Nick Griggs in crunch Belfast bid for European qualifying mark

Irish Milers’ Club meeting at Mary Peters Track provides high-class stage for Tyrone teenager to secure spot in Rome

Nick Griggs
Nick Griggs (centre) in action at last year’s Belfast Irish Milers’ Club meeting at the Mary Peters Track (SYSTEM)

ALL roads for local athletics fans lead to the Mary Peters Track tomorrow for the Belfast Irish Milers’ Club meeting.

With the assistance of lead sponsor Tripadvisor, Eamonn Christie has put together a meeting as good as any in these islands this year.

While once again the middle-distance events will probably attract the most attention, that would be to do a disservice to some exciting sprint contests that are also on the programme.

It is a crucial afternoon for Tyrone teenage running star Nick Griggs, who is in a race against time to achieve the 1500m qualifying mark (3:36.00) for next month’s European Championships in Rome. The deadline for performances is May 26.

Two Irish athletes, Andrew Coscoran and Luke McCann, have already qualified, although the latter, who is recovering from a stress fracture in his sacrum, will not be competing in the Italian capital. That leaves the road open for two other Irish athletes in the event, providing they better the standard.

Christie has assisted Griggs by putting together a strong field for the metric mile, including Britain’s James Gormley (PB 3:37.20), Finn Santtu Heikkinen (3:37.62) and Mahadi Abdi Ali (3:36.33) from the Netherlands. Lughaidh Mallon and Darragh McElhinney will add extra home interest.

The women’s 1500m looks more of a domestic affair. It will be interesting to see how up and coming young Irish stars such as Emily Bolton, Eimear McCarroll and Rebecca Rossiter cope with the pressure of competing at this level. Four-time Dutch champion Marissa Damink looks like the class act in the field.

Leevale AC’s Louise Shanahan (1:59.42) goes for a three-in-a-row in the women’s international 800m, with the possibility of three or four women going under two minutes.

Britain’s Abigail Ives (1:59.92), Danish record holder Annemarie Nissen (2:00.10), Britain’s Ellie Baker (2:00.86) and Belgium’s Vanessa Scaunet (2:02.05) all add to an enthralling line-up.

Britain’s Tiarnan Crorken, second in the Bannister Mile in Oxford on Monday, moves down in distance to the 800m where he has a best of 1:46.41.

That pales in comparison with fellow countrymen Tom Randolph (1:44.88) and Archie Davis (1:44.72).

Norway’s Ole Jakob Solbu (1:45.75) and Bram Buigel (1:46.00) from the Netherlands add an international flavour.

Athletes such as Phil Healy (400m), Sophie Becker (400m) and Cillín Greene (400m), who did such honourable duty for Ireland at the World Relays in the Bahamas last weekend, have promised to fight off any residual fatigue and jet lag to make an appearance on the lightning fast Mary Peters track.

National record-holder Israel Olatunde takes part in the 100m.

The programme opens at 12:30pm, with the men’s 1500m concluding the day’s action at 5:05pm. Entry is free for spectators.

In the meantime there are three Irish athletes in action tonight at the third Diamond League fixture of the season in Doha.

Sarah Healy and Andrew Coscoran go in their respective 1500m races, while Sarah Lavin is listed for the 100m hurdles.

In a packed programme, event highlights are expected to include the men’s javelin, men’s long jump, women’s 800m, men’s 400m, men’s 1500m and women’s pole vault.

Disappointing news this week with the cancellation of this year’s Belfast 5km and Mile.

The event was due to take place on June 9 with Uganda’s Joshua Cheptegei attempting a world 5km record on a course taking in Belfast’s city centre landmarks.

No reason has been given, although the organisers made the following statement on social media: “It is with regret we have had to postpone the inaugural Belfast 5km and Mile on Sunday, June 9 until 2025. We thank you for your understanding and will communicate further event information regarding rescheduling in due course.”