BY KIERAN McCARTHY
THESE are exciting times for Laura Nicholson.
The Bandon teenager (17) has been announced as the winner of the 2017 Celtic Ross West Cork Youth Sports Star in recognition of her many achievements last year.
She will receive her award at the 20th annual Celtic Ross West Cork Sports Star Awards on January 20th at the Celtic Ross Hotel, Rosscarbery.
With more silverware on the way, Laura is already planning further success this year.
‘If I could continue to improve as quickly as I did last year, that would be great,’ Bandon AC athlete Laura said.
‘I’ll have to see how it goes. Hopefully I’ll keep steadily improving and continue to get better.
‘I couldn’t be happier with how last year worked out. When you compare where I was at the start of last year to where I finished the year, I made huge improvements and I’m delighted with the progress.’
Last year was a big breakthrough for her and it’s no coincidence that her decision to link up with Steven Macklin, Athletics Ireland National Junior Endurance Coach, last April has seen her results improve.
Laura is now part of a strong training group that includes Glengarriff’s Darragh McElhinney, who won the 2016 Celtic Ross West Cork Youth Sports Star award.
‘I started taking my training more seriously when I moved to Steve Macklin,’ Laura explained.
‘There was more structure to my training and the consistency of that on top of the training stood to me for the rest of the season.’
Laura’s list of successes in 2017 highlight exactly why she has been selected as the 2017 West Cork Youth Sports Star.
She won gold in the following races – the junior women’s race at the Autumn Open Cross-Country, the steeplechase at the Celtic Games in August, the All-Ireland U18 1500m title, the All-Ireland U18 2000m steeplechase, the combined junior and U18 women’s 4000m national cross-country championships, as well as setting numerous personal bests along the way.
She also qualified to represent Ireland as part of the national U20 team at December’s European Cross-Country Championships in Slovakia, another learning experience for the talented West Cork athlete. She finished 39th in her race but she was sick the morning of the race.
‘Laura’s 2017 year was quite remarkable,’ coach Steve Macklin said.
‘In April she was in a place where she had lots of work to do to even be competitive at a national level and then each week she just improved and improved.
‘We worked on improving her strength and endurance base and building her confidence and belief in herself.
‘She pretty much won every race she ran in during the track season.
‘Then during the cross-country season she won the Autumn Open International in October and it gave her huge belief and she proceeded to win the national championships against girls two years older than her.
‘Her top 40 finish at her first-ever major championships at the Europeans was very good and even more impressive because she was a little ill during the race.
‘Nothing seems to phase her, she has this bubbly personality and is fun to be around and gels well with the rest of her training group.’
Laura already has her goals for 2018.
‘Her first target will be the 3000m at the AAI Indoor Games on February 4th and the schools’ All-Ireland Cross-Country Championships in WIT in early March,’ Macklin outlined.
‘Then the big aim in the summer is the world junior track and field championships in Denmark in July and hopefully qualifying for that and performing well at it.
‘There are exciting times ahead for her.’