Abdel Laadjel breaks longest-standing Irish record with new U20 mark for 10,000m

Providence College freshman becomes first Irish teenager to break 30-minute mark

They say all records are there to be broken, only some stand long than others, and after 52 years it was the longest-standing record in Irish athletics. Until Abdel Laadjel ran 10,000 metres in 29:23.92 over the weekend, breaking the old record and a new barrier at the same time.

At age 18 Laadjel becomes the first Irish teenager to break 30 minutes, with that improving by a considerable margin the previous Irish under-20 record of 30:17.0 set by Frank Greally back in August of 1970. It may be a rarely run distance for teenagers, still Greally's record hadn't gone entirely unchallenged in the 52 years since.

Laadjel is in his freshman year at Providence College in Rhode Island, and was racing at the Raleigh Relays Invitational in North Carolina; just like Greally was in 1970, he's also a member of Donore Harriers in Dublin, where he only quite fell under the wing of Gerry Naughton.

Indeed Naughton had predicted Laadjel was poised to break this record, for good reason: in December, the Donore runner finished sixth in the Under-20 race at the European Cross-Country in Abbotstown, leading the Irish team to silver medals, one point shy of Britain; last month he also broke the Irish Under-20 indoor 5,000m record, running 14:12.73 to improve the 14:13.67 set three years ago by Darragh McElhinney.


"I'm grateful for the years I held the record and the joy that running has given me over more than half a century," acknowledged Greally, who after his record also took the US route to East Tennessee State University. "Best wishes to Abdel, stride on with gratitude and purpose."

Greally had just turned 19 when he set his mark on a balmy Thursday evening in August 1970, paced by some senior Donore members to keep a metronomic pace over the 25 laps, beating Des McGann of Civil Service, who later ran the 1972 Olympic marathon. At the time Santry was still known as the John F Kennedy Stadium, in the hope of attracting some American patronage to ease the debt, later being named after its founder Billy Morton.

It's just over three years since Laadjel starting running at Kishoge Community College in Lucan, tempted to try cross-county by the PE teacher Rosie Cully on the premise he'd get a day off school. When he finished fourth in the west Leinster division he first caught the attention of Naughton.

"I didn't really know anything about running two or three years ago, I didn't even want to do running two or three years ago," said Laadjel recently, now coached at Providence by Ray Treacy, brother of John.

“Over in the States it’s hard to know where you’re really at, because you’re racing such crazy, brilliant lads, but Ray has me in really good shape, I know I can keep improving.”

There were strong showings at Raleigh, too, from by Barry Keane (Waterford AC/Butler), running 28:15.60, Brian Fay (Raheny/Washington State) running 28:22.21, and Fearghal Curtin (Youghal AC/Charleston Southern) running 28:25.43. After 52 years 29:23.92 was the time that counted most.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics