Hession and Cragg top rankings

IRELAND has two athletes at the top of the European rankings after an exciting weekend that saw Paul Hession (Athenry) run the fastest 200m by a European this year at the Woodies DIY national track and field championships at Morton Stadium and Alistair Cragg post the fastest 5,000m by a European at a meet in Brasschaat, Belgium.

Having broken the 200m record in Sheffield where he posted a smart 20.44 secs, Hession was hardly expected to repeat that performance within a week.

Conditions were perfect at Santry on Saturday afternoon when he went to the blocks and he blazed to a sensational 20.30 secs and that was marginally quicker than Marlon Devonish who topped the European rankings.

“I feel I can still run faster,” he said. “And now I think I can make the final at the world championships in Osaka. That is now the target.

“It is nice to see my name up there at the top of the European rankings and that gives you a bit of confidence. It has been a great year for me so far.”

David Hynes (Menapians) finished second in 21.60 secs with Darragh Graham (Slí Cualann) third in 21.62 secs.

Hession has also broken the 100m record twice this year and — in contrast to Saturday’s weather — he went to the line for the 100m final in torrential rain yesterday but he still claimed the title for the first time in 10.45 secs with Jer O’Donoghue (An Riocht AC) second in 10.86 secs and David Hynes third in 11.03 secs.

Alistair Cragg did not compete yesterday on the advice of Dr Bill Cuddihy as he was suffering from a slight calf muscle strain following his heroics in Belgium on Saturday night when he posted the fastest time by a European this year — setting a new personal best for 5,000m at 13:07.10.

He finished third behind two Ethiopians, Bekana Daba, 13:06.52 and Markos Geneti, 13:07.65.

Cragg’s previous best time was 13:08.97 and after setting a new national record for 10,000m it gives him an exciting option for Osaka.

“I thought I had the race won until the little Ethiopian passed us,” he said. “I knew that run was in me but I just needed to be sensible about it.

“We went out seven seconds slower than I did in Rome. I thought I’d feel amazing going through at that pace but I did not feel great.

“I led for five or six hundred metres, then the American kid led for a lap. I took the lead going into the last lap and I actually thought I won it until the last 30 metres.

“I came back with a slight calf muscle problem and I spoke to Patsy (McGonagle) and Bill (Cuddihy). They told me I would be taking a chance if I ran today. Obviously I am disappointed with that.”

If his leg is all right he will compete in a 3,000m race in Monte Carlo on Wednesday night and then hopes to break the European two-mile record at the Super Grand Prix in Crystal Palace on Friday week.

David Campbell (St Coca’s AC, Kilcock) claimed the 800m place on the team for the world championships in Osaka when he led all the way to take his first senior outdoor title in 1:49.45 with Thomas Chamney (Crusaders) second in 1:49.81.

Both athletes had achieved the B standard for the world championships and only one could be selected. David McCarthy (Le Cheile) took third place in 1:50.85.

While Campbell’s target was always a spot in Osaka he returned to the track later to win the 1,500m in 3:45.21 from Colm Rooney (Clonliffe Harriers), 3:45.55 and champion, Liam Reale (Limerick AC), 3:45.74.

Reale, who already has a B standard for Osaka, led for practically all of the race before being overtaken in the finishing straight and he will now have an anxious wait to see if he will be selected. The team will not be finalised until August 8.

Meanwhile David Gillick had another false start scare when he went to the blocks in defence of his 400m title.

The European indoor champion false started as he did in Cork but this time he had a second chance. Instead, Gordon Kennedy from Tullamore who actually made the first false start at The Mardyke, was disqualified when he false started in a reversal.

Gillick went on to retain his title in 46.34 secs from former champion, Paul McKee, 46.84 secs, and Brian Murphy (UCC), 47.63 secs. Gillick competes in Heusden next weekend.

Robert Heffernan, Colin Griffin and Jamie Costin, all qualified for next year’s Olympics, finished first second and third in the men’s 10k walk with Heffernan winning in 39:11.78 from Griffin who broke 40 minutes with 39:51.85, and Costin, 50:28.02.

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