new record at the last edition

by Reemus Fernando

Country’s junior athletes will bid to win places in teams for three junior international events at the Junior National Athletics Championships starting on Monday. The major junior competition which serves as a selection ground presents a golden opportunity for young athletes to go for their best, racing on a newly laid synthetic track. Apart from the competitions in various age categories, which are sure to produce excitement there are many subplots to watch when the Sri Lanka Athletics Association conducted event returns to the Sugathadasa Stadium after a lapse of four years.

Exactly a year after the last edition was held at a near worn out track at Diyagama, whether some of last edition’s heroes would live up to their reputation is an interesting aspect to watch.

Ashmika Herath was undoubtedly the find of the last edition as the long distance runner from Kuliyapitiya emerged as an Asian Youth Championship medal prospect following her back to back record breaking feats.

There was much hype in the run up to the Asian Youth Championship but a tragic bureaucratic bungling left her with no chance of competing in her pet event in Thailand. How well has she been able to put back that gloom obscuring an otherwise promising career will be known when she competes in the Girls’ Under-18 1500 metres and the 3000 metres.

Greshan Dananjaya has established himself as one of the top long jumpers at the senior national level while still competing as a junior. His record breaking jump of 7.83 metres was performed on a worn out track. He will be making his international debut for the country’s senior team in a couple of weeks. The four-day event will be a sort of a practice meet for the SLEME athlete.

Hurdler Yamani Dulanjalee who too will join Dananjaya to make Sri Lanka senior team for an international meet, will consider the championship a practice ground while also aiming to produce a sub 55 seconds feat in the 400 metres flat event.

Apart from Dananjaya who will compete in the Under-23 category there will be several others to watch in many age group long jump disciplines. Nipun Kaldera will join Dananjaya in the fray. When Dananjaya hogged limelight in the Under-23 age category, it was Kaldera who shone establishing a record in the Under-20 event.

Sadini Kaveesha of Vijitha Central will be looking at improving on the record she established last year in the Under-16 long jump which will be highly competitive with a field of over 70 athletes.

The 2017 Asian Youth Athletics Championship medalists Harsha Karunaratne of Ratnayake Central, Walala and Navodya Sankalpa of Mahinda College, Galle will both compete in the Under-20 age category at this meet. Asian Youth 800 metres silver medalist will compete in the 400m, 800m and 1500 metres. Sankalpa who won Asian Youth 400 metres hurdles bronze will compete in the 200m, 400m and the 400 metres hurdles.

Ashmika Herath was undoubtedly the find of the last edition as the long distance runner from Kuliyapitiya emerged as an Asian Youth Championship medal prospect following her back to back record breaking feats.

The Junior Nationals is the ideal ground to test whether they have grown in stature. They compete in a crucial age category as most of the athletes for the three junior international events, namely, the South Asian Junior Championships, Asian Junior Championships and the IAAF World Junior Championships are likely to be selected from this segment.

Meanwhile, enthusiasts are likely to miss a number of leading athletes who excelled during last year.

St. Joseph’s College Darley Road hurdler Shehan Kariyawasam and St. Benedict’s College sprinter Santhush Weerasinghe will be the most notable absentees due to injuries.

Former Lumbini College sprinter Tharusha Dananjaya who clocked an impressive 47.14 seconds at a senior national trial last year will be another sprinter to miss the event.

However, sprinters will not be of short supply as the championship guarantees a bigger participation in sprint events. The Under-16 boys 200 metres, for example, will see over 130 competing in the heats while the Under-16 girls’ 200 has received nearly 100 entries.

At a time when numbers are dwindling at senior level, it is encouraging to note the interest at lower age group levels.

According to statistics made available over 2400 athletes are expected to compete. Incidentally, these numbers have come after the Athletics Association had increased the entry fee to Rs. 250.00 (from Rs 100.00)

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