Sport

Belfast athletes spearhead Ireland's challenge in Cardiff

Kevin Seaward will compete for Ireland in Friday's IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff 
Malcolm McCausland

BELFAST'S best spearhead the Ireland team for Friday’s IAAF World Half Marathon Championships in Cardiff. Kevin Seaward, Paul Pollock and Thomas Frazer are included in a five-strong Irish men’s squad, while Leevale AC’s Lizzie Lee is Ireland’s sole representative in the women’s race.

Paul Pollock leads the men’s team and will be looking to replicate his performance at the last edition of the championships two years ago in Copenhagen when he ran a great 62:10 clocking for an outstanding 30th spot. That time is still a personal best for the Holywood doctor, who is currently ranked fourth and outside the Irish selection spots for the marathon at the Rio Olympics.

Kevin Seaward currently tops those listings for the marathon distance and has been in sparkling form of late. Two weeks ago, the Loughborough-based teacher took fifth place in a very high quality Trafford 10K in Manchester, clocking a personal best time of 29 minutes and 12 seconds.

As things stand, the St Malachy’s athlete does not need to run another marathon to gain selection for Rio. But he has reportedly offered to pace Pollock to 30K at next month’s London Marathon in an attempt to move his training partner up into one of the three selection spots.

Chicago-based Frazer also makes his debut at this level. He has an Olympic qualifying time but will need to go back to the well in order to improve on his 2:17:45 in Rotterdam almost 12 months ago. Sergiu Ciobanu and Sean Hehir complete the Irish men’s line-up. Foyle Valley’s Scott Rankin heads up a Northern Ireland team that will not count in the IAAF team race.

Kenya, the most successful nation ever in the history of the event, has named strong squads, including both defending individual champions Geoffrey Kamworor and Gladys Cherono, for the championships. If anything, the Kenyan women’s team is even stronger than the men’s. In addition to Gladys Cherono and 2014 silver medallist Mary Wacera, two former world half marathon champions return to the competition: Mary Keitany and Florence Kiplagat.

The WHM Cardiff 2016 App is a must-have for all runners and spectators. The Atpp is the best way to get all pre-race information at your fingertips. It also has a Live Track feature, allowing you to 
follow the progress of the participants. It is available to download on the Apple App Store and Google Play. The race will also be televised live on the BBC.

 

ULSTER athletes made their mark at the National Masters’ Indoor Championships in Athlone, bringing a bagful of titles back north. Belle of the Ball was indisputably Kelly Neely, who flew to a national Masters’ record of 4:20.78 in the F35 1500m championships race. The City of Lisburn athlete, cheered on by husband and coach Ian Neely, led every metre of the distance for arguably the most impressive performance of the day.

Reigning European Masters’ indoor 800m champion Denise Toner took second despite an impressive victory for the Fermanagh woman earlier in the day over 3000m in a nippy 10:27.78. Finn Valley’s Catriona Devine finished third overall to lift the women’s F40 gold medal.

In the men’s 1500m, Derry Track Club’s Cathal McLaughlin was outstanding, winning the M45 title despite strong opposition from northwest rival Kieran Carlin from the Finn Valley club. That completed a double for the Derry company director who a week earlier had landed the same title at the British Masters’. His DTC club colleague Robert Bigger also completed an Anglo-Irish double winning the M55 800m to add to the British 1500m title in the M55 category. City of Lisburn’s Barry Morris also impressed with a victory in the M65 800m in a fast 2:35.20 while Cavan’s Mike Duggan showed that age is no obstacle by winning the Over 75 800m in 3:12.31.

The 400m races proved particularly lucrative for northern competitors, not least of whom was the inspirational Paddy Crossan. A lifelong athlete, Crossan was diagnosed with Parkinson’s some time ago. Most people would have seen that as the end of an athletic career but not the 52-year-old St Anne’s athlete.

Crossan opened his account with a well-executed win in the M50 400m with a 58.07 clocking before completing the double with an equally fine victory in the 200m recording 25.98. However, his most exuberant celebrations were reserved for when the Bill Kelly-coached athlete heard his beloved Spurs were leading 3-0 at the Lane.

A hat-trick of 400m titles went back to Derry through DTC clubmates Tim Shiels (M40) and Malcolm McCausland (M60) as well as Olympian’s Karen O’Donnell (F35). Denise Toner (F35) and Nigel McKibbin (M45) were winners over 3000m with the Dromore man picking up his first Irish gold.

Ballymena & Antrim’s Jon Carleton showed he had lost little of his speed as he won the M35 60m and 200m, the former in a swift 7.04 seconds. North Down’s Roger Sexton took the M45 60m title.

 

ENTRIES are down for Saturday’s SPAR Omagh Half Marathon, meaning that registrations will be taken on the day at Omagh Leisure Complex. 

Last year, 3,000 took part in the main event and associated 5K, but the organisers are struggling to get close to that number this year. Marathon specialist Gary O’Hanlon has already signed up and the former national champion will provide opposition to locally-based Project Africa runner Gideon Kimosop who is set to run his third half marathon in as many weeks. Kimosop returns to his native Kenya on Monday, but could return for the Belfast Marathon at the start of May.

Cathy McCourt, who has been getting excellent results recently with her protégée Rebecca Wallace in schools’ cross country, returns to Omagh hoping to go one better than last year when she finished runner-up to another Kenyan Selinah Kangogo.

The Half Marathon has a new start time of 11:00am but follows the same undulating course as last year taking in both town and country. The 5K commences 10 minutes later, also from Omagh Leisure Complex, which should ease some of the congestion experienced by the runners at the start in previous years.

Registration for both races will be accepted up to 10am, although the organisers cannot guarantee the requested t-shirt size for all half-marathon runners.

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