NI and Ulster team ready for Armagh International Road Races
14 February 2018
Commonwealth Games bound Emma Mitchell (QUB AC / Eamonn Christie), and James Edgar (City of Lisburn AC / Heather Ardis) will lead a strong Northern Ireland & Ulster team into tomorrow night’s Armagh International Road Races (Thursday 15th February 2018).
Multiple Northern Ireland record holder Emma, who struck gold over 3,000m at last weekend’s IUAA Indoor Championships in a new IUAA record of 9:15.68, will be joined on the ladies team by Olympian Kerry O’Flaherty (Newcastle AC / Richard Rodgers), AAI National Marathon Champion Laura Graham (Mourne Runners / Ryan Maxwell) and Scotland based Fionnuala Ross (Armagh AC / Dermot Kerr), who claimed a top ten finish at the Antrim International XC in January (2018).
In the men’s team, well respected triathlete James will line up alongside NI & Ulster 10k (Road) Champion Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley AC), Neil Johnston (Springwell RC / Mark Kirk), who clocked 14:36 in Armagh last year, and Danny Mooney (Letterkenny AC / Teresa McDaid); in January, Danny recorded a new 3,000m personal best of 8:22.13
The 28th annual running of the event, which is organised by Armagh AC, will attract an abundance of talent from across the globe. The fast and furious racing takes place around the historic Mall in the heart of the City Centre.
In 2017, a staggering 79 men ran under 15 minutes for 5k and 29 ladies dipped under the 10 minute mark for 3k. Ben Connor (England) took the men’s 5k title in 13:55 after an epic finish with Brandon Doughty (USA) – this was one second outside the record of 13:54 set by David Nightingale (USA) back in 2009. In the ladies 3k, double Olympian Laura Weightman (Morpeth Harriers) smashed Mary Cullen’s course record when winning in 8:59.
Looking ahead to tomorrow, Julian Oakley of New Zealand, who boasts a season’s best of 13:45 will play a part at the front. Dewi Griffiths (Wales) and Yannick Michiels (Belgium), two men who have performed well here previously, will also be considered as podium contenders. European Junior 1500m Champion Jake Wightman (Scotland) could also be worth watching – the same can be said for his Scottish counterpart Callum Hawkins, who hit the headlines with a stunning performance and fourth place finish in the marathon (2:10:17) at the IAAF World Championships in 2017. England’s Mahamed Mahamed and Ireland quartet Shane Quinn, John Travers, Hugh Armstrong and Sean Hehir will perform well.
In the ladies race, Laura Weightman will return and following a stint of warm weather training, will be keen to better the course record she set twelve months ago. Commonwealth Games 2014 Triathlon Champion Jodie Simpson (England) is an interesting entry, while Laura Whittle (Scotland), Verity Ockenden (Swansea Harriers), Rachael Burns (Liverpool Harriers), Naomi Taschimowitz (Salisbury Barnet Harriers) and Polish 3k Steeplechase Champion and Olympian Matylda Kowak will be there or there abouts. Sarah Inglis (Lothian AC), who now trains in Vancouver (Canada), will feature at the front if she starts. Una Britton (Kilkoole AC) and Ciara Durkin (Skerries AC) should lead the Ireland team home.
The race programme will kick off at 6.30pm with a number of junior races, measuring from 400m to 2,400m. The international races take place at 8.05pm (Women’s 3k) and 8.25pm (Men’s 5k), with an Open Men’s 3k race closing proceedings.
Speaking after the Northern Ireland & Ulster team was announced, Director of Coaching and Athlete Development for Athletics NI, Jackie Newton, said: “This event offers a great opportunity for our athletes to compete against other high-performing runners on home ground.
‘’Armagh AC do an extraordinary job in attracting deep fields of competitive athletes from at home and overseas including Poland, Finland, the USA and New Zealand.
‘’They provide a flat and fast course and a highly-charged atmosphere that produces personal best times for many. We are looking forward to seeing our home-grown athletes perform at this event next month and are confident that they will challenge the ‘visitors’ for top places and times”.