Belfast Telegraph

Sports Awards

Top Ulster trio earn Euro cross country places


By Brian Hill

Three Northern Ireland athletes gained automatic selection for the European Cross Country Championships in Slovakia in two weeks time at yesterday's Irish Life National Championships in Dublin.

Rio Olympians Paul Pollock and Kerry O'Flaherty made light of heavy conditions to finish first and second, respectively, in their events while North Down's Craig McMeechan had the race of his life to take the Junior title.

Marathon specialist Pollock was always one of the favourites in the Men's 8k event and broke away at 7k to record an impressive victory by over 80 metres.

The Holywood doctor will use Slovakia as preparation for the Commonwealth Marathon in Australia next April.

Newcastle steeplechase specialist O'Flaherty finished runner up once again in her 8k event, some 50 metres behind favourite Shona Heaslip to secure yet another of her numerous European vests. Bangor's McMeechan was third in the recent Bobby Rea races but his Junior win yesterday pitches him into international class.

√QUB's Emma Mitchell successfully defended her Podium 4Sport Joe Seeley 10k title at Ormeau Park which encompassed the NI title. Her fast winning time of 34 minutes was only marginally slower than her win a year ago.

The 900 strong field had to endure cold, showery conditions as Mitchell and recent Dublin marathon winner Laura Graham ran neck and neck for virtually the entire race before Mitchell broke away in the final kilometre for a 21 seconds victory margin over Graham who had the consolation of a PB time.

She was followed by Lisburn's Kelly Neely (35.51), Gladys Ganiel of North Belfast (36.21) and Ciara Toner of Springwell ( 37.06).

In the Men's race, Foyle Valley's Scott Rankin at one stage enjoyed a 50 metres lead over favourite Gideon Kipsang. However Derry's Kipsang reeled him in at the half way stage and went on to win in 30 mins 39 secs.

Rankin was runner up for the second year in 30.56, followed by Comber winner Neil Johnston (31.05), Danny Mooney of Letterkenny (31.11), Declan Reed of City of Derry (31.14 ) and North Belfast's Andrew Annett (31.18 ). North were easy team winners from City of Derry.

Belfast Telegraph

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