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Ulster athletes impress on the big stage in Zurich

By Brian Hill

There was success for Ulster athletes in the European Championships in Zurich over the weekend, Amy Foster playing a vital role in the sprint relay team's new Irish record. St Malachy's duo Kevin Seaward and Thomas Frazer produced impressive performances in yesterday's marathon, their agreement to run together for much of the race ensuring Ireland finished a commendable seventh in the team event.

The 28-year-old Cardiff-based Seaward, competing in only his second marathon, finished in an excellent 28th place in 2.20.30 while 33-year-old Frazer, who lives in Chicago, was 35th in 2.22.33 out of a total of 70 starters.

Rathfarnham's Sean Hehir ran a superb race to finish 20th in 2.17.59 despite the heat.

Daniele Meucci of Italy won the race in a PB of 2.11.08.

Seaward said: "I ran the first half of the race a bit more conservatively once we had sussed the hill out. I was happy with that – my splits were fairly even and we survived!"

Annadale's Paul Pollock had been hotly tipped to perform well following last year's World Championship Marathon in Moscow where he was second European finisher.

However the Holywood doctor failed to take the start line, clearly showing he has still not fully recovered from a tendonitis problem which badly affected his training.

In the women's marathon Ireland's Fionnuala Britton finished an unexpected 10th in an impressive 2.31.46 which places her fourth on the Irish all-time list. Ireland were seventh in the team event.

In the Letzigrund Stadium, Lisburn AC's Foster led out the Irish team in the 4x100m relay heat. The Newtownards girl ran well, executing a smooth changeover in the inside lane to Ferrybank's Kelly Proper.

UCD's Sarah Lavin then ran the bend with Bandon AC's Phil Healy taking the last leg.

The team finished fourth in 43.84 which was a frustrating 0.04 seconds short of a qualification time for the final.

However the quartet had the consolation of a new Irish record which beat the old mark of 43.93 set in Barcelona in 2010.

There were also celebrations for the Ireland men's 4x400 relay team – including Ulster medal hero Mark English – which excelled by smashing the Irish record twice in a 24-hour period.

They set a new figure of 3.3.57 in the heats, however this paled into insignificance in yesterday's final in which the men in green truly excelled to run two seconds faster in 3.01.67 for an unexpected fifth place behind the winning Great Britain team (2.58.79).

The Irish team comprised Brian Gregan on the first leg, then new 800m bronze medallist English, Richard Morrisey on the third leg plus Thomas Barr who anchored the team to such a memorable result.

St Cocoa's Paul Robinson was unfortunate to miss out on a medal in a chaotic 1,500m when he finished fourth in 3.46.35 just behind GB bronze medallist Chris O'Hare (3.46.18).

On a great day for Team GB, as well as that 4x400m relay gold, there were relay victories in both the men's and women's 4x100m.

Mo Farah and Greg Rutherford starred – winning the 5,000m and long jump respectively – as Great Britain topped the medal table after winning five golds on an incredible last day. The British team will return home from Zurich today with a record 23 medals.

Farah, who also won the 10,000m, said: "This means a lot to me."

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