Commonwealth Games 2014 – A look at the NI runners set to compete…

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Commonwealth Games 2014:

As the much anticipated Commonwealth Games officially kick off today (Wednesday 23rd July 2014), we (NiRunning) were keen to highlight the local runners who will be taking part in the prestigious Games, which will take place in Glasgow, Scotland until Sunday 3rd August 2014.  In total, there are twelve local athletes who will swap their club kit for that of their country as they take part in running specific events, putting all of their training and dedication into practice.

As the local heroes settle into the Athletes Village with the rest of Team NI, we have based our July ‘Monthly Feature’ around them, and provided a brief profile on each of the twelve runners who will wear the Northern Ireland vest with pride. The ‘mini-profile’ includes the events in which they will participate as well as their targets, hopes and expectations.

Please have a read and show your support for Team NI throughout the Commonwealth Games – You may notice a few familiar faces from the local running scene representing Team NI in Triathlon, namely Eimear Mullan (Springwell Running Club), Russell White (Dromore AC), Aileen Reid (City of Derry AC) and Emma Sharkey (Lagan Valley AC).

The NiRunning team would like to wish the entire Northern Ireland squad a massive GOOD LUCK as they go into the Commonwealth Games.   Throughout the competition, it is our intention to provide a daily, running specific, round up within the ‘News’ section of our website.  A full Commonwealth Games schedule is available HERE.

Kerry O’Flaherty:

Full Name:  Kerry Anne O’Flaherty

Age:  33

Based:  Loughinisland (Northern Ireland)

Club:  Newcastle AC

Coach:  Richard Rodgers and Geoff Watkin

Achievements:  Current Northern Ireland 3,000m and 3,000m Steeplechase record holder, AAI National 3,000m Indoor Champion (2011), Inter Counties 3,000m Champion (2012),  AAI National 1500m bronze medallist (2014).

What is your proudest moment in running so far? I’ve been running for around 20 years so it’s difficult to choose one moment. However, I love running, I get excited about racing, I’m passionate about the sport, it’s all about realising potential, so I suppose that evening, the 1st June this year when I achieved the Commonwealth Games standard in the 3k Steeplechase at the International Flanders Athletics Meeting in Oordegem, Belgium.

The spring preparation and the early season had gone really well in the States but I returned home still needing to run 5 seconds faster than my season’s best to make the Standard. I had won in a ‘gun to tape’ victory at the BMC meeting in Watford in the middle of May but had been disappointed to only register 10:10 – 15 seconds outside the Standard. So, it all came down to returning to Oordegem in Belgium where a year previously a wobbly water barrier had cost me the rest of the season. The gun went and with 22 girls in the race the first lap was a bit scrappy, the first water jump came and went smoothly and I got into a good rhythm of running. Coach Rodgers was on the back straight and I could hear him shout “on pace.”  I felt relaxed and strong, I just needed to hold it together and not panic. Two laps to go and I could hear, “you need two 79s!” I knew it was there, I just needed to keep it controlled and try and wind it up last lap.

The last two laps of a chase can be brutal as I had experienced before in Stanford, this time it was different, I still had the running in the legs. The bell went and I was still on it, by how much I wasn’t sure. Into the home straight and gunning for the line, as I crossed I could see 9:52, 9:53.  I was delighted but not celebrating yet as you have to wait for the photo finish to know the exact times, it felt like an age. 9:52.94, within the Commonwealth Games Standard of 9:55 and nearly 4 seconds off my existing Northern Ireland Record and an Irish ‘B’ standard for the European Championships. We were delighted.

What event will you be competing in at the Commonwealth Games?  3,000m Steeplechase – It’s a straight final on the evening of Wednesday 30th July 2014 (7:45pm).

Personal Best (for this event):  9:52.94 (31/5/14 – Oordegem, Belgium)

Target:  Hopefully I will run my fastest ever 3,000m Steeplechase and a top ten finish would be fantastic.

