Kevin Seaward put himself in pole position for Olympic Marathon selection with a tremendous run in Berlin and in the process moved up to third in the Northern Ireland all-time list.
The St Malachy’s athlete came 21st in the 40,000 strong field with 2:14:52, knocking two minutes off his best time and now has only Greg Hannon and Tommy Hughes ahead in the local rankings.
This performance must give the former Northern Ireland 5,000 champion an outstanding chance of making the Rio Olympics. He competed in the European Championships last year.
Paul Pollock also ran a best of 2:15:38 in 30th but had two Irish runners between him and Seaward as Sergiu Ciobanu was 24th in 2:15:14 and Mick Clohissey 29th in 2:15:35 also ran the standard.
Former Irish cross country champion Gary Murray in his first marathon was 54th in 2:21:09 while Londonderry’s Declan Reed ran his second fastest in 2:27:05. The race towards Rio is certainly hotting up with Martin Fegan earlier having the qualification time.
Lizzie Lee from Cork knocked an amazing five minutes off her best as she came 17th in 2:32:51. She now leads a list of Rio contenders which includes North Belfast’s Breege Connolly.
Meanwhile, Francis Marsh turned back the clock with a beautifully judged finish to win the Bangor Aurora Classic 10K Road Race.
The 2004 Northern Ireland Junior champion came out on top of a five-man battle.
Almost 600 athletes were sent on their way in Castle Park by the Mayor of Ards and North Down Alderman Alan Graham. The pre race favourite Brendan Teer was unfortunately a non starter due to injury.
As they moved through the town towards Ballyholme it was Marsh, Ben Morrow, Paul Rowan, Brendan Grew and Scot’s based Lindsay Gordon in a tight bunch. Marathon star Breege Connolly was well up among the leading men.
Rowan and Morrow were both looking good as they came to Groomsport but Marsh was always well placed and made his effort coming back to Ward Park. He brought the home North Down fans to their feet as he sprinted in to take a very popular victory.
Gordon, the winner at Castlewellan, was three seconds behind with Morrow just edging Rowan for third. Grew in fifth was only 16 seconds behind the winner.
Jamie McMeechan gave North Down another victory when he took the Junior prize ahead of Willowfield’s Anando Bamisile.
Breege Connolly was in a class of her own as she led the Ladies from start to finish. She had only seven men ahead of her as she won by over two minutes from North Down pair Jessica Craig and Rachel Gibson with Gerrie Short, Denise Logue and Catherine Diver following.
On this showing Breege will certainly play a part in the hotly contested race for Rio Marathon selection.
Paul Hannon had a blistering success in the wheelchair race finishing well clear of Jack Agnew and Jim Corbett.