It is hard to believe that we are not yet at the end of April and tomorrow night 28th April is the fourth Track and Field meeting of the 2016 season. Already events at Ballykillaire, Antrim and Mary Peters have seen nearly a thousand competitors taking part rangng from 8 year olds to Masters.
The Belfast International and irish Milers Club Meeting promoted by Beechmount Harriers under meeting Director Eamon Christie was a resounding success despite the inclement weather and the absence of amny of the Northern Ireland elite squad. One of the elite however who was present was Ciara Mageean and her superb performance was somewhat lost in the middle of the mixed 3000m. Her time of 9;07.47 was the second faster ever run by a Northern ireland woman and a massive personal best for the former Assumption Grammar pupil.
In all the meeting produced just under 60 lifetime bests by Northern Ireland athletes with eight each in the Under 15 Boys and Girls 800 metres. James Hamilton (Ballymena Runners) not only won the 1500 metres but went under 4 minuutes for he first time to top the IPC World Rankings, This topped off a great day for the Mark Kirk coaching sqaud who were producing personal bests by the bucketfull.
While not quite setting new personal figures there were very encouraging performances by Megan marrs in both the hurdles and on the flat while the ageless Kelly Neely once again broke her own Irish Masters 800m metres record and is creeping ever closer to the 2:03 she ran eight years ago.
The already hugely popular Thursday night series promoted by Lagan Valley entered new territory at the opening of what is the 26th year of the competition. It was clear from the new pre-online entry that it was going to be big but in hte end over 350 competitors meant a very long but in the main enjoyable night for all.
For the majority of the MINI's it was their first taste of track competition and honours were spread across four clubs with Toby Thompson (City of Lisburn) Charlie Patterson (East Coast) Lauren Madine (East Down) and Tilly McWhinney (North Down) going home with the coveted gold medals.
Odhran Hamilton (Armagh) was back following his success in previous years to win both the 100m and 1500m in the Under 13 Boys while Molly Curran (Carmen) reaffirmed her form from the North Down meeting. Most impressive in this age group was Amelia Tyler (North Down) who used her strong cross country pedigree to full use to easily win the 1500m.
Perhaps the best performance of the night came in the U15 girls 100m where Irish Indoor 60m Champion Katie Monteith romped home in 12.90 a full 6 tenths of a second clear of the opposition. Katie was ranked 6th in the UK in the winter with her 60m performance. There were also wins in this age group for Ronan Campbell, Daniel McCullough and James Wright all (Ballymena & Antrim), Erin Fisher (City of Lisburn) Rebecca Wallace (North Belfast) and Matthew Willis (City of Lisburn) who won by 4 one hundtreths of a second in a dip finish from Andrew Hagen (Willowfield).
Things were even closer in the U17 mens 100m where it took a close look at the photgraph to split Peter Wright (BAAC) and Scott McDowell (City of Lisburn) by the proverbial vest width. No such problems for last year outstanding age group sprinter Lauren Roy (BAAC) who eased into the U17 category with an effortless victory in 12.59. Cormac O'Rourke and Tim Scott fought out the battle for Lagan Valley honours in the 1500m with Cormac getting the verdict. The positions would be reversed a week later in the Queen's 5k. This promises to be an intriguing battle throughout the season. Kate GOurley (City of Lisburn) was a class apart in her 1500m.
In the Seniors Adam McMullan warmed up for what is hoped will be a great season of Long Jumping by going under 11 seconds in the 100m followed by Commonwealth Games Decathlete Peter Glass recording a PB. In the ladies sprint it was good to see Roseanna McGuckian back from her injury problems to clock and encouraging 12.76. Martin Cox (Derry City TC) made the long journey down from the North West worthwhile winning a good 1500 duel with James Hamilton (Ballymena Runners). Meanwhile behind the cage Lynsey Glover (Lagan Valley) threw 41.78 to improve her seasons best.
Pudits assessing the chances of athletes in the London Marathon wheelchair events might have well advised to have look at the results from the Mary Peters Track as Jack Agnew in his appropriately yellow coloured chair (Tour de France) produced two sparkling performances which set him in good stead for his great win in London. Unfortunately Lagan Valley was unable to produce any royality to present the medals but you can't have everything!
FIRMUS SUPER SIX
The highly successful Lagan Valley promoted Thursday night meets enter their 26th season on April,14th under the banner of Firmus Energy for the second year. With the introduction of on-line pre entry this season the meeting is already guaranteed to a success with over 200 athletes entered the day before the closing date. While entries will be accepted on the night at a premium price the concept of pre registration has clearly been widely accepted.
