ATHLETICS: Zak Hanna claims first place in Glenariff

Zak Hanna
Zak Hanna

Zak Hanna and Martsje Hell were crowned ‘King and Queen of the Glens’ at the 6.5 miles race promoted by Ballymena Runners at a cold but pleasant Glenariff Forest Park.

Hanna and reigning champion Mark McKinstry went straight to the front as the big field went into action. On the first climb where they were greeted by a lone piper it was McKinstry, Hanna, Kent Swann and Matthew Hewitt going clear from the rest.

It was McKinstry and Hanna together at half distance and they were still side by side as they came back to the piper with less than 800 metres to go.

McKinstry looked very strong but it was the young mountain star Hanna from Newcastle who unleashed a blistering finish to win from the holder with Kent Swann giving North Belfast two of the podium positions in third.

Hewitt, Neil Weir and James Trainor made up the top six with Jason Wilson and Timothy Johnston next.

The ladies race was expected to be close and Hell took the win.

But defending champion Shileen O’Kane and North Belfast pair Hell and Penny Lindsay made it a very close race.

At the first check point it was Martsje from Penny and Shileen and the order stayed the same as they turned back and came to the piper.

Martsje Hell had enough in hand to cross the line 16 seconds before her team mate with Shileen third. Paula Arthur-McCarthy, third last time, came fourth ahead of Karen McLaughlin and Janice Plumb.

There were almost 400 finishers in the superbly organised event. The nominated charity was Chest, Heart and Stroke.

Meanwhile the athletics fraternity is delighted with the news that General Secretary John Allen has been awarded the MBE in the Queens New Year’s Honours.

Former International middle distance runner John has been involved the sport for almost 50 years and has been at the centre of huge changes and major expansion.

He has been at the forefront of major promotions including the World Cross Country Championships at Upper Malone in 1999.

The award is recognition of his major contribution to the sport over many years.

And Dromore Athletics coach and founder member Michael McGreevy has been awarded the BEM for Services to the Sport and the Local Community.

He has been responsible for the growth of the club and has coached a stream of athletes to International standard. The award is well deserved.