Athletics

Commonwealth targets adds spice to Belfast's International meet in July

Davicia Patterson (left) and Adam McMullen (right) launch the Belfast International Athletics Meet at the Mary Peters Track with Athletics NI president, Pamela Brown
Malcolm McCausland

ATHLETES from Northern Ireland, England, Scotland, Wales, the Republic of Ireland and further afield will be competing at the Belfast International Athletics Meet at the Mary Peters Track on Wednesday, July 5.

The organisers Athletics NI are hoping to build on the success of last year’s event when they combined resources with Beechmount Harriers and the Irish Milers’ Club to produce a memorable meeting.

Two-time European 400m Indoor champion David Gillick, European 1500m silver medallist Ciara Mageean and Britain’s Alexandra Bell were among the top athletes taking part 12 months ago.

There is added spice to the 2017 edition with many of the north’s top athletes still either chasing or looking to improve Commonwealth Games consideration standards before the September 30 cut-off date.

One of the athletes who has already achieved a mark for the Gold Coast, Adam McMullen joined ANI president Pamela Brown and teenage sprint star Davicia Patterson to launch the event earlier this week.

Both Adam and Davicia having started the season well, recording personal bests for their respective disciplines. The Bellaghy man added a centimetre to his long jump best in Florida last month to put his name in the frame for Commonwealth selection.

Meanwhile, it has been personal bests at 200m, 300m and 400m for the 16-year-old Beechmount Harrier thus sealing her selection for the Commonwealth Youth Games in the Bahamas next month. Both will be using the Belfast meeting to tune up in advance of more serious tests later in the year.

No details of the other athletes competing or events included on the programme were made available.

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Walled City Marathon to see battle of the Kenyans 

IT's an east African showdown in the men’s race and high hopes of a home win in the women’s contest at Sunday’s SSE Airtricity Walled City Marathon in Derry. Ciarán Collins unleashes his Project Africa Athletics squad of Kenyans in what will be the final race of their spring tour.

For all three Kenyan men, it will be their second marathon in a month after Dan Tanui, Emmanuel Melly and Hillary Chirchir were second, third and fourth respectively in Belfast at the beginning of May.

Since then, Tanui has been living in Ballymena where he has picked up the winner’s cheques in the local road races around the County Antrim town.

Chirchir and Melly have been enjoying the Derry air with their host, well-known local athlete Darragh Crossan. They will have no doubt acquainted themselves well with the testing route for Sunday’s marathon.

Chirchir has not lived up to his form prior to coming to Ireland, according to Collins, and blew up in the second half of the Belfast Marathon.

All three will be looking to finish the tour on a crescendo but Tanui is the out and out favourite to go one better than last year, when he finished second to his then stablemate Eric Koech.

Another Kenyan and former winner Freddy Sittuk looks like the only man to stand in the way of a clean sweep of the podium places by the Project Africa boys.

Salomé Jepkoech Kimutai will be hoping to make it a Project double in only her second marathon but has found it difficult to recover from Belfast. Several races in the meantime have failed to reinvigorate the young woman from the Rift Valley.

She faces defending champion and Olympian Pauline Curley, who finished an incredible fifth place overall last year, but the main threat is more likely to come from Catherine Whoriskey (left).

The City of Derry Spartan has been in sparkling form this year and represented Ireland for the first time at this year’s Great Ireland Run 10K in April.

Race action in Derry kicks off early with an 8.30am start from outside the Everglades Hotel.

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Dromore in store

THE annual Dromore road races are now a firm fixture on the summer road racing calendar and the ninth edition takes place on Saturday, June 24 with 10K and 5K distances as well as a 5K walk all on offer. The race routes again take in the picturesque Riverside Walk with a start and finish in the town centre.

The event has retained its long running sponsor, McDermott’s Pharmacy, and the committee are urging all local runners to get their online entries in before the closing date of June 16.

Dromore man Conor Maguire has had a stellar 2017 to date and seems to be improving with every outing. It could be that we will see the first local winner this year. Maguire took over two minutes off his personal best recently in the Strabane/Lifford Half Marathon, while he also clocked 28:47 in the Beragh ‘5’, 59:52 in the Bundoran 10 mile and claimed the silver medal in the Killian Doherty 10K in 36:54. However, if Omagh Harrier Stephen Duncan turns up, he will be hard to beat given his unblemished record of wins in Dromore. It is unlikely that last year’s winner Martin Cox will defend his title, meaning that Stephen Cassidy could be a threat given the recent form of the Irvinestown runner.

Sperrin Harrier Pauline McGurren, who has clocked up a number of wins in the last few months including the Blackwater 5 Miles and the Cormac Run, starts favourite for the women’s title where Karen Barr, Donna Evans and Mairead McCann could also be contenders.

Numbers and late entry will be available at Dromore Sports Centre on Friday, June 23 (6.30-8pm) and Saturday 24 (10-11.30am). Veteran prizes in the 10K race for male and female runners will be in the O35, O45, O55 & O65 categories. Online entry and full information on the race can be found at www.dromore10k.com .

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Entries open for Belfast Half Marathon

THE organisers of the Belfast City Half Marathon have opened entries for their 2017 Deep RiverRock Belfast City Half Marathon that takes place on Sunday, September 17. The event is an extension of the hugely popular May Day Bank Holiday Marathon which enjoyed its 36th running last month. Mencap will again be the official nominated charity for this event.

“The Belfast Half Marathon has proved popular with competitors, sponsors and organisers alike and is regarded by the local athletics fraternity as one of the main fixtures on the Northern Ireland road running calendar,” said David Seaton, chairman of the Belfast City Marathon organising committee.

“Coming as it does in the middle of September it is an ideal preparation race for those undertaking an autumn marathon, particularly the Dublin event scheduled for late October.

“I hope all those competing on Sunday, September 17 have an enjoyable and rewarding day as they take in many well-known areas of our capital city.”

The half marathon route is the same as last year and can be found on the www.belfastcitymarathon.com website where registration is now open.

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