What are you hopes and expectations going into the Commonwealth Games?  I hope to enjoy the experience of a ‘first major Games’. It will be the biggest race of my career so far, with 40,000 spectators due in the stadium that evening. I hope I can fully embrace the support of the crowd and put all the years of training into my performance. I would like to do Northern Ireland proud and everyone who has supported me from my family and coaches, to the support I receive from Athletics NI, the Sports Institute NI and sponsors Hydro Run UK, Arctic Sports Recovery and X-Bionic UK. I’d love if the Commonwealth Games were to be my proudest moment.

Leon Reid:

Full Name:  Leon Hugh Reid

Age:  19 (20 on the 26th July 2014)

Based:  Bath (England)

Club:  Birchfield Harriers

Coach:  James Hillier

Achievements:   European Junior silver medallist over 200m in 2013 (Reiti, Italy), Represented Great Britain & NI at Junior level.

What is your proudest moment in running so far? My proudest running moment would have to be winning a European Junior Championships silver medal in Reiti, Italy (2013).

What event/s will you be competing in at the Commonwealth Games?  100m, 200m and the 4x100m

Personal Best (for these events): 100m – 10.44secs (18/5/14 – Loughborough, England) and 200m – 20.62secs (20/7/14 – Reiti, Italy)

Target:  My target is to run fast – I’m not looking for times just want to be fast in my races.

What are your hopes and expectations for the Commonwealth Games? My expectations are to be able to enjoy myself in front of a big crowd and make the people back home be able to smile at my performances.

Katie Kirk:

Full Name:  Katherine (Katie) Ann Kirk; Yes my name is actually Katherine but I hate being called that, my parents don’t even call me Katherine!

Age:  20

Based:  Holywood (Northern Ireland)

Club:  QUB AC – Queens University Belfast AC/Queens Harriers

Coach:  Mark Kirk

Achievements:  British Indoor bronze medallist over 800m (2014), Northern Ireland Junior 400m record holder, European Junior Champion (as part of 4x400m Relay) in 2011, British Junior 400m Champion over 400m (2011), AAI National 800m Champion (2014).

What is your proudest moment in running so far? Running a Northern Ireland junior record for the 400m in 2011 and running my Commonwealth Games qualifying time this year.  This year has been a really good experience for me so far and I have been loving the racing and training. I am very proud that I have ran well this year and I genuinely have surprised myself with my performances.  A British Athletics senior indoor bronze medal and an England Athletics U-23 title have been the highlights so far!

What event will you be competing in at the Commonwealth Games?  800m

Personal Best (for this event):  2:02.78 (22/6/14 – Bedford, England)

Target:  I would love to run another PB and make it to the semi-final.  Anything can happen and if I made the final I would be over the moon. But I won’t be disappointed if I don’t.

What are you hopes and expectations going into the Commonwealth Games? I simply hope to go there and run the best that I can. I would like to think that I will be satisfied with my performance and give it my all. I am a very competitive person and general on an occasion I do perform well. So I hope to continue that theme and come off the track exhilarated and excited by the experience.

Paul Pollock:

Full Name:   Paul Gerard Pollock

Age:  28

Based:  London (England)

Club:  Annadale Striders / Kent AC

Coach:  Andy Hobdell

Achievements: AAI National Marathon and Marathon Champion (2012), Represented Ireland at World Championships in 2013 (21st place in Marathon) and 2012 (34th place in Half Marathon).  Northern Ireland Half Marathon record holder.

What is your proudest moment in running so far? Running has given me so many happy moments that it’s near impossible to pick just one. However, one that stands out in my mind is a race I did a long time ago, when I first took up running. It was one of my first ever track races and it was set up by, my then coach, Bobby Rea, in order for me to run sub 3.56 for 1500m, the qualifying time for the Commonwealth Youth Games in Melbourne 2006. Held at my home track (Mary Peters, Belfast) two of my old clubmates at Abbey AC paced me round and thanks to their efforts I narrowly dipped inside the time, with 3.55 on the clock. I will always look back on that time with Abbey AC with fond memories. Bobby has since passed away and the club has folded. For anyone who says that running is an individual sport, I would point them towards the friendships formed in that club and remind them of that night of racing. I may have been the one who ran 3.55 but it was my clubmates that made it possible.

