Suriya, Anitcham catch the eye

OVER 140 events in four age categories in both the boys' and girls' sections and all crammed into three days. For any organiser this can be a Herculean task. But the ritual must go on and so it was in the South Zone junior athletics championship hosted by the Tamil Nadu Amateur Athletics Association, which took over after Pondicherry expressed its inability to play host. Fortunately, for TNAAA there was financial help in the form of sponsors Meenakshiammal group of colleges. Otherwise, conducting the various events — starting at day break and going on into the night — can be an exacting job. And at the end of it, the greatest satisfaction could be that everything went off well without any controversy. Indeed age group events normally attract problems pertaining to `over-age,' but the Chennai edition did not raise any dust on this factor. Not that a clean image has become the norm, but none would perhaps like to dispute an `age certificate' even if looks can be deceptive.

L. Suriya's effort of 10:14.6-seconds in the 3000m bettered the national mark of 10:17.2s set by Preeja Sridharan of Kerala at the Cuttack National four years ago. -- Pic. M. MOORTHY-

Setting that aside and looking into just the performances, surely the three-day meet provided rich fare in the sense there were meet records galore and what is more at least three of them reached heights that were better than the national marks. As W. I. Davaram, President, TNAAA, an enthusiastic observant, put it on the final day, "The new marks and the fact that there were two contestants in the Under-20 boys' section who ran 10.6s in the 100m, which is commendable, all contribute to a good future." Essentially, this is the lot from which the stars will emerge in the seasons to come, logically speaking. But the irony is, as a few veteran coaches say, rarely do we see such a transition.

Nonetheless the record makers need to be applauded. Such as L. Suriya of Tamil Nadu whose 10:14.6-second effort in the 3000m betters the national mark of 10:17.2s set by Preeja Sridharan of Kerala at the Cuttack National four years ago. Suriya, a Pudukottai girl, studies in TELC HSS and trains in primitive conditions on an undeveloped ground where a full track does not exist. This is why her performance needs to be doubly commended. Equally creditable was the display of A. Anitcham, who hails from a Karaikudi school.

A baby-faced girl, but one who is strong built, the 14-year old Anitcham, participating in the Under-16 section threw the shot to a distance of 11.69 metres, which was better than the National mark of 11.53m set by Aplesh in a North Zone meet in 2002. Anitcham, a Sivaganga girl, has already earned National attention for her 12.19m throw in the all-India rural meet held at Davangere recently. With the SAI encouraging her with scholarship, Coach Murugesan, who has been training her for five years now is confident that Anitcham will make much headway in the seasons ahead. Anitcham had set a new meet mark in the discus throw also. And like Suriya, Anitcham's talent is being honed in a backward area. Like truth then, talent will out.

Yet another Tamil Nadu girl who demanded attention was V. S. Sureka in the girls' U-20 pole vault. She cleared 3.00m. "It is a national record," was the announcement but the girl had already done 3.40m in the Federation Cup in Hyderabad last month. At least in the organisers' contention she had set a national record and accordingly like the other `national record' creators, she received the Rs. 2000 incentive prize. The mark aside, there is no disputing the rich talent of Sureka, a product of Chennai's Prime Sports Academy.

Anitcham won both the discus and shot put events. In fact she set a national record in shot put. — Pic. M. MOORTHY-

Only one male athlete could make a national mark and that honour went to Karnataka's Mohammed Mudassir in the 200m sprint in the U-20 section. He clocked 21.2s and was duly acclaimed for his wonderful effort. Significantly, this race saw two others improving upon the existing meet mark of 21.9s — A. Aravind (21.4s) of Tamil Nadu and Rameshwar Singh (21.8s) of Andhra Pradesh. Mudassir had the satisfaction of being adjudged the Best Male Athlete of the meet. The Best honour went to Karnataka's Bindu Rani on the distaff side. Bindu had equalled the national mark while clocking 11.8s in the 200m in the U-20 section. The other athlete who equalled the national mark was Tamil Nadu's M. Sangeetha in the U-20 high jump with a 1.75m clearance.

A feature of this year's South Zone meet was the introduction of octathalon for boys' U-18, 400m hurdles for U-18 boys' and girls' and medley races for U-16 boys' and girls'.

For the record, Tamil Nadu with 933 points took the overall honours with Kerala, a distant second with 597 points. Tamil Nadu bagged the team championship in the boys' (416 points) and girls' (517) sections also. AP was the runner-up among the boys' (301 pts) and Kerala among the girls' (308 pts).

The new individual record makers: Boys': U-20: P. Sunny Sharma (AP), 800 mts, 1.52s; P. Siva Shanmugam (TN), pole vault, 4.01 mts; Jalan (TN) 10,000m walk, 48:12.88s; S. Krishna Raju (AP), 110mH, 14.6s; Mohammed Muddasir (Karna), 200m, 21.2 (betters NR also); Don Jhon (Ker), javelin, 64.14m, Don Jhon (Ker), decathlon, 6551 pts; Under-18: S. Baskar (TN), 110mH, 14.5s.

Girls': Under-20: M. Sangeetha (TN), high jump, 1.75m; Bindu Rani (Kar), 100m, 11.8s (Equals NR); V. S. Surekha (TN), pole vault, 3m; Under-18: L. Suriya (TN), 3000m, 10:14.6s (betters NR); R. Ashwini (Karna), 1500m, 4:46.1s; Arpitha Rai (Kar), discus, 35.49m; A. K. Saranya (Ker), 100mH, 14.5s; Under-16: R. Mahalakshmi (Kar), high jump, 1.65m; A. Anitcham (TN), shotput, 11.69m (betters NR), A. Anitcham (TN), discus, 34.20m; K. Priyadarshini (TN) and R. Aruna (TN), long jump, 5.58m; Under-14: Pallavi Sukumar (Kar), triathlon-A, 2161 pts; G.M. Aishwarya (Kar), triathlon-B, 2042 pts.

S. R. Suryanarayan