Mary Peters Track International Opening Event
Many of Ulster's top athletes and a string of international competitors from Ireland, England Scotland and Australia will be taking part in today's Mary Peters Track International Opening Event organised by Belfast City Council and Athletics NI.
The event marks the opening of the £3m facility which has already made a significant impact on the local scene with many athletes recording personal best performances on the new 8 lane surface.
Dame Mary Peters and Lord Coe, Chairman of the BOA will be acting as co hosts for the occasion. This latest development represents the enhancement of a facility which has been graced in the past with such household names as Zola Budd, Steve Ovett, Steve Cram, Ed Moses, Colin Jackson and Linford Christie.
The occasion provides the perfect opportunity for many of the Province's local athletes to compete against international opposition.
Many of Ulster's athletes played a key part last weekend in Ireland’s success in achieving its best ever 7th place in the European Team Championships in Dublin.
Interest will centre on high hurdler Ben Reynolds who set Santry Stadium alight 2 days ago with a new NI record time of 13.71 secs which took 0.04 secs off his own two year old record. This time is also within the qualification standards for the Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games.
Belfast spectators will also have the opportunity to see Ireland's pole vault star, Tori Pena in action. The Finn Valley woman who is currently ranked joint 7th in the world with her new Irish record height of 4.60 metres finished 2nd in Dublin where she fought the strongest winds she has experienced in competition. Pena will be perfect competition for local woman Zoe Brown who on several occasions last winter achieved the Commonwealth Games qualification mark of 4.20 metres.
Top Irish sprint stars Jason Smyth and Amy Foster will be aiming to top the podium in the 100 metres events.
The late withdrawal of Britain's Mark -Lewis Francis clears the way for Paralympic Champion Smyth to take full advantage of the fast surface and perhaps beat his season's best legal time of 10.36 secs which he recorded in Florida.
Jason is fresh from his battling 3rd place in the European Team event. His Belfast opponents include many of Ireland's top ranked sprinters including Oliver Back (10.77 secs), Jonathan Browning (10.85 secs), Patrick Colhoun (10.87 secs) and Ballymena's Dean Adams.
The Men's 1,500 metres race will be one of the meeting's highlights with a classy international line up including Australian Collis Birmingham who ran a fast 3.38.44 time in Finland recently finished a superb 8th against the cream of Africa in this year's world cross country.
The field also includes 4 times British champion Nick McCormick and John Colgan who is the son of former World Champion Eamon. Also racing will be the top 3 finishers from the recent NI & Ulster Championships, Winner Danny Mooney of Letterkenny, runner up Conor Bradley of City of Derry and 3rd placed Stephen Scullion.
There will be a strong Australian presence in both the male and female 800 metres races. Current Australian Champion Kelly Hetherington won her title with PB of 2.01.22 and Selma Kajan from New South Wales who also set new figures recently of 2.03.64.
17 year old Newry AC star Aislinn Crossey will have an opportunity to improve on her PB of 2mins 8 secs. Also racing is Scottish international Clare Gibson.
Australian 1,500 metres champion James Kann is favourite for the 2 lap event as he has a best time of 1.46.74. He will face new NI & Ulster title holder Michael Dyer and North Down’s Mark Patterson.
Belfast's Jason Harvey and Ireland's Dara Kervic were members of the winning Irish 400 metres relay team in Dublin. They will be up against Scotland's Kris Robertson and England's Rory Evans who have both broken 47 secs recently.
In the Women's 400 metres British U23 hurdles bronze medallist Christine McMahon of Ballymena faces Australia’s Tamsyn Manou who has run 53.70 secs this year and Ireland No 2 Sinead Denny.