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Smyth must hold off rising star Sexton to regain the NI crown


Tough test: Jason Smyth is aiming to end four-year wait
Tough test: Jason Smyth is aiming to end four-year wait

By Brian Hill

Multi-world Paralympic king Jason Smyth will face new local sprint sensation Aaron Sexton in tomorrow's Northern Ireland and Ulster Senior Championships, which incorporates the Under 18-20 Age Group series, at the Mary Peters Track.

Smyth (30) - best known for winning numerous Paralympic titles over the years in the visually impaired category - is aiming to take his first NI 100m crown in four years.

He still holds the Northern Irish record of 10.22s, which he set seven years ago.

He lost to Commonwealth medallist Leon Reid in last year's Championships, and will face fierce competition this time out from Sexton (17), the Commonwealth Youth champion, who will be competing in next month's World Junior Championships in Finland.

The North Down man last week took two All-Ireland Schools' titles in personal best times of 10.52s in the 100m - which broke Smyth's Northern Irish Junior record - and 21.12s in the 200m.

These times place him second in the current Irish Senior lists and make him favourite for both sprint titles.

Others in contention over 100m include Ballymena's Michael McAuley, who was fourth in the Irish Schools, team-mate Dean Adams, DSD's Mark Kavanagh and Crusaders' Adam McMullen.

Beechmount's 400m runner Davicia Patterson also had a record victory run last weekend.

A year ago she narrowly missed out on gold, but this time the 17-year-old should have little difficulty taking her first Senior title, particularly after her recent Northern Irish Junior record of 53.64s, which is currently the fastest time in Ireland this year.

The men's 400m should be the usual classy affair with arch rivals Andrew Mellon of QUB and Ballymena's Craig Newell fighting for gold.

Champion Newell, who won last year in a personal best of 47.31s, will be keen to avenge his recent narrow loss in Belgium to Mellon, who recorded 47.82s.

Birchfield's Theo Campbell, who ran under 47s last year, is also a major contender.

The women's 1,500m will feature Northern Irish long distance record holder Emma Mitchell of Queen's, who recorded an indoor time of 4m 14s this year. She should have enough to get the better of Newcastle steeplechaser Kerry O'Flaherty.

Michael McKillop, meanwhile, will miss August's IPC European Championships in Berlin through injury.

The four-time Paralympic gold medallist has been blighted by long-term injuries since 2012.

The Glengormley native is hopeful of making a return in time for the World Para-Athletics Championships next year.

Derry ace Smyth, however, is set to compete for Ireland at the Euros.

McKillop, who has also won an impressive nine World Championship titles, announced that he was "not in a position to compete" but added that he would continue to work hard in order to be in a position to retain his world titles next year.

Belfast Telegraph


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