Mixed emotions for Barrs in Helsinki


Athletics:There were mixed emotions for the Barr family after the conclusion of this morning’s session at the European Athletics Championships as Jessie booked her place in the final of the women’s 400 metres hurdles, while younger brother Thomas narrowly missed it.

For Jessie – at age 22 and exactly three years older than Thomas – the quest to make the final was almost certain to demand a personal best, and she did exactly that, clocking 55.93 in fourth, and dipping under the 56-second barrier for the first time.

There was a nervous wait as she watched the second semi-final, knowing only top three in each, plus the two fastest losers, would progress, but in the end she was safe. That she’d achieved it running out in lane eight made it all the more rewarding.

“To be honest lane eight has always been good to me,” she said, “and because I’m taller it definitely suits me better than the tighter lanes. It meant as well I could just concentrate on my own race for the first 200 metres. I knew they’d come up on me, but I got my stride pattern a bit better than the heat, and know I can go a little faster again.”

A little later Thomas was in action the men’s event, also knowing a personal best would be required to see him through: once again the 19-year-old ran with considerable class, yet fell just short - his 50.22 in fifth the second fastest run of his career, but with four men ahead of him breaking 50 seconds, the final proved one step too far.

“I always knew it would take a sub-50, and I really thought I had that in me. The wind was my in the face coming off the backstretch, and threw me off a bit, but then I finished very strong. Just not strong enough.

“But I can’t ask for too much more. I didn’t feel quite as fresh as yesterday, and didn’t get out too well, but still ran 50.22. So if I can correct a few of those things, who knows how fast I can this season.”

Stephanie Reilly was the sole Irish entrant in the women’s 3000m steeplechase and at age 34 she eased into Saturday’s final by running the second fastest time of her career, 9:44.15, finishing sixth in her heat and easily enough to progress as one of the seven fastest losers over the two heats.

Brian Gregan came second in his semi-final of the men’s 400m in a time of 45.76 to take his place in tomorrow’s final.

The 22-year-old from Tallaght had run a lifetime best of 45.63 to win his heat, but in tougher conditions today he came home strongly to finish behind Pavel Maslak of the Czech Republic.

Gregan’s time was the third fastest of the three semi-finals behind Maslak and Hungary’s Marcell Deak-Nagy, who won the first race in 45.68.

However there was disappointment for Tori Pena after she missed out on a place in the final of the women’s pole vault. Despite clearing 4.15 and 4.25 on her first attempt, Pena failed three times at 4.40 metres, below her personal best of 4.52, and with that missed the cut of the top 12.

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