Belfast Telegraph

Soaring Zoe Brown can hit the heights for Ulster fans

By Brian Hill

Northern Ireland athletes bound for this month's Commonwealth Games in Glasgow will be tested to the full when they take on competitors from the USA and Australia at tonight's big Belfast International meeting at the Mary Peters Track (6.30pm).

In what is the best meeting in the province for 20 years, local competitors will also face stiff opposition from athletes from the Republic of Ireland, England and Wales.

The expected large crowd will be paying particular attention to pole vaulter Zoe Brown and 400m hurdler Christine McMahon who are in the form of their lives ahead of the Games.

Brown, who will be competing in the Games for the fourth time, has broken her own Northern Ireland record three times this year.

The 30-year-old is now a serious medal contender in Glasgow, highlighted by her number two ranking in the Commonwealth courtesy of a recent 4.40m vault in Athlone.

QUB student McMahon will relish the prospect of racing tonight against Ferrybank's Jessie Barr who, while the second fastest Irish woman ever, is currently recovering from injury.

McMahon's 56.97 seconds time at the weekend in Belgium is a European qualification mark and makes her favourite in a field which also includes English U23 silver medallist Aisha Naibe-Way.

Two of Ireland's European Team champions will be racing in the men's 400m. Clonliffe's Brian Gregan won the title in Tallinn, Estonia 10 days ago and is expected to beat Letterkenny's Mark English who steps down from his specialist 800m event which he won in Tallinn.

Games-bound Jason Harvey and Peter Glass are also in the mix.

The women's 400m includes Woodford's Shana Cox and Laura Maddox who were finallists in last weekend's British Championships in Birmingham.

Cox (29), a World Championship bronze medallist, had to make do with her third silver in as many years when she just lost out to Sale's Kelly Massey.

The best quality event of the evening is the men's 1,500m which again features last year's top two.

Ireland number one Paul Robinson lost out last year by 0.5 seconds to Australia's Collis Birmingham who won in 3.37.18.

However both may have to play second fiddle to Australian record holder Ryan Gregson.

Glasgow-bound Danny Mooney of Letterkenny will hope that these stars will drag him to a PB.

Organisers are hoping that Ulster's newly-crowned English U23 champion Katie Kirk will race in the 800m despite giving the weekend's British Championships a miss due to a nasty cold.

Main opposition should come from Australia's Selma Kajan who has set three PBs this season and is fastest in the field with 2.02.13.

Top Irish two-lap runner Laura Crowe is also in the race as well as Newry's Aislinn Crossey who is now bound for the World Junior Championships in Oregon later this month.

Also going to Oregon is Abbey's Karl Griffin who races over 800m against Kenyan Reuben Bett who ran a world-class 1.44.79 in 2009.

Ireland's top sprinter Amy Foster, from Newtownards, goes in the 100m where she faces current Northern Ireland champion Catherine McManus of DCH.

A busy McManus also races in the 100m hurdles, tackling England U23 silver medallist Megan Marrs of Lisburn AC.

Birchfield's Leon Reid competes in the sprint while North Down's Ben Reynolds races in the 110m hurdles.

Belfast Telegraph


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