Medal hopes Thomas Barr and Ciara Mageean gave themselves the perfect send-off for next week’s European Championships in Berlin with foot-perfect performances at the Irish Life Health National Championships in Santry yesterday.
Barr was imperious in the men’s 400m hurdles, bounding to his eighth straight national title in a championship record of 49.56, coming home well clear of training partner Paul Byrne (51.37).
“I’m really happy with that,” said Barr. “I didn’t expect it to be as fast as it was but it bodes well for next week.”
Barr heads to Berlin ranked joint-third fastest in the 400m hurdles. “Every championships I’ve gone to I’ve nearly always brought my best, I thrive on rounds and I felt so much more relaxed out there. I was ready to race fast. I feel like I’m only coming into form now.”
Mageean, meanwhile, looked majestic when claiming the 800m and 1500m titles, a difficult double with only a little over an hour between.
After a slow opening in the 800m final, Mageean seized command and kicked clear to win in 2:07.93, with Mary-Ann O’Sullivan second in 2:09.18.
Just 70 minutes later, Mageean was back on track facing a stiffer challenge in the 1500m, but she proved up to the task.
Hitting the front on the final bend, she changed gears to secure her second gold of the day in 4:22.47, with Emerald’s Amy O’Donoghue enjoying a breakthrough to take silver in 4:23.08.
“It couldn’t have been better,” said Mageean. “I was doing two races so it was key to use it as a training stimulus.
I wanted to practise a few different parts of my race and finishing races strongly has been a key emphasis this year.
There were promising signs, too, for Mark English, the 2014 European 800m bronze medallist who got back to winning ways with his sixth national title, the UCD athlete kicking to victory in the 800m in 1:50.82.
John Fitzsimons finished a close second in 1:51.05.
English had only finished one race this season, a poor showing in Boston in May, and doubts were raised about his fitness after he dropped out of the Morton Games in recent weeks.
After winning yesterday he declared himself fit for Berlin. “I’m very excited going to Europeans and I’m confident I can go out there and make it a good race. John gave me a great race today”
With the deadline closing last night for qualification, Leevale’s Michelle Finn defied the odds to produce a stunning performance to book her place in Berlin.
Having missed 10 weeks with a foot injury in the spring, Finn was in a race against time to secure two B-standards in the 3000m steeplechase.
It appeared her hopes were ended after picking up an ankle injury midweek. But she ran through the pain to take victory in yesterday’s final in 9:46.19, booking her place in Germany.
“I wasn’t going to do it at all, I was told I probably wouldn’t even make it through warmup,” she said.
“I felt it when running but it didn’t slow me down. Once I stopped stressing about it, it was fine.”
Gina Akpe-Moses edged a tight women’s 100m final, the European U20 champion clocking 11.86 to beat Joan Healy in a photo finish by two-thousandths of a second.
Bandon’s Phil Healy had things all her own way in the women’s 200m final on Saturday, the 23-year-old coming home in 23.6, while in the men’s race Leon Reid came from behind to take victory in 20.74 ahead of Marcus Lawler (20.79). Reid added the 100m title yesterday in 10.42.
It was a great weekend for Cushinstown’s Elizabeth Morland, who won the women’s long jump with 6.10m, javelin with 43.41m, and won bronze in the 100m hurdles in 13.80.
Michaela Walsh took double gold in the hammer and shot put.