While the meeting has in the past been primarily age group orientated the number of seniors entering has increased and the organisers are keen that this should continue. The programme design has remained much the same as in previous years and will once again provide an introduction to the sport for youngsters from 8 years and upwards as well uniquely catering for the rising numbers of athletes in wheelchairs.
The reputation of the meetings has grown since their inception in 1991 under the Better Belfast banner as they continued a tradition which had started with a Five Star meetings at Shaws Bridge and subsequently been promoted by Belfast Ladies, Annadale Striders and Tailte AC. Numerous internationals have emerged from these meetings and not only in the world of athletics with names like Phil Beattie, Vicki Jamison, Andrew Maxwell, Kelly Neely and Keith Gillespie all gracing the results sheets.
RIO HOPEFUL KERRY O'FLAHERTY LEADS THE REJUVINATED WORLD MASTERS CHAMPION KELLY NEELY.
2016 promises to be an exciting season with the regular Championchip events being supplemented by the return of the Belfast International in conjunction with the hugely successful Irish Milers Club meeting. New to the scene is the new format 10000 metres Festival which will incorporate the NI Championships but which will aim to introduce the wider running community to the joys of running 25 laps of the track to the sounds of music and raucous support from the sidelines. NI Running/BMC will again promote their Night of Miles and Acorns their 3000 metres night and their wll be similar specialist meetings for the field event afficiandoes.
NORTH DOWN OPEN 5th April 2016
If the first meeting of the season held at Ballykilliare (Bangor) is anything to go by it is going to be a very busy and exciting one for athletes and officials. Over 200 athletes turned up from all over the Province and beyond, way beyond what has been the norm in previous years. On the track there were 23 races including an incredible three 3000 metres races. Unfortunately this caused the programme to go awry from an early stage no one seemed to mind too much.
In the field the Hammer took pride of place with Lifford's Brendan O'Donnell throwing a prodigious 66.08 with the 5k implement which was a personal best and an international qualification throw. In the javelin Gareth Crawford was the star performer with 58.88 metres with the 700g spear. On the horizontal jumps runway Anna McAuley and Adam Cooper impressed with 5.04 and 6.20 repectively.
On the track the openng event was won by 12 year old Molly Curran from Carmen AC. The tall youngster ran an impressive 21.00 for the 150m and followed it up later in the evening with a 9 metre plus Shot Putt. Clearly one to watch out for in Multi Events from a club more associated with producing road runners. Fastest female on the night was City of Lisburn's Megan Marrs who ran 18.59 as a warm down from her earlier hurdles training sesson. The 'men's' 150m was won by 15 year old Aaron Sexton who showed no respect for dad Roger who he left trailing in his wake - not good from a family ego point of view but clearly satisfying from Roger's other role as coach.
The five 600 meters races were all hotly contested with Beechmount's Davicia Patterson kicking 300 metres out in the fourteen strong ladies race and held off the chasers to record 1:36.86. Adam McComb came back from defeat in the 150m to run an impressive 1:22.16 whcih must auger well for his 400m main event.
Dylan McBride (Willowfield) set the ball rolling in the first of the seven and a half laps races with Jodie Smith running her first track event for quite a few years ducking under 11 minutes much to the delight of her father David Seaton. A feature of these races was the appearance of no less that 14 Might Oaks from Acorns AC but the fastest time of the night went to another long distance traveller Martin Cox from Derry City Track Club who made good use of the brisk pace set by Conal McCambridge replicating his tactics in the NI Junior Cross Country.
The evening concluded with five 300m races with the host clubs Hollie Brannigan and Beechmount's Niall McIlhatton producing the fastest times. Unfortunately the evening ended on a sour note with Robbie Rankin over stretching at the line and taking a hard fall. The outcome was a dislocated shoulder which was scant reward for a young man returning to competiion after three years plagued by injury. A former Ulster SChool Champion Robbie was a Silver medalist in the AAA's 1500m steeplechase championships in 2010 and it is hoped that this latest knock back will not hold him back too long.
UPCOMING TRACK AND FIELD FIXTURES
14th APRIL FIRMUS SUPER SIX SERIES MEETING 1 MARY PETERS TRACK
19th APRIL ANI Open Senior Meeting MARY PETERS TRACK
23rd APRIL Youth Development League Round 1
28th APRIL FIRMUS SUPER SIX MEETING 2 MARY PETERS TRACK