What event will you be competing in at the Commonwealth Games?  10,000m (Friday 1st August 2014)

Personal Best (for this event):  28:32 (4/5/14 – California, USA)

Target: My target is to break the Northern Ireland record at Commonwealth Games 10k (28.32).

What are you hopes and expectations going into the Commonwealth Games?  Unfortunately, due to injury in June of this year, it is a race against time for me to be fit enough to compete to the level I would expect at the Commonwealth Games. That said, training is starting to come along well and I think if I come away from the Games with the NI 10k record I would have to be happy with that. The Games this year are all part of a much bigger plan, culminating in the Rio Olympics in two years time. I fully expect to come back in four years, with the desire to win the Commonwealth marathon on the gold coast. With that in mind, I want to enjoy this experience of racing in front of friends and family in a packed stadium, learn what I can from the competition and hopefully come away with a positive outcome having raced against some of the best athletes in the world.

Christine McMahon:

Full Name:  Christine McMahon

Age:  22

Based:  Glengormley (Northern Ireland)

Club:  Ballymena & Antrim AC

Coach:  Ian Neely

Achievements:  European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) silver medallist over 400m hurdles in 2009, European Youth Olympic Festival (EYOF) bronze medallist in 4x100m Relay.  AAI National 400m hurdles Champion 2014.

What is your proudest moment in running so far? A silver medal in 400m hurdles at the European Youth Olympics in 2009. I see this as my break through performance, proving to myself that I had the ability to do well in 400m hurdles if I was willing to put in the hard work.

What event will you be competing in at the Commonwealth Games?  400m hurdles

Personal Best (for this event): 56.97secs (28/6/14 – Nivelles, Belgium)

Target:  To be happy with my race(s). If that means a position in the final or a PB then that’s even better!

What are you hopes and expectations going into the Commonwealth Games? I hope I will step up to the occasion and perform to the best of my ability in my event. I’m expecting an electric atmosphere in the stadium, great facilities and a very memorable trip!

Gladys Ganiel:

Full Name:  Gladys Ganiel

Age:  37

Based:  Belfast (Northern Ireland)

Club:  North Belfast Harriers

Coach:  Matt Shields

Achievements:  AAI National Half Marathon silver medallist in 2013, NI & Ulster Senior XC Champion 2013.

What is your proudest moment in running so far? It’s hard to choose, but I was of course happy and relieved when I ran the qualifying standard for the Commonwealths last year in the Berlin Marathon. I ran an evenly paced race and my last two kilometres were my fastest of the race, so that gave me confidence that I can run the marathon faster. I also am proud of my PB in the half marathon at the Rock n’ Roll Half Marathon in Dublin in August 2013 (75.08 on a course that was not flat and fast). I think that is a classier time for the half than 2:39 is for the full marathon.

But in some ways, I am also proud of what could be considered one of my worst races – when I ran 2.43.46 in Rotterdam in 2012. That was my third marathon in five and a half months as I was chasing the Olympic A standard. It was probably a mad thing to attempt Rotterdam after having run Dublin at the end of October and Houston in January, but in the Olympic year I felt I had to try, even though training through between Houston and Rotterdam was really tough. I ended up hurting my Achilles during Rotterdam, but still finished in a respectable time. Doing those three marathons and getting hurt (I couldn’t run for 4-5 months after Rotterdam) was kind of like a point of no return for me – after having invested that effort, and then the additional effort it took to heal and rehabilitate the Achilles, I didn’t want that to be the end of the road, so to speak.

