Gideon Kipsang completed his Bangor hat-rick, whilst Declan Reed (City of Derry Spartans) and Emma Mitchell (Clonliffe Harriers) claimed the NI & Ulster titles, as the cream of local talent fought it out on a pleasant day to be beside the sea.
Despite having a stacked field to contend with, Gideon Kipsang was always in control of proceedings, opening up a lead within the first few hundred metres that was never challenged throughout the course of the race. With a mostly flat first 5k, and a slight tailwind, the flying Kenyan was through halfway in 14:56, a full 24 seconds ahead of his nearest challenger, however the returning headwind along the Ballyholme promenade and a more undulating second half put paid to hopes of a sub 30, the race eventually being won in rapid 30:15.
Whilst the day turned out to be somewhat of a procession for the race winner, the battle for the title of NI & Ulster champion served up an almighty scrap, with at least eight high quality athletes in the group vying for second. As they came off the Ballyholme promenade on the outward leg at around 4K, Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) was at the head of the pack, with Finn McNally (Brighton Phoenix) and Ben Branagh (St Malachy’s), whilst Reed (City of Derry Spartans), McCaughey (North Belfast Harriers) and McNiff (Newcastle AC) were in close proximity, as was Scott Rankin (Foyle Valley), and international triathlete Russell White (Dromore).
McKinstry continued to set the pace through the 6k mark in Groomsport village, but as they headed into the last couple of kilometres back along a gusty Ballyholme promenade the lead group was down to five with Reed, McCaughey, Branagh, White and McNally all in contention. Branagh and White had dropped back slightly as the contenders passed the 9k marker at the bottom of Shandon Drive, or heartbreak hill as it was known to many on the day, but with a PB of 30:56 set one year previously, Declan Reed showed again that the course is to his liking and made his move, coming off the hill freshest to clinch the title in 30:57, just outlasting Conan McCaughey (30:58) with Finn McNally (same time) completing the championship podium.
As expected, Emma Mitchell (Clonliffe Harriers) dominated the ladies race, cruising through half way in 17:02 before breaking the tape in 34:44 (24th overall), whilst Gladys Ganiel (North Belfast Harriers) claimed the runners up spot in 36:31, and Lisburn native Lauren Wilson (Edinburgh AC) posted 37:09 to edge the battle for third with Sinead Sweeney (East Down AC), 37:13, and Sarah Lavery (Beechmount AC), 37:14.
There was consolation for Lavery with a team gold for the Beechmount ladies, Helen Lavery (39:53) and Catherine Diver (39:53) packing well, before Maria Dunlop recorded the all important ‘fourth to score’ in 43:02. Gladys Ganiel received good support from fellow North Belfast Harriers, Roisin Irvine (39:00), April Clarke (42:25) and Fionnuala O’Hare (45:22), while junior athlete, Edie Carroll (45:06) ensured a championship medal for East Down AC, with Deirdre Weatherall (41:54) and Caroline McNabb’s (41:09) complimenting the aforementioned Sinead Sweeney.
In the men’s event, North Belfast Harriers scoring quartet of Conan McCaughey (30:58), Mark McKinstry (31:29), John Black (32:08) and Philip Goss (33:18), proved too strong for Foyle Valley’s Scott Rankin (31:23), Craig Simpson (32:02), Chris McGuinness (32:31) and Pius McIntyre (33:51), while a strong turnout from Annadale Striders clinched a championship bronze, with Eskander Turki (32:21), Ciaran McKendry (35:12), Paul Carroll (35:49) and Simon Murray (36:01) claiming the medals.