Kevin hits Games time but Laura is just seconds out
Belfast's Kevin Seaward became the 14th Northern Ireland athlete to achieve the qualification standard for next year's Gold Coast Commonwealth Games with a superb run in yesterday's Berlin Marathon where he finished 20th out of 60,000 competitors in his second best ever time of 2 hours 15 minutes 50 seconds.
It was heartbreak, however, for Mourne Runners' competitor Laura Graham who, despite a massive personal best time, missed out on the qualification mark by an agonising five seconds.
Seaward, a 31 year old teacher, was hotly tipped to produce the goods in Berlin on the back of an impressive run in April's London marathon.
He did not disappoint with a controlled, even paced race where the wet conditions appeared to suit him. He went through the half way mark in 67 mins 55 secs which was 40 seconds inside the time needed for the Games. He continued in that vein for most of the race with his pace only slowing in the final few kilometres.
Seaward's time at the finish remained 40 seconds inside the qualification requirement. He was also the third European finisher in the race behind Great Britain's Jonathan Mellor who was 10th. Kevin clearly relishes the Berlin course as it was the venue for his Personal Best time of 2.14.52 two years ago.
Seaward's qualification will further add to the selectors' problems when they meet shortly to prioritise the list of 14 athletes for the Games.
In any other Games, Laura Graham's performance yesterday would have guaranteed her selection. The Belfast Marathon winner sliced a massive 4 mins 41 secs off her PB to finish 14th in 2.37.05 This was, however, five seconds outside the Gold Coast mark.
The 31 year old had ran with North Belfast pair Gladys Ganiel and Breege Connolly for over half the race, at which stage all three were in striking distance of the qualification time.
Connolly dropped out shortly afterwards and, by 35K, Laura had a marginal 11 seconds gap over Ganiel. In the final two kilometres, Graham made a desperate effort to achieve the standard but fell just short of the time at the line.
For her part, 40 year old Ganiel, who competed in the last Games in 2014 in Glasgow, also fought to the end to finish one place behind Laura in 2.37.55 which was also a PB by some 52 seconds.
Graham has the consolation of now topping the current Irish Marathon list. This places her in prime position for selection for next summer's European Championship Marathon which is also in Berlin .
Willowfield's Neill Weir ran well to record 2.34.40.
The race was won by Olympic champion Eliud Kipchoge of Kenya in the thirrd fastest ever time of 2.03.32. Kenya's Gladys Cherono took her second Woman's title in 2.20.23.