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Hanna crowned King of the Glens

Zak Hanna is crowned King of the Glens following the Race Over The Glens race on New Year’s Day at Glenariff Forest Park

THE reigning 'King' Zak Hanna stamped his class on the Race Over The Glens held on New Year’s Day at Glenariff Forest Park. The Newcastle & District athlete who plies his trade as a professional mountain runner on the continent led from start to finish, crossing the finish line well distanced from the main field in 34 minutes and 35 seconds.

Annadale Strider Stephen Connolly started the new year as he had finished 2021 with another podium place, this time in second spot, and stopping the clock at 36:09. Ten-time winner of the race Jarlath Falls had to be content with a third place on this occasion, finishing 29 seconds behind Connolly.

In the women’s race, North Belfast Harrier Martsje Hell regained the 'Queen of the Glens' title she had last won in 2017.

The Norway native recorded 45:06 for the demanding six-mile route around the park. She was followed home by Ballymena Runners’ Kerry Bamber (45:56) with Paula McCarthy in third with a 47:04 timing.

There was a tight competition in the team events with East Antrim Harriers, who for years dominated Northern Ireland cross country running before falling on challenging times, narrowly defeated Newcastle AC in the men’s competition while Paula McCarthy led the local Glens Runners club to victory in the women’s contest.

Earlier Ciara Mageean was in formidable form at the Lough '5' in Loughmacrory on New Year’s Eve. The City of Lisburn athlete put the male contestants to shame with an outstanding second place overall in an exceptional 26:07 timing, a women’s record for the course.

Paced by her boyfriend Tom Moran, Mageean had over two minutes to spare in a high class turnout for the women’s race in which Letterkenny’s Natasha Adams pipped City of Derry’s Catherine Whoriskey by a single second for the runner-up spot in 28:18. Letterkenny’s Irish Universities’ cross country champion Christine Russell (29:15) was fourth with fifth spot going to Loughview’s national U19 gold medallist Rebecca Rossiter.

Mourne Runners clubman Andrew Annett prevented Mageean reigning absolutely supreme by taking the overall victory in 25:02.

Moran combined his pacemaking duties with a solid runner-up placing, third place overall, in 26:08 while North Belfast Harrier Peter Donnelly will have been pleased with his bronze medal in 26:22. Colin Griffin, in seventh overall, was the first Master to finish, recording 27:03.

Also on Friday, Ethiopia’s Ejegayehu Taye and Berihu Aregawi broke the men’s and women’s world 5K records at the Cursa dels Nassos in Barcelona, clocking 14:19 and 12:49 respectively. Taye, 21 was the second-fastest woman in the world over 5000m on the track in 2021 and was contesting only the second international road race of her career.

With the women and men starting at the same time, Taye was able to use some of the men in the field as pacemakers. She opened up a clear gap on Sweden’s Meraf Bahta in the initial stages and went on to win in 14:19, taking 24 seconds off the world record for the 5K in a mixed race. Bahta was second in 15:04.

In November 21-year-old Aregawi had come within one second of Joshua Cheptegei’s world record in Lille and was keen to take another crack at the mark before the year was out. He had a pacemaker for company for the first kilometre or so, but after then was out on his own, sprinting over the line in 12:49 to improve Cheptegei’s previous world record by two seconds.

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