BELFAST MEET TO BE BIGGER, AND BETTER IN 2020

Bold Prediction from Race Director Eamonn Christie

“Last year’s event was a resounding success but 2020 will be even better,” that is the bold prediction of Eamonn Christie, director of Belfast IMC Meeting. “All my default sponsors are back and a lot more too.  Next year’s meeting will be June 20, 2020 and I’ve already had big interest from across the water and beyond. A large squad of top athletes are coming over from Leeds and Steve Macklin will send a squad again from the Aspire Academy in Doha.”

The overdue arrival of summer meant perfect running conditions at this year’s meeting as records tumbled throughout an action-packed afternoon at the Mary Peters Track. Numerous personal bests and one world best were testimony to a programme expertly put together by meeting director Eamon Christie and his cohorts at Beechmount Harriers, West Coast Coolers and the Irish Milers’ Club.

English visitor Matt Wigelsworth was the impressive winner of the feature event and returned to his Preston home £500 richer as he picked up the £200 bonus, in addition to the winner’s prize of £300, for breaking three minutes and 43 seconds in the men’s 1500m. The ice-cool 22-year-old was well off the pace in third place at the bell but stormed to the front on the final straight before stopping the clock at a personal best 3:42.67.

Gortin Girl Eilish Flanagan went on to take a silver medal at the European U23s after winning in Belfast last year.

Gortin girl Eilish Flanagan, who went on to take a silver medal in the steeplechase at the European U23 championships, was in a class of her own in the women’s 1500m. Further down the field Cavan native Anne Gilshinan took four seconds off her own world F50 best; another European medallist Nadia Power won the women’s 800m races while Cillian Kirwan lifted the prize for the men’s two lap event and Liam Brady was a runaway winner of the men’s 5000m.

It was thought that the men’s 1500m, sponsored by Cathal McLaughlin of E & I Engineering Ltd, might revert to a mile but Christie has decided he will retain the current format.

“I’ve sought the opinions of the athletes and there is a marked consensus that we retain the 1500m distance as many will be looking for qualifying times for that distance next year with the World U20 Championships and Olympics coming up later in the year.”

Other returning sponsors included Andrea Anderson and Greg Campbell while Pure Running, HBM Sportswear, Jason Harvey (GoFyt) and Kinetica have all indicated they will assist next year’s meeting.

HEHIR WINS IN ARMAGH

Marathon man Sean Hehir dominated the Armagh 10 Mile Road Race coming tantalising close to the course record set by Andrew Ledwith and finishing just ten seconds off the 2011 mark with a 50 minutes and ten seconds timing.

Hehir came to the race with impressive credentials having won the Dublin City Marathon on two occasions; the Clare native also represented Ireland at the 2014 European Championships in Zurich in 2014 and the IAAF World Championships in London two years ago as well as picking up national titles at cross country and half marathon.

First three in Armagh L-R: Hughes, Hehir and McElvanna

Hehir lived up to his name by racing away from the opposition straight from the gun before going on to win by almost four minutes from Acorns AC ace Eoin Hughes (53:59) as Armagh AC’s Brian McElvanna closed in on third spot another 18 seconds back.

While Marie McCambridge’s 2008 record of 56:53 was never challenged, the women’s race was notable both for the number of competitors and the overall standard. All the women’s categories were contested for the first time and no less than seven clubs contested the team prize. Nicola Flanagan of Blayney Rockets AC was a worthy winner in 62:57, after a battle almost to the line with North Belfast Harrier Louise Smith (63:15) with Pauline McGurren taking the bronze award in 65:51. The hosts Armagh AC claimed both team titles.

IT’S SPOOKTACULAR TIME IN ENNISKILLEN AGAIN

Stephen Cassidy is favoured to score a hometown victory in next weekend’s Spooktacular 5K

Well over 1,000 runners are set to take to the streets of Enniskillen next Friday night (October 25) for a night of frighteningly good fun as well as some top class race action.  The ninth annual Enniskillen Spooktacular 5k Run will take place on Friday, October 25 at 8pm, and entries have been flying in according to the organisers, Enniskillen Running Club.