What event will you be competing in at the Commonwealth Games? Marathon

Personal Best (for this event): 2:39.26 (29/9/13 – Berlin, Germany)

Target: I know, and the people around me know, the effort that it has taken to get to Glasgow and I want a performance worthy of that effort. There will be a few girls in the race who are capable of running right around or sub-2.30: Three Kenyans, two of the English, one of the Scottish, one Canadian, and one of the Australians. I am unlikely to contest against that group, but there also are women in the race in the 2.34-2.39 range: one of the English, two of the Scottish (if you assume Hayley Haining isn’t back to the form when she set her 2.29 PB in 2008 – though you never know!), two of the Australians, one from Lesotho, and after that I am not sure who other countries are putting out. I want to be competitive with the women in my range.

The course itself is probably not one you would normally set a PB on, but I think on a good day you could run close to your PB on it, so depending on what the conditions are like on the day, I would probably be happy if I am in my PB range.

What are you hopes and expectations going into the Commonwealth Games? I just hope to get the best out of myself on the day. With the marathon it is always a mixture of dread and anticipation heading into a race because you know how difficult the event is and at some point, you are going to suffer. Irish runner Keith Kelly, who was on the team with me at Providence College, once said before I was about to do a 10,000 meter race that it’s not the race you are nervous for, but the pain you are going to go through, and I think that’s right. At the same time, there are races when you actually enjoy working through that pain, so I am hoping for that experience!

I expect running in Glasgow will be as close as we athletes get to competing before a home crowd in a Commonwealth Games, and that is something really special. As an immigrant, albeit one who has been around for 14 years, I am so grateful for the way people have supported me as an athlete. That starts with my husband, Brian O’Neill, and his family, and includes my coach Matt Shields, Ray Treacy in Providence College (my coach at university who still gives me advice when I ask), the clubmates in North Belfast who run with me (especially over Divis & Black Mountain and on long marathon-paced runs), the Dublin Marathon’s Marathon Mission programme, and those in ANI and SINI who have put so much time and energy into helping me become a better athlete.

Jason Smyth:

Full Name:  Jason Smyth

Age:  27

Based:  London (England)

Club:  Derry City Track Club

Coach:  Clarence Callender

Achievements:  Paralympic gold medallist over 100m and 200m at London 2012.  T13 100m and 200m world record holder. Northern Ireland 100m record holder.

What is your proudest moment in running so far? My proudest moment in running to date was winning double gold in world record time at the London 2012 Paralympic Games in the T13 100m and 200m.

What event will you be competing in at the Commonwealth Games? 100m and 4x100m Relay

Personal Best (for this event): 100m – 10.22secs (21/5/11 – Clermont, USA)

Target: My target at the Commonwealth Games is to run a season’s best time.

What are you hopes and expectations going into the Commonwealth Games? I hope to make the most of the whole experience and enjoy ever minute of it as it is a rare occasion I get to compete for Northern Ireland.

Peter Glass:

Full Name:  Peter Glass

Age:  26

Based:  Newtownards (Northern Ireland)

Club:  Liverpool Harriers / North Down AC

Coach:  Brendan McConville

Achievements:  Scottish Decathlon Champion in 2013, Scottish Decathlon record holder.

What is your proudest moment in running so far? My proudest moment in athletics was competing with my coach/training partner and best friend Brendan McConville while I achieved the Commonwealth Games qualifying standard last year (2013).

What events will you be competing in at the Commonwealth Games?  4x100m Relay and Decathlon *Main Event – Decathlon*

Personal Best (for these events):  Decathlon – 7,510 points (14/7/14, Grangemouth, England).

Target:  My target is to score 7,700 points or more!

What are you hopes and expectations going into the Commonwealth Games? My hopes and expectations going into the Games are to gain as much experience as I can and then push for even bigger competition e.g World Championships and Olympics!

