The fourth edition of the AIT Grand Prix took place at Athlone Institute of Technology on Wednesday night before a sell-out crowd in the midland’s town.
The International races started just after 7pm with the heats of the Women’s 60m Hurdles. The former Olympic Hurdles Champion, Sally Pearson of Australia, billed as the star attraction of the meet, was defeated in the second semi-final of the 60m hurdles by Christina Manning of the USA who crossed the line in a time of 7.91 seconds, a new meeting record.
In the final, Manning posted a time of 7.82 seconds, the second-fastest in the world this year, with the only person to have run faster being the current world record holder. Manning’s fellow American Sharika Nelvis filled second spot, with Australian Sally Pearson, on her first competitive visit to Ireland, in third position.
D’Angelo Cherry returned to defend his 2016 title in the Men’s 60m but pulled a quad muscle in the final metres to finish third in 6.69 seconds, ahead of the 2016 World bronze medallist, Ramon Gittens in 6.60 secs. Sean Safo-Antwi of Ghana broke Cherry’s stadium record of 6.58 seconds, bringing the mark down to 6.56 seconds, in the process of winning the event.
In the Women’s 60m sprint, American Lekeisha Lawson ran 7.20 seconds in defeating Ghanian Flings Owosu-Agyapong (7.26 secs) and Ireland’s Phil Healy (7.31 secs).
The Men’s 400m race saw victory for Sebastian Rodger in a time of 46.57 seconds. Hot on his heels was the Czech Republic’s Patrik Sorm (46.87 secs) and Luke Lennon Ford from Britain in 47.14 seconds.
Briton Kyle Lanford won the Men’s 600m event in a new British record time of 1.16.10, five hundreds of a second ahead of American Eric Sowinskim with Arthur Kuciapski of Poland third in 1.16.77.
Canada’s former World Championships medallist Melissa Bishop ran a time of 2.01.42 to successfully defend her 800m title at AIT. Latvia’s Liga Velvere ran a PB of 2.02.18 in second, with Denmark’s Stina Troest finishing third in 2.03.72.
Romanian Claudia Bobocea stayed out front with a strong pacemaker, Sofie Van Accom, from the beginning of the Women’s 1,500m race, to come home clear in a time of 4.08.19, a PB and Romanian National Record. Australian visitor Zoe Buckman held Sarah McDonald off for second place, with Ireland’s Ciara Mageean and Kerry O’Flaherty finishing further behind. There was a silver lining for both Irish women, however, as they achieved a European indoor championship qualifying standard.
The track’s highly anticipated event, the Men’s Mile, saw another Australia athlete, Ryan Gregson, run sub four minutes, crossing the line in 3.56.49. Swede Johan Rogestedt finished second to the race favourite in a time of 3.58.11, in the process becoming the first Swedish male to run a sub 4-minute mile indoors. Briton, Tom Marshall, took the bronze position in 3.59.84.
In the Women’s Long Jump, Britain’s Lorraine Ugen claimed first prize with a best jump of 6.54m. Chantel Malone of the British Virgin Islands was second with 6.40m, ahead of Bulgarian Milena Mitkova who had a best jump of 6.18m.
Despite the absence of Mutaz Barshim who enthralled the Athlone crowd with his jump of 2.41m in 2015, the winning jump of 2.23min in the Men’s High Jump by Jamal Wilson from the Bahamas was a very respectable effort. Three centimetres lower was the best effort of Britain’s Mike Edwards, with Croatia’s Alan Melon edging out Englishman Matthew Roberts on countback for third place, both having cleared 2.15m.
AIT Grand Prix Meet Director, Professor Ciarán Ó Catháin, spoke about the continued success and popularity of the event in the midlands, saying “the fourth annual event has brought our International Grand Prix to a new level. The fields were full of talent, European championship standards and numerous national records. The atmosphere was electric and I must take this opportunity to thank our very generous sponsors without whom this event would not be possible. Our feedback from the competing athletes is very positive and many have expressed a wish to return again to AIT. This bodes well for the 2018 event where we hope to grow the event in the world rankings.”
eir Sport will show TV highlights of the event on Friday.