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Bandon Connection to World Champion


This article by John Walshe appeared in The Southern Star on 11/08/2022

breeda dennehy willis roisin willis cali 22
Breeda Dennehy-Willis celebrates her win in the Irish National 5000m Championship 2000 Róisín Willis celebrates her her World U20 800m victory, in a Championship Record


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 Róisín Willis at last week’s World U20 T&F Championships which took place in Cali, Colombia

Róisín’s mother is Bandon native Breeda Dennehy-Willis, who competed for Ireland at the Sydney Olympics in 2020, and her daughter – who turned 18 three days later – not only won the two-lap race 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

A fast early pace saw Willis battle Werro for the early lead and although it slowed somewhat coming up to the bell, Werro passed Willis on the backstretch and took the lead heading into the final turn, opening up a gap of a few metres. But Willis battled back on the homestretch and overtook the Swiss athlete in the second half of the homestretch to get not only the win, but the first sub 2:00 clocking of her career

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. She was a second behind Whittaker at the USA juniors where Whittaker set the high school record of 1:59.04. Both athletes are now headed for Stanford University where they will be under the guidance of one of the best 800m coaches in the US, JJ Clark

Rounding off a great week, on Saturday, the final day of the World Championships and on her 18th birthday, Willis anchored the US team to victory in the 4 x 400m relay, their time of 3:28.06 giving them a clear three-second margin over runners-up Jamaica

Róisín’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


Other Guest Articles by John Walshe

Mary Sweeney – Youghal's First Lady of Running

Stephen Hennessy – A Youghal Sporting Legend


1972 Fermoy Cross-Country Championship Recalled


Midleton AC County Novice Cross-Country Team 1971


Donie Walsh - 1971 European Championships 10,000m Recalled


Willie O'Mahony has clocked the miles building East Cork Athletics


Memorable Youghal Road Race Took Place at Midnight on New Year's Eve


Midleton AC Virtual Club Challenge


Cork Cross-Country of 1980


Cork Marathon Magic in 1986 as Marion Lyons Wins

The 1985 Cork 800 Marathon

Tullamore Man Won First Cork Marathon

Pioneering Women of Cross-Country


Grange International Cross-Country of 1980 Recalled 40 Years On


Youghal AC's London Emer Casey 10k Exploits


30 Years Ago - Liam O'Brien Wins Cork County Senior Cross-Country Championship


50 Years Ago - When John Buckley Beat The Olympic Champion


40 Years Ago - Jerry Murphy Wins Munster Marathon Championship


Aoife Cooke Runs 55:17 in Mallow 10 2019


Munster Cross-Country of 1989


Steeplechase Legends Meet at Antrim International


Aidan Hogan - Ultra-Athlete




Cork to Cobh 40 Years Ago


Unique National Double for McGraths

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