Ben Reynolds:

Full Name:  Ben Reynolds

Age:  23

Based:  Bangor (Northern Ireland)

Club:  North Down AC

Coach:  Tom Reynolds

Achievements:  Northern Ireland and Irish 110m hurdles record holder, Represented Northern Ireland at Commonwealth Youth Games in 2008.

What is your proudest moment in running so far? My proudest moment in running would be racing against arguably the greatest hurdler in history, Lui Xiang, at the World Indoors Championships in Istanbul (Turkey) 2011.

What events will you be competing in at the Commonwealth Games?  110m hurdles and 4x100m Relay

Personal Best (for this event): 110m hurdles – 13.49secs (25/6/13 – Belfast, Northern Ireland)

Target:  Top 8 finish.

What are your hopes and expectations going into the Commonwealth Games? To thrive off the occasion and to perform to my potential.  If I do that I should make the final and then who knows. My aim would be a top eight finish.

Amy Foster:

Full Name:  Amy Foster

Age:  25

Based:  Newtownards (Northern Ireland)

Club:  City of Lisburn AC

Coach:  David Reid

Achievements:  Northern Ireland 100m and 200m record holder, Joint AAI National 100m Champion, Represented Northern Ireland at Commonwealth Games in Delhi (2010), World Student Games Semi-Finalist (2013).

What is your proudest moment in running so far?  My proudest moment in running so far would be running an Irish and Northern Ireland 100m record this year (11.40secs).

What events will you be competing in at the Commonwealth Games?  100m

Personal Best (for this event):  11.40secs (10/5/14 – Clermont, USA)

Target:  I would like to reach the 100m final.

What are your hopes and expectations going into the Commonwealth Games?  I hope to give my best performance and enjoy my second Commonwealth Games.

Jason Harvey:

Full Name:  Jason Harvey

Age:  23

Based:  Belfast (Northern Ireland)

Club:  Crusaders AC

Coach:  Paul McKee

Achievements:  European Junior Championships Semi-Finalist (2013), Irish record holder as part of 4x400m Relay team (at World Junior Championships 2008).

What is your proudest moment in running so far?  Probably winning my first ever indoor medal as a youngster in High Jump in Nenagh and having my Granny and Grandpa there with the look of joy on there faces.  I will never forget that day!

What events will you be competing in at the Commonwealth Games?  400m hurdles and 4x100m Relay.

Personal Best (for this event):  400m – 50.13secs (28/7/14 – Dublin, Ireland)

Target:  I would like to make it to the final!

What are you hopes and expectations going into the Commonwealth Games? I always go into a competition with a determination to do my best. You never know what will happen on the day of the competition and I am coming into the Games with high confidence. Anything is possible with my event, a full second can be taken off by getting the race perfect. So I’m looking forward to taking each round as they come and you never know what will happen.

Danny Mooney:

Full Name:  Danny Mooney

Age:  26

Based:  Belfast (Northern Ireland)

Club:  Letterkenny AC

Coach:  Teresa McDaid

Achievements:  Irish Indoor 1500m silver medallist in 2014, NI & Ulster 1500m Champion in 2011 and 2013, NI & Ulster 800m Champion in 2012

What is your proudest moment in running so far?  Definitely has to be qualifying for the Glasgow Commonwealth Games 1500m, but winning the AAI National indoors in 2012 with my team mates in 2nd and 3rd place (Conor Bradley and Ruairi Finnegan); that was a great day.

What events will you be competing in at the Commonwealth Games? 1500m

Personal Best (for this event):  1500m – 3:42.11 (17/5/13 – Watford England)

Target:  I would like to make the 1500m final and run a personal best (ideally 3:39.99)

What are you hopes and expectations going into the Commonwealth Games? Initially stay for and healthy leading up to the Games. I would like to compete to the best of my ability and be competitive in my event no matter what the out come. I plan to enjoy the atmosphere and opening ceremony but focus on competition and representing Northern Ireland.