Men’s 4x400m team qualify for the final, as the women’s sprint relay side narrowly miss out, writes James Sullivan.
Day five of the European Championships in Zurich saw two Irish records fall. Ireland’s men’s 4x400m team broke the 12 year old Irish record in qualifying for tomorrow’s final, while the women’s 4x100m squad bettered the previous mark set four years ago at the Barcelona European Championships.
The men’s 4×400 quartet of Brian Gregan, Brian Murphy, Richard Morrissey and Thomas Barr finished third in their heat, with a clocking of 3:03.57, qualifying automatically for the final.
“The women spurred us on,” remarked a delighted Barr afterwards. “We didn’t want to be beaten by the girls after they got a national record. We gave it our best shot. We came home strong.”
Barr, who reached the 400m hurdles semi-final earlier this week, was pleased with how he anchored the side, holding off the challenge of multi-medal winner Kevin Borlee of Belgium in the closing stages. “I go out conservatively, stay fresh in the first half of the race, covering the most amount of ground for the least amount of effort. Then when it comes to the top bend, I have it in the legs.”
Mark English was rested for this afternoon’s heat, having run three 800m races in the last four days, but is likely to come into the second leg for tomorrow’s final, in place of Brian Murphy. Being the sixth fastest team during the first round, the Ferrybank AC athlete believes that anything can happen in the battle for medals. “We’ll leave everything on the track. Go out again, give it our all, give it even more than we had today, and see if we can come home with another national record. Anything can happen in the final with baton changeovers. Someone could slip up. Some of the favourites might not get around as fast as they want. We’ll be there, ready, on their heels.”
The Irish 400m hurdles record holder also believes that this weekend should be a stepping stone to further attention being put on Ireland’s relay squads. “Hopefully there will be more focus put on the men’s 4×4 team because we have a serious amount of depth in 400m at the moment, so it would be a shame not to be putting a bit of effort into it and actually getting to major championships.”
Earlier this afternoon, Ireland’s women’s 4x100m team also broke the Irish record, clocking a time of 43.84 seconds. However, the quartet of Amy Foster, Kelly Proper, Sarah Lavin and Phil Healy were left frustrated, as they missed out on qualification for tomorrow’s final by four hundredths of a second, finishing in tenth place overall.
“We had the four fastest girls out there today and you can’t ask for anything more than an Irish record,” stated Healy, who anchored the team from lane one.
“Four hundredths of a second is gutting. It is absolutely nothing,” remarked a proud Lavin afterwards. “We gave it absolutely everything and did ourselves proud today. Four years ago that would have made the final. We thought today that if we broke the National record, we’re in. We’re just very unlucky that the first heat was quicker than we anticipated.”
The UCD athlete, who competed in the 100m hurdles earlier this week, believes that this team is capable of qualifying for the Rio Olympics, and is excited about what the future holds. “I’d say we’ll need to get into the low 43s to make Rio. But we’re looking at teams like Switzerland, and they’re no better than us. If they can get to 42.9, then we surely can come close to it. We’re going to sit down, work on it together, so that it suits everyone, and that it fits into everyone’s programme.”