Ballymena athlete defeats NI Champion to take gold in Fab 5 Series
Northern Ireland’s largest athletics competition, Firmus Energy Fab 5, returned for the fifth and final event in the series at the Mary Peters Track in Belfast, attracting athletes from across the island of Ireland and GB.
Over 300 competitors took part on the night, ranging in age from 8 to 85 years old.
The highly competitive series, which has been sponsored by natural gas company Firmus Energy since 2014, has welcomed in the region of 25,000 entries over the last thirty years and has included other well-known local sports stars, including Northern Ireland International footballer Aaron Hughes and Ulster and Irish Rugby player Stephen Ferris.
Among the standout performers on the night was Ballymena man Craig Newell (Ballymena & Antrim AC). The athlete has had a stellar run throughout the series, picking up multiple medals for his efforts on the track.
The former Northern Ireland 400m Champion came into the event with strong form, following his thrilling outing at the last event, where he ran a lifetime best of 21.58 seconds in the 200 metres, the fastest by a Northern Ireland athlete this year.
For the final event in the series, he faced the current Northern Ireland Champion Oliver Swinney in the Senior Men 100 metres. It was a nail-biting fight to the finish, but in the end the night belonged to Newell who finished the race with a time of 10.74 seconds, another lifetime best for the local athlete, defeating the current NI Champion in the process and taking home a gold medal.
Joining Newell and Sweeney on the podium was James Armstrong, who finished in third place with a time of 11.44 seconds.
Ballymena and Antrim AC athletes were well represented on the podium, taking home a raft of medals on the night. Emma Carroll managed to take gold for her efforts in the U13 Girls 100 metres. The athletics club took home four silver medals thanks to Emma Hutchinson, Mattias Beatty, Hope Morrowand Jack McCloskey for their respective age groups in the 100 metres.
Meanwhile, six more local athletes claimed bronze medals, including Niamh Campbell for the Javelin, Sarah Boyle, Sophie McKenna and Danyal Muhammad also took bronze in their respective 100 metres races. Katie Hilditch clinched a bronze in the U15 Girls 800 metres, and Emma Carroll bagged her second medal of the night, finishing third place in the U13 Girls Long Jump.
This year’s series; the first since 2019, has marked a thrilling return for local athletics. Spectators have been treated to some spectacular performances from competitors, with numerous national, international and para records broken by athletes from NI and beyond, as well as record participation from athletes, cheered on by crowds of hundreds in the stands.
Philip Hewitt, Energy Advisor at firmus energy, attended the event and said:
“This series has been a great success for everyone involved, we’ve seen record breaking performances from athletes from across disciplines, many of whom see this series as a vital part of their competitive calendar. The success of this series demonstrates the continued popularity of the athletic event and this year has been one to remember.”
Lagan Valley Athletics Club President, John Glover added:
“The last event in the Fab 5 Series certainly did not disappoint. We saw some great sporting performancesfrom athletes of all ages and abilities, including Darragh Andrews who broke her third para record of the series,and Frank Stewart, who at 85 years old went to number 1 in the UK Rankings after his throw in the Men’s Javelin,which is an incredible result.
“When the lights finally went out at 10.00 pm everybodyinvolved agreed that 2022 has been a fitting celebration of 30 years of Fab 5. We’re very proud at Lagan Valley AC to be the hosts and we look forward to welcoming everyone back next year”.