Ciara Mageean the star attraction at Ulster Senior Championships
OLYMPIC Games-bound Ciara Mageean is the star attraction at Sunday's NI & Ulster Senior Championships at the Mary Peters Track.
The meeting also incorporates the U18-U20 age group deciders meaning that the province’s top juniors will have a chance to mingle with the likes of Mageean and Commonwealth Games hurdler Ben Reynolds who makes a last ditch attempt to qualify for next month’s Europeans in Amsterdam.
Mageean has qualified for the 1500m in Rio but is looking for a fast 800m at her former training track. The Portaferry woman spent countless hours at the Mary Peters under the guidance of coach Eamonn Christie honing her craft before moving to UCD.
A return to Upper Malone is always a fillip for Mageean who will be keen to impress her fans who always make the trip up from the Ards Peninsula to watch her race.
Main opposition to Mageean may come from former City of Lisburn colleagues Kelly Neely, who has been smashing Masters’ records this season, and Erin McIlveen.
Katie Kirk is also entered but is more likely to drop down to 400m.
The meeting could not come at a better time for 110m hurdler Ben Reynolds who has been through a frustrating period which forced him to make a late start to the season.
The European qualification mark of 13.90 seconds should be well within the Holywood man's grasp, particularly given his personal best is 13.48 set at Bedford last year.
David Gillick returns to the Mary Peters for the 400m after disappointing over that distance in Geneva last weekend. His seasonal best of 47.24 was set here in early May but that is slightly slower than Shercock’s Craig Lynch who is also in the field.
Last year’s runner-up Karl Griffin and Andrew Mellon as well as Waterford’s 800m specialist Niall Tuohy are all entered.
Mellon’s North Down club mate Adam McComb has chosen not to go for a fourth victory preferring to drop down to 200 metres.
In the absence of Paralympic sprinter Jason Smyth, Jonathan Browning should take the 100 metres following his recent seasonal best of 10.72 seconds.
Bellaghy man Adam McMullen should be able to defend comfortable his Long Jump title and with favourable conditions will be aiming to improve on his personal best of 7.84 metres last month. The European standard is 7.95.
Cork’s Joan Healy is favourite for the women’s 100 metres while sadly there is one entry for the women’s 200m - a feature of many of the women’s events.
The first race on Sunday is at 9.45am with the final event of the day scheduled for 6pm.
Must improve marking for northern teams
A GOOD start but must improve could be the school report for the northern clubs after the opening round of the National Track & Field League last Sunday. A visibly understrength North Down were the only Ulster representatives in the men’s Premier Division finishing a lowly seventh at the Morton Stadium, Dublin.
Taking in the scores from Athlone, where the other first round fixture was decided, that put the Bangor men in 14th spot overall with only eight teams going forward to the final after the second round next month.
In contrast, Finn Valley made a solid start to the men’s Division One with a runner-up spot that puts them fourth overall on points. Some upward adjustment may be necessary to that position given only six clubs competed in Athlone as opposed to eight in Dublin making points harder to obtain at the latter venue.
A fourth spot from a combined County Antrim team puts them also into contention for a final place while City of Derry Spartans and County Monaghan are not yet out of it.
City of Derry head up the northern teams in the women’s Premier Division after finishing fourth at the Morton.
Their 77.5 points total gave them an eighth overall and means the Derry women will have the advantage of a second fixture at the Mary Peters.
Lagan Valley look to be handily placed in the women’s Division One after a solid fourth place that saw them finish the first day in sixth overall.
Foreign stars for Letterkenny international meeting
THE men’s mile looks like being the headline event at this year’s Letterkenny International Meeting with the organisers this week announcing a star-studded field for the event on July 2. New Zealander Eric Speakman leads the line up following a 3:57.30 career best for the mile at Wanganui this January.
The Kiwi has also been burning up the tracks in the northern hemisphere as well with a recent 1500m in 3:37.44 at Windsor, Canada just last month.
Speakman will be challenged by a trio of Yanks, Jake Hurysz (3:58.10i), Reid Buchanan (4:00.81i) and William Kincaid (4:00.76), who will all be looking to under four minutes outdoors for the first time.
England’s Matt Clowes will also be in the field and, although the Staffs Moorlands athlete has run 3:58.96 indoors, will be seeking a still prestigious first outdoor mark under the magic four minutes.
Bristol and West clubmates Dan Studley and Mike Wilshire will add to the quality of a field which lacks a strong home contender.
A number of women in the 800m will be seeking an Olympic qualifying time of 2:01.5. Katherine Marshall (formerly Camp) ran 2:03.20 in Oordegem, Belgium three weeks ago and will be looking to improve on that mark.
Doughty Scot Emily Dudgeon (2:01.89) returns while first time visitors South African duo Anuscha Nice (2:03.65) and Gena Lofstrand (2:04.60) will be looking to slice some time off their bests.
Other highlights include the sprints where another South African Lebakeng Seseke makes a welcome return to defend his 100m title.
The organisers have stuck with a women’s 3000m steeplechase which, while highly successful last year with three Irish women getting Olympic qualifying times, has no local interest this time.
Reid returning to best after health issues
IRELAND'S Aileen Reid showed improved form with a solid 17th position at last Sunday’s Leeds World Triathlon Series race in Yorkshire.
After losing her competitive edge following a series of chest infections, the Derry woman looked to be getting back to the form that has seen her ranked in the world’s top ten for the past number of years.
Reid has already qualified for the Olympics and spent much of May training at altitude in the French Pyrenees, only coming down to sea level in the days before Leeds.
"I knew it would be a fast swim and tough bike course, and my aim was to get stuck into it and see where my training would get me,” said the 33-year-old.
“The bike definitely left me feeling heavy legged, though I am running quite well in training, and I've not done any of the fast stuff yet. So there's more to come and I'm still building for Rio!"
Reid took a bold decision last year when she decided to part company with Australian Darren Smith and return to her former coaching team of Tommy Evans and Chris Jones.
She describes the decision as “not one I took lightly”.
Not least because she was part of a world class international group of triathletes working with Smith.
“And I miss them, they were my friends, and it was really good to be pushed every day by world class athletes.
But Tommy and Chris know me, they have a plan individualised for me, and I can talk to them, be part of the process. That’s important for me.”
Both Aileen Reid and Ireland’s other Olympic selection, Bryan Keane, will put their fitness to the test in the firmus energy City of Derry Triathlon on Sunday morning as part of their countdown to the 2016 Olympics.
Meanwhile Russell White has said his record-equalling performance in Leeds has assured him that he made the right decision to put his teaching career on hold.
That decision paid dividends for the 24-year-old White in Leeds where he finished 11th which equalled Gavin Noble's 2009 performance in Yokohama as the best-ever result by an Irish male triathlete.