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Chris O’Donnell and Sarah Lavin impress in Spain with breakthrough personal bests


Chris O’Donnell: Impressive. Photo: Sportsfile

Chris O’Donnell: Impressive. Photo: Sportsfile

Chris O’Donnell: Impressive. Photo: Sportsfile

Olympians Chris O’Donnell and Sarah Lavin produced a pair of breakthrough performances at the Continental Tour Silver meeting in Madrid on Saturday night.

O’Donnell smashed his personal best to finish second in the men’s 400m in 45.26 and Lavin clocked a PB of 12.93 to finish runner-up in the 100m hurdles.

O’Donnell, an Olympic finalist in the mixed 4x400m relay last year, had a previous best of 45.55, but his time in Madrid moved him joint-second on the Irish all-time list alongside Brian Gregan, and behind only David Gillick’s Irish record of 44.77. He finished a close second behind Olympic and world medallist Luguelin Santos of Dominican Republic.

Lavin’s previous best was the 12.94 she ran in Slovakia earlier this month, but she edged closer to Derval O’Rourke on the Irish all-time list with her 12.93 to finish runner-up to Denmark’s Mette Graversgaard (12.89). Both Lavin and O’Donnell have yet to hit the automatic qualifying standards for next month’s World Championships in Oregon, but both are within the quota cut-off based on their world rankings.

At the Northern Ireland Championships in Belfast, teen star Nick Griggs had a thrilling duel with former national senior champion Harry Purcell over 800m, with Purcell holding him off in a sprint finish, 1:55.49 to 1:55.67, their second lap covered in a swift 53 seconds. At the same meeting Jason Smyth opened his season, the six-time Paralympic champion finishing third in the 100m in 10.66. The race was won by Oliver Swinney in 10.48.

Elsewhere, Hugh Armstrong of Ballina AC produced an impressive kick to beat Dunboyne’s Peter Somba to win the Tallaght 5-Mile yesterday, the first race in the Irish Life Dublin Race Series. Armstrong’s time of 24:13 edged Somba by two seconds with Tomás Fitzpatrick third in 26:31.

“It’s just great to be back out racing again, I was injured last year with two stress fractures in my back,” said the 27-year-old from Mayo. Ciara Hickey of Brothers Pearse AC took the women’s title in 27:35 with Sarah Mulligan second in 29:14. “I’m delighted to win because it is my local race and there was a big gang from the club out here running,” said Hickey. “The atmosphere was great, they really put on a great show.”

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Elsewhere, there were some promising performances from the Irish at the U-18 International in Franconville, France. Elizabeth Ndudi leapt 6.28m to win the girls’ long jump. Fintan Dewhirst clocked a PB of 52.98 to take the boys’ 400m hurdles, while there were wins for Oisín Joyce in the javelin (67.40m) and Jack Fenlon in the 3000m (8:21.82).

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