Carlow Nationalist — Kehoe ready to complete Italian job

If someone had told Borris runner Hannah Kehoe last year that she would be representing her country at the 2022 European Cross Country Championships in Italy, she would not have believed it. At the time, he was recovering from a growing illness, and the process was slow.

Growing pains can cause athletes to experience soreness and pain after exercise due to overworking their muscles. They usually occur in the front of the thigh, the back of the knee, and the calf. Hannah was a formidable competitor in both track and cross country, but that was all she did.

“I was a good runner until I was 14 or 15 years old. Before Covid I won two All-Irelands and almost always competed in cross-country races. I was seriously ill. I couldn’t do anything for two years. It was annoying, but I didn’t miss that many races because it coincided with traffic. I may have missed a race but that’s it,” said Kehoe, who works for Kilkenny City Harriers.

Hannah Kehoe will compete at the European Under-20 Cross Country Championships in Italy this weekend.
Photo: Sam Barnes/Sports File

His accomplishments this year set a school first, especially in the 1500m and 3000m national championships. Her fourth-place finish at the Junior Cross-Country Women’s Championship at Rosapenna Golf Club in Donegal last month raised hopes of being selected in the Ireland under-20 squad for the Europeans.

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“The top three will automatically qualify and the next three will be selected. I was next in line for potential selection. There are two more runners on the team in America,” explained Hanna.

This fourth place exceeded his expectations as he was less than 100% to the north.

“I was very sick when I came to the race. I was happy to finish fourth and I felt that would get me on the team. “If I was fifth, I would have been worried,” he recalled. She crossed the finish line in 14 minutes and 15 seconds, just nine seconds behind Leevale’s Anika Thompson. Anna Gardiner (East Down) and Roiz Roberts (North Belfast Harriers) won silver and bronze respectively, earning automatic qualification for Team Ireland. Hannah’s fourth place finish gave her one leg on the plane. Voters will decide if he gets his second foot in the door.

Hannah, who has been running since she was 13, contracted the disease while accompanying her father, who was a marathon runner.

“My father trained me. He probably got me into it, but it was something I was interested in.”

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In the past, the Loreto College student has also competed in the tetraathlon, a four-stage event that requires practical horsemanship and general sportsmanship, including running, riding, swimming and shooting.

He now focuses on middle distance racing on and off the track. He did not have to compete for Leinster this year.

“A lot of runners go to college, but the standard is very high,” Hanna said.

He was quietly told he could expect an email from Athletics Ireland as soon as he finished fourth in Donegal. The email finally landed in his inbox, confirming his trip this weekend.

“I was probably 98% sure. I was told I could expect an email, but I wasn’t sure until I got one. We were very happy. I wasn’t feeling well, especially in the weeks leading up to nationals, and I wasn’t expecting it.

I entered the race because I just needed to race and I would get anywhere. I did my training. The tournament went well for me.”

So Hannah’s perseverance and competitiveness will be rewarded tomorrow (Friday, December 9) when the Borris runner joins the rest of Team Ireland at the airport. They will travel to La Mandria Park on the outskirts of Turin on the 28thth The SPAR European Cross Country Championships will take place on Sunday morning at 9.03am Irish time. The tournament will be streamed live and you can watch it here.

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Kehoe is part of a strong Irish squad. Anika Thompson (Lievale AC) made the long journey from Oregon to Donegal to win the national under-20 title a fortnight ago and is set to put Ireland on the international stage on Sunday morning.

Thompson will lead the Under-20 Women’s team alongside Rois Roberts (North Belfast Harriers) and Jane Buckley (Lievale AC) to return to the European U20 competition after an encouraging performance last year. Anna Gardiner (East Down AC), Fiona Hawkins (Dublin City Harriers) and Kehoe form another young and exciting squad.

Away from Team Ireland, Ingeborg Östgård, who represented Norway in the 1,500m at this summer’s European Athletics Championships in Munich, will be aiming for gold in her final appearance in Dublin last year. Denmark’s Sofia Tøgersen finished 15th in last year’s race and will be hoping to build on her double medal haul at the European Under-18 Athletics Championships this year.

Other medal contenders include Finland’s Ilona Mononen, Hungary’s Greta Varga, who finished seventh in the race in 2019 as a 15-year-old, and Turkish middle-distance runner Ayca Fidanoglu, a silver medalist in the 1500m at the European Athletics U18 Championships.

By Kieran Murphy


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