BY JOHN WALSHE
IT may have been the stars and stripes that were draped over her shoulders but there was a strong Bandon connection to the brilliant 800m victory of Roisin Willis at the recent World U20 T&F Championships that took place in Cali.
Roisin’s mother is Bandon native Breeda Dennehy-Willis, who competed for Ireland at the Sydney Olympics in 2000, and her daughter – who turned 18 three days later – not only won the two-lap race in Colombia, but also set a championship record of 1:59.13.
This was also the second-fastest ever by an American high school athlete. Such was Willis’ decisive finishing kick that she overtook Audrey Werro from Switzerland on the finishing straight and left her US team-mate Juliette Whittaker, the holder of the high school record, having to settle for third in 2:00.18.
While a student at Stevens Point Area Senior High School in Wisconsin, Willis set a high school indoor record of 2:00.06 last February but has been unable to get under the two minutes barrier outdoors, her best being 2:00.03 at the Wisconsin state meet until her first sub two-minute run. She is now headed for Stanford University where she will be under the guidance of one of the best 800m coaches in the US, JJ Clark.
Roisin’s mother, Breeda, joined Bandon AC back in 1982 before gaining a scholarship to Western Kentucky University after she had won several Irish titles from the BLOE All-Ireland U12 cross-country championships upwards. She competed for Ireland at the Sydney Olympics and is still ranked fifth fastest on the Irish All-Time lists for both the 5000m and 10,000m with respective times of 15:12.83 and 32:11.30 achieved that same year of 2000.