Griffin & Mageean make their mark on Morton Games
TWO Ulster athletes showed they can compete with the best in the world by scoring important victories at the Morton Games in Dublin.
Ciara Mageean confirmed she is back to her best with a confident win in the women’s mile, while Karl Griffin continued to improve as he came with a late run to take the honours in the 800m.
Mageean was making her only second appearance of the season after overcoming a last-minute injury scare. She was at the head of the field chasing the pacemaker as early as the first lap and was left in the lead when the hare dropped out after two circuits. American Shelby Houlihan led marginally at the bell as the 23-year-old Portaferry woman still kept control of the race on the inside lane.
Behind the pair, another half-dozen women were breathing down their necks and still in contention for the victory. Houlihan continued to press down the back straight, with Mageean maintaining her pole position. However, rounding the final bend, the UCD athlete put her foot on the gas to move impressively away to win in 4:30.64, with another American, Heather Wilson, finishing strongly to overtake a fading Houlihan for second spot.
“I originally thought I would sit at the back of the pack, but I wanted a good time as well,” said Mageean.
“So I headed out to front, taking the pace. Tough enough, but I felt comfortable and I’m feeling really good racing at the moment. I can’t wait to do more.”
In contrast, Griffin left it until the home straight in the 800m. The 20-year-old Tír Chonaill athlete was tucked in nicely on the kerb in fifth position at the bell reached by pacemaker Ben Maze in 51.7 seconds. Griffin was still back in fifth with just 200 metres to run but moved wide to come off the final bend in third place.
A strong run in lane three saw him overhaul Cork City Sports 800m winner Michael Rutt of the United States to cross the line in 1:47.47 – just eight-hundredths of a second outside his best, set earlier in the year.
“I’m absolutely delighted,” said Griffin.
“I knew coming into this race that I was up against a top-class field. I wasn’t out to win the race – just run my own race. I felt good and just kept working hard up the home straight. I’m starting to get consistency. I’m starting to turn out consistent results at senior level and that’s what it is all about for me.”
Australia’s Jeff Riseley broke a nine-year dominance of the Morton Mile by Americans with a well-timed run on the homestraight to win in 3:57.09. Louth man Thomas Cotter went under 4:00 for the first time with a 3:58.50 timing in eighth place. Former World champion Yohan Blake won hearts and minds, not just by winning the 100m in an Irish all-comers’ record of 10.12 seconds, but by spending the rest of the meeting engaging with the crowd.
Meanwhile, Mark English put his European U23 Championships disappointment well behind him as he clocked a season’s best of 1:45.49 for 800m at the London Anniversary Games.
The Letterkenny athlete had trailed home eighth in the Europeans in Tallinn after being considered a certainty for a medal, but showed improved form in the Olympic Stadium in a race won by Commonwealth champion Nijel Amos.
Waterford’s Thomas Barr was also in action in the men’s 400m hurdles, where he finished in sixth place. Mary Cullen was chasing a time of 15:20.00 to secure her place at the World Championships, but the North Sligo athlete finished in 11th in a time of 15:32.76