 “From fairly humble beginnings, we can’t believe how much the event has grown since it first took to the town’s streets back in 2011,” said ERC’s Michael Walsh. “We had just under 300 that first year but we have averaged well over 1,000 the last few years and online entries this year are ahead of anything we have seen so far.”

The event boasts a carnival family atmosphere, with lots of children out to beat their friends and parents across the line and also a large number of people donning fancy dress. But there also has been plenty of fireworks when it comes to the racing itself with many of the province’s top 5k runners turning out to tackle the fast one lap course which starts and finishes in the town centre.

Last year in the men’s field Gideon Kimosop of Derry Track Club took the honours with a 15.05 timing, ahead of Foyle Valley’s Scott Rankin and Paddy Hamilton. But with the top two missing this year, it looks like the 2019 race is wide open with Enniskillen’s Stephen Cassidy, who came fourth last year, in with a shout of taking the home honours and the   £200 top prize.

The women’s race last year saw a titanic tussle between Sligo AC’s Heather Foley, Derry Track Club’s Marina Murphy and Clones masters track star Denise Toner, with only 10 seconds separating them. With both Heather and Denise confirmed to run again this year, another close showdown is in store.

 “It’s a special year for us as a club as we have just celebrated our tenth anniversary,” Michael added. “We’ve also   just had three members selected  for the Northern Ireland masters team for the first time, our junior section is thriving and another great Spook will just be the icing on the cake.”

Online entry is now available through the Athletics NI website or through Enniskillen Running Club’s Facebook page. There will also be limited on-the-night entries available.

DTC Members included in irelAND TEAM FOR WORLD PARA CHAMPS

Four Ulster athletes are included in the 11-strong team to represent Ireland at the World Para Athletics Championships in Dubai from November 7 – 15. Jason Smyth again is the main hope for success with the Derry Track Club sprinter aiming to continue his incredible winning streak and claim an 8th World Championship medal and his 18th major title. The 32-year-old remains unbeaten in Paralympic competition since he entered the category some dozen years ago.

Jason Smyth will be targeting an eighth world title in the T13 100m

Michael McKillop will make his much anticipated return to a major championships action for the first time since his World Para Athletics Championships gold medal win in London over two years ago. The Paralympic legend suffered a career-threatening groin injury which required an operation as recently as 12 months ago. He will be hoping to recapture the form that made him one of the greatest Paralympians of all time although changes to the classification system mean that the former St. Malachy’s athlete faces tougher competition than ever this time.

“The new classifications might be against me but if you believe in yourself, you can always achieve,” was McKillop’s upbeat assessment of his chances in Dubai.

:L:R – Michael McKillop, Conor McIlveen and David Leavy

There are world championship debuts for both City of Lisburn’s David Leavy (T38/1500m) and Derry Track Club’s Conor McIlveen (T38 400m).  Both are latecomers to Paralympic competition but have made rapid progress in the past two years.  A place in their respective finals would represent success for both men. Elsewhere Galway native, Alex Lee, will make history as he becomes Ireland’s first ever ‘blade runner’ when he competes for Ireland in the 100m and 200m T64 heats. World ranked number two high jumper, Jordan Lee, will also compete at his first world championships, as will shot putter, Mary Fitzgerald.

Cork’s trio of seasoned discus throwers will also compete for world championship glory as Orla Barry, Noelle Lenihan and Niamh McCarthy will all look to repeat their podium success from London 2017. European Champion T13 1500m runner, Greta Streimikyte, will hope to continue her winning streak and target medal success in Dubai.  The added incentive for all is the fact is that a top four finish will automatically secure a slot for Irish athletes at the Paralympic Games in Tokyo 2020.

“We have a great mix of experienced and rookie athletes in the team,” said James Nolan, Head of Para Athletics with Paralympics Ireland. “For five athletes this will be their first world championships and there are also six very experienced athletes that have won medals at major championships. World Para athletics is developing rapidly and standards at world level are tremendously high, but this team is exceptionally talented and will make an impact in Dubai.”