OUTSTANDING LETTERKENNY INTERNATIONAL

England’s Lee Emanuel turned in a master class in mile-running to cap an excellent evening of athletics at the Letterkenny International Meeting. A host of international performers astutely spread over the 11 events confirmed the status of the meeting as one of the top gatherings of its kind in the country this year.

Lee Emanuel holds off Rob Fitzgibbon for victory in the mile at Letterkenny.
Lee Emanuel holds off Rob Fitzgibbon for victory in the mile at Letterkenny.

The breeze died down and the late evening sun made an appearance almost on cue for the men’s mile, the final event of the programme. Pacemaker Tom Marshall did an expert job delivering the field to the halfway mark in exactly two minutes.

Emanuel, an European Indoor silver medallist over 3000m last year, found himself at the front of the field perhaps a little early as the Welshman stepped off the track with just less than two laps to run.

The Sheffield & Dearne did not abdicate from the responsibility and led at the bell in exactly three minutes. Emanuel was challenged along the final backstraight by the Rob Fitzgibbon, a 20-year-old with family connections to Portaferry.

The Brighton youngster looked the stronger entering the final 100 metres but the experience of Emanuel told as he drew away to win in 3:59.66, just outside the 3:59.43 record that Juan Luis Barrios set in 2014.

Fitzgibbon was agonisingly close to his first sub-four minute clocking with a 4:00.18 mark while USA athlete Ahmed Bile took third in 4:01.48. Kevin Batt in fifth was the first Irish finisher in 4:04.31. Willowfield’s Andrew Wright was far from disgraced with his 4:11.41 in eighth place.

Earlier Marshall had finished strongly in the 800m only to be held off by compatriot and even faster finisher Elliott Slade. Slade’s modest winning time of 1:53.16 reflected the wind at its strongest toward the start of the meeting.

Shane McGowan salvages a sub two minute clocking despite the conditions.
Shane McGowan salvages a sub two minute clocking despite the conditions.

Derry Track Club’s Shane McGowan faded over the last 200m but still managed to dip under two minutes in difficult conditions with a 1:59.83 timing.  But it is back to the drawing board for Matt Doherty after failing to reproduce his training form and ending up with a disappointing 2:04.37.

Poland’s Paulina Mikiewicz and Monika Halasa played the waiting game to perfection to take first and second in the women’s 800m. Mikiewicz’s 2:04.74 was worth several seconds faster in better conditions. World Masters’ champion Kelly Neely struggled to get to grips with the main field and ended up seventh in 2:08.42.  Poland also supplied the winner of the women’s 400m in Magdalena Gorzkowska with a 54.53 timing.

South Africa’s 45.66 second one lapper Shaun de Jager was a street ahead of the opposition in the men’s 400m despite clocking a mundane 47.10 seconds.  Aaron Carlyle took the final place on the podium to lead home the five DTC athletes in the race.  Carlyle’s time of 53.37 did not reflect the impressive nature of his performance which saw him go through 300m in 37 seconds and small change.

DTC 400m runners.
DTC 400m runners.

Tim Shiels (54.84), Brandon Connolly (56.60), Sean McIntyre (59.43) and Conor McIlveen (59.57) all ran seasonal or personal bests.

Senegal’s Josh Swaray (10.65/-0.9) and another Springbok Hendrik Maartens (21.06/+0.1) traded wins in the 100m and 200m respectively. The women’s 3000m steeplechase, lacking any local interest, went to Germany’s Sanaa Kouba in a very respectable 9:57.45.

Sligo’s Emmet Dunleavy started his finishing sprint too early in the men’s 3000m and was gunned down in the last furlong by American 3:58 miler Jake Hurysz. The winning time was a club standard 8:30.75.

Last minute cry-offs meant that Derry Track Club only had two representatives in the race.   Conán McCaughey made the long journey from his base in Scotland to compete and was rewarded with a 9:00.32 timing.   Conor Doherty made little impact with a 9:17.11 mark.

In the field the Czech Republic’s Petr Frydrych qualified for the Rio Olympics with a massive 84.10m throw. Greece’s Iltsios Georgios also impressed with a best throw of 65.53m and Strabane-Lifford thrower Sean McBride sneaked over 60 metres with a 60.43m mark.