NICK Griggs took a decisive step forward in the defence of his 3000m title at the European Junior Championships in Jerusalem when he easily qualified from his heat.
And a heat it was in more than one sense with the thermometer showing close to 30 degrees when he lined up at 9am local time.
Griggs could have been forgiven for being distracted by his selection over the weekend for the World Championships later this month, but the Tyrone man was focused from the gun.
After lurking in the pack close to the front during the opening four laps, he was quick to respond to a surge in pace with three circuits to run.
Griggs quickly established himself in one of the eight qualifying spots and was able to enjoy fist bumps close to the finish with the heat winner Andreas Fjeld Halvorsen of Norway and third placer Sweden’s Jonathan Graham. All three crossed the finish line within hundredths of a second of each other with Griggs registering an 8:32.22 timing, pedestrian pace for an athlete who ran 7:53.24 earlier this season.
“You never want to exert yourself too much in the heat, it’s obviously very hot out here and also a bit windy, so I thought I’d just sit in as long as I could,” said Griggs.
“On the last lap it started to get a bit crowded, so I moved up on the inside, and down the home straight I made sure I wasn’t leaving myself stuck on the inside.
“Tactically I could’ve run it better. I’ve been doing some heat training - every run I’ve been putting on a coat, tights, a half-zip, and then going on into the sauna for half an hour. It wasn’t fun but I got it done. Everyone else is really unbelievable and the standard is so much more difficult than two years ago, but I’ll just go out there and do my best”.
Other Irish successes on the opening day saw Leevale AC’s Lucy-May Sleeman qualify for the 100m semi-finals after a fourth place in her heat in a personal best 11.53 seconds; Bray’s Niamh Murray qualified for today’s 400m semi-finals, also running a personal best 54.75 seconds clocking in her preliminary round; and Nenagh Olympic’s Ava Rochford safely negotiated the high jump qualifying round, equalling her personal best clearance of 1.80m.
Mayo’s Oisin Joyce made it a good day for Irish field-eventers, going forward to a final spot in the javelin after a throw of 67.47m, and Carlow athlete Adam Nolan can look forward to a run out in the 110m hurdles semis later today after a fifth place in his opening round heat.
Lagan Valley’s Lughaidh Mallon was outpaced in the semi-finals of the 1500m, finishing in 11th place in 4:00.86.