Especially designed to provide competition to local athletes in preparation for more arduous tasks away from our shores, these athletics’ contests with international participation are now an established part of the local Track & Field calendar, prominent along with other European events on the European Association calendar.
Promotion for the event this year has led to a Northern Athletics (UK) team making a welcome return to this competition with the largest contingent of 20 athletes and eight coaches and officials along with a number of parents.
Other welcome guests were the first time visitors from Gibraltar with 11 athletes in all, some having familiar family names belying their obvious Maltese roots from times gone by.
Sicily provided the next bigger group followed by a Czech Republic representation and a spattering of other individuals from British clubs and schools, the Barbados, Cyprus and mainland Italy.
The first of these two athletics meetings was held on the Wednesday after Easter, in which athletes below the age of 16 years took part, with the culmination being on Saturday with events for older athletes. Both days proved to be fruitful and entertaining, producing for our Maltese competitors not only the desired sparring partners, but also the chance to register better performances or seasonal bests.
Moreover our athletes grabbed the occasion to establish two new national category records, both of which were in the field and both written by members of Allcomers Aloysians, who are fast becoming leaders at these specialities.
In the cadet category for girls aged 12 – 13, Catriona Cuschieri won in both shot and discus, her throw in the latter event improving the five year old record by half a metre to a new distance of 26.02 metres.
Equally impressive was the other national record again recorded by Daniel Vella, when on Saturday his best effort in the Junior Shot Putt pushed the distance to 13.66metres, another half metre over his own previous best recorded at the beginning of this season.
But these were not the only results to justify the organisation of these meetings. To continue the spectacle on the first day, fine performances were also recorded by youngsters Nicole Attard Glivau, winner for her club St Patricks of the 300 and 1,200 metre events, Luke Scicluna in the Zurrieq Wolves colours, who won an impressive four events, namely the 75m hurdles, 100 and 300m sprints and the High Jump, both athletes still under 14 years of age.
Older and perhaps more established athletes who performed superbly were James Bugeja from St Benedict College, winner at the 80m hurdles, shot, discus and High Jump, Rebecca Fitz, so graceful over the 75m hurdles and impressive in the Long Jump, and GSSE medal winner Nicole Gatt. The Starmax all-rounder made all the sprints her own, giving notice that this year will be another season to remember.
Another good account was given by the Czech girls Eva Pistekova in the High Jump and Helena Bencova in the two lap event which she won in 2:33.57 minutes.
In the corresponding bout for boys and in the classic 1500m, Luke Camilleri of Pembroke Athleta twice had the better of the Gibraltarian Licudi in convincing manner.
Last worth mentioning was the close competition in the sprints for boys where Allcomers Aloysians Eric Borg Saywell came within one tenth of a second from the national record in the Youth category with a timing of 11.64 seconds.
Later, in the 200m, Owen Richardson of Basingstoke managed to overturn the tables to record a personal best in the process. Naturally this competition was just a taster for the events to come on the following Saturday which had our visitors coming out in greater force to give keen competition to Maltese athletes.
In fact the meeting produced a wide variety of victors with a good number of athletes from the British Northern Athletics team dominating the locals. Impressive even if more was expected from them were the exploits of the Cypriot Haris Koutras in the 110m hurdles, whose modest – by his standards – 14.94 seconds placed him second on technical performance to Benjamin Shields, the British 100m sprinter stopping the clock on 10.89 seconds.
Another somewhat below par performance was that of the Italian Gianluca Tamberi in the Javelin, even if, it must be said, the swirling winds may have had that detrimental effect. His 58.64metre heave however, won him the event by a considerable measure.
Though most of the events contested were won by our guests, our heroes gave as much as they got, Antonella Chouhall winning both Hammer and Discus, Mario Mifsud the discus for men, Chris Chetcuti the 800m and Andy Grech the Triple Jump.
Not to forget the exciting contests won by our girls in the sprints, the 100m convincingly by Diane Borg of La Salle in a good time of 12.31seconds, the 200m in an equally fast time of 25.37 in a strong headwind by Pembroke’s Charlene Attard, who incidentally was right behind Borg in second place in the 100m, and another win by Nicole Gatt in the 400m when she left two Sicilian girls in her wake.
The other sprints were also replete with a number of worthy British and Sicilian contestants therefore the wins by our girls were well merited.
The Czech girls again proved their mettle in the classic 1500m, recording a one-two, while Adam Ali Khan of Northern Athletics tied the Triple Jump with our Andy Grech and later had the better of Ian Paul Grech in the Long Jump with his superior distance of 6.61meters.
The last individual event of note was the 800m for women, won by Sarah McDonald, before the meeting was concluded by two exciting relays, as in the Wednesday Meeting.
While both relays for the youngsters were won by Pembroke Athleta, those for the older athletes were shared by Northern Athletics and Pembroke, the British men having their way while the final curtain of the meetings came down with Charlene Attard carrying victoriously the baton in a very hard fought tussle to the tape, splitting the two teams by a mere three hundreths of a second.
Meritoriously, Pembroke Athleta sprinter Charlene Attard made her own the Best Technical Performance for the females, albeit by just one point over her friend but track rival Diane Borg, to cap another memorable afternoon for Athletics Malta.