Belfast Telegraph

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Ulster's fab four are ready to hit the high notes on World stage


By Brian Hill

Four Northern Ireland competitors will face one of the biggest challenges of their lives when they take the start line in the World Indoor Athletics Championships which start today.

Lisburn AC colleagues Amy Foster, Megan Marrs and Ciara Mageean plus North Down's Ben Reynolds will compete against many of the best athletes in the World at the Birmingham Arena.

They will be hoping to at least emulate the performances which gained them selection for this most searching of challenges.

This is the first time that as many as four athletes from the province will be competing indoors at World level. First up is top Irish sprinter Foster in tomorrow's first round heat when she will face the cream of the United States and other leading sprinting nations with many competitors aiming for times below 7.20 seconds in the 60m.

The 29-year-old knows she will have to excel to progress to the next round despite her latest classy Irish record of 7.27 seconds when taking the Irish title a few days ago.

The Ards woman, who has been in the form of her life during this short indoor season, may well feel that she has a point to prove after missing out on Northern Ireland selection for next month's Commonwealth Games.

The sprint event also includes her Irish team-mate Ciara Neville of Emerald who, along with Foster and Anna Boyle, is a former joint holder of the Irish record at 7.30 seconds.

Later in the day Belfast's Megan Marrs will represent the Great Britain team in the 60m hurdles.

The 20-year-old Loughborough student has sprung out of relative obscurity this indoor season.

She took the British title in Birmingham with ease two weeks ago in another NI best time of 8.16 seconds.

Had Marrs produced these performances outdoors last season a trip to the Commonwealths would now be beckoning.

Instead she will be hoping that Birmingham will again be her lucky venue for another PB.

Portaferry's Mageean will be racing over 1,500m and the European outdoors silver medallist - who ran a solid time in Boston recently of 4 minutes 9.47 seconds - will be aiming for another good performance to reflect her move to Manchester under the wing of new coach Steve Vernon .

Birmingham should be a key indicator of her form leading to the Gold Coast Games.

Holywood hurdler Reynolds is a surprise addition to the small Irish team with his selection probably due to his time of 7.77 seconds last year. He was a semi-finalist in the World Indoors in Istanbul back in 2012.

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