Cullen crowns comeback, Christie a class apart; National Seniors roundup, Day one
Mary Cullen crowned her return to the top level by taking her first national senior outdoor title since 2007 when sauntering to victory over 5,000m at the GloHealth National Championships in Santry today.
Cullen missed the last seven editions of these championships through injury, but looked on the way back to her brilliant best when racing to the front from the gun and, running alone in windy conditions, came home well clear in 16:07.40, half a lap ahead of Leevale’s Michelle Finn (16:43.31). Ciara Durkan took the bronze medal with 16:54.78.
Cullen has run 15:29 for 5000m already this year, but will not be at the World Championships later this month as she has yet to run below the qualifying standard of 15:20. Instead, she will focus on maintaining her form and run of good health in order to make her Olympic debut in Rio next year.
“I’m delighted to be back and win a national title,” said Cullen (North Sligo). “I’m not going to lie, it was tough.”
Christie’s change of gears
Mark Christie was equally imperious when winning the men’s 10,000m, though the Mullingar man left it much later than Cullen to make his winning move. Raheny’s Mick Clohisey led for much of the race, with Leevale’s Ryan Creech running alongside and Rathfarnham’s Sean Hehir also tagging along.
With a strong wind blowing across the track, Christie ran a coy race, sheltering in behind the leaders until the closing two laps. With 700m to run, he moved wide and changed gears impressively, bursting clear of Clohisey and Creech as they entered the back straight for the penultimate time. It was a move loaded with the class of an athlete who was going to be the inevitable champion if he was in touch as they took the bell.
In reality, Christie had nobody for company as he entered the final lap, and came home a distant winner in 29:52.84 ahead of Clohisey (30:04.10). Leeevale’s Ryan Creech made a superb return to his best after injury problems by finishing third in 30:09.34.
Sara Treacy was a facile winner of a poorly contested women’s steeplechase, with just three athletes going to the line. Treacy, who has already achieved the qualifying standard for the Olympic Games next year, was a class apart and turned in a solo effort to win in 9:58.92 ahead of Ann Marie McGlynn (10:37.27).
Hammer time for White
In the field events, Padraig White (Dunboyne) took another title in the men’s hammer, with a best of 60.10m, while in the men’s triple jump, Denis Finnegan took gold with a best jump of 15.19m. In the women’s triple jump, Mary Mcloone won yet another national title, her best effort of 12.71m coming in the first round.
Claire Fitzgerald was a clear winner of the women’s discus with a best effort of 52.52m, while Anna White was also an easy winner of the women’s javelin in 51.56m. Sean McBride took the men’s title with a best of 63.21m.
Fingallians won the women’s 4x100m, the only competitors who went to the line, in 49.16, while the men’s race was won by Clonliffe Harriers in 41.98.
In the junior men’s 3000m, Leevale’s Luke Horgan edged a sprint finish over Barry Keane of Waterford AC, 8:44.70 to 8:44.91.
Mark English cruised through his 800m qualifying heat, imposing himself from the start and looking like he had a reservoir of unused gears as he came home untroubled in 1:53.84. His chief rival tomorrrow, Declan Murray, was also relaxed in victory, winning his heat in 1:53.36.
Perhaps the race of the day tomorrow will be the women’s 800m final, with Ciara Everard and Ciara Mageean both looking superb when winning their respective heats today.
Eoin Everard looked just as relaxed as his younger sister when winning the first of the men’s 1500m heat and John Travers, who will be attempting the 1500m/5000m double tomorrow, was also composed in winning the second heat.
Marcus Lawler looks on course for a 100m/200m double after easing through the heats today, while Amy Foster was fastest of the women’s 100m qualifiers, winning in 12.07.
One-lap race for Beijing
The men’s 400m on Sunday will see athletes square off for the final available spots on the 4x400m squad for the World Championships. With Brian Gregan (who will race in lane two in the final after receiving a bye to race in Belgium today), Mark English and Thomas Barr already selected, it appears Brian Murphy, Dara Kervick, Craig Lynch, Zak Curran, Karl Griffin, Richard Morrissey and Timmy Crowe will battle for the two remaining spots.
Murphy was the fastest of today’s qualifiers, edging Kervick in a head-to-head home-stretch duel, 47.77 to 47.80. Morrissey also looked on the way back to his best when winning the third heat in 47.98.
Some of the above athletes will punch their tickets to Beijing tomorrow afternoon; others, meanwhile, will walk out of Santry especially pissed off. The stakes couldn’t be higher.