Teenager Phoebe Gill bursts on the scene with outstanding 800m run in Belfast

The St Alban’s runner beats multiple records at the Mary Peters Track

Phoebe Gill
Phoebe Gill produced a sensational performance at the Mary Peters Track

A STAR was born amid a record-breaking spree at the Belfast Irish Milers’ meeting at the Mary Peters Track on Saturday.

Phoebe Gill, just turned 17 last month, arrived a relative unknown and became an instant 800m star throughout the athletics world in less than two minutes - or in one minute and 57.86 seconds to be exact.

That was a British and European U18 record, second fastest ever by an U18 female, an Olympic qualifying mark, and more….

The St Alban’s athlete, with a maternal grandmother from Roscommon, took up the gauntlet as early as the 300m mark, led at the bell, forged a huge advantage on the back straight for the last time.

She entered the home straight well clear of a class field but would she wilt? Those doubts were quickly dispelled as the young Gill maintained her rhythm strongly all the way to the tape.

Scot Erin Wallace was runner-up over two seconds back in 2:00.23, with Denmark’s Annemarie Nissen third in 2:00.26.

The first five finishers all ran personal bests but Leevale’s Louise Shanahan, who was going for her third consecutive victory in the race, had to settle for a lowly eighth on this occasion in 2:02.73.

The men’s 800m was also a cracker with Enfield & Haringey’s Callum Dodds re-writing his personal best with a win in an Olympic qualifying time of 1:44.79.

Tamworth’s Tom Randolph also strengthened his Paris credentials with a 1:44.91 mark ahead of Norway’s Ole Jakob Solbu in third with a personal best 1:45.55.

Further down the field Raheny Shamrock Cillian Kirwan moved to the top of the Irish rankings for the year with a 1:45.75 mark.

Neither 1500m contest lived up to expectations. Wigan & District Harrier Ava Lloyd was a comfortable winner of the women’s race in 4:19.26, while Bantry AC’s Darragh McElhinney handed out a masterclass in tactics in the men’s metric mile, winning with a modest time at this level of 3:42.48.

Nick Griggs finished strongly for third in 3:42.74, over six seconds outside the 3:36.00 European qualifying mark he was seeking.

“We have only ourselves to blame (for not following the pacemaker),” was the Tyrone teenager’s wry comment.

Both 100m sprints had to contend with a slight breeze (-1.1m/s) with national record-holder Israel Olatunde taking the men’s race in 10.56 seconds, while Dundrum South Dublin’s Mollie O’Reilly won the women’s 100m in 11.80.

Raheny’s Mark Smyth was fastest in the men’s 200m recording 21.17. More impressive was Bandon AC’s Phil Healy, one of a number of athletes at the meeting who had represented Ireland at the World Athletics Relays in the Bahamas just five days earlier, winning the women’s 200m in 23.44.

The 400m races also went to returning athletes, with Cillín Greene winning the men’s “A” race in 46.37 as Sophie Becker surprised even herself with a personal best 51.13 clocking in the women’s race, a European qualifying time.

“I was very tired (after returning) but I tried to put it out of my mind,” said the Raheny Shamrock athlete.

Almi Nerurkar was a convincing winner of the women’s 3000m in 9:17.33. That surname may sound familiar to followers of the sport. That is because her father is Richard Nerurkar, one of the world’s best marathon runners in the 1990s with a best of 2:08:36 for the distance and fifth in the 1996 Olympic Marathon, among other notable achievements.

The only northern victor throughout the afternoon in a top-graded race went to Callum Morgan. The CNDR athlete stalked the leader William Battershill for 2900 metres before launching his attack in the final straight of the 3000m. Morgan was rewarded for his stealth not only with the win but a sub-eight clocking in 7:59.37.