Ciara Mageean makes latest breakthrough in 800m with sub-1:59 time

Kerr holds off Ingebrigtsen all the way to the line

As season opening races go, Ciara Mageean lay down more than just a marker on Saturday, the Down athlete becoming the first Irish woman to break 1:59 for 800 metres when lowering her own Irish record to 1:58.51.

Competing at the British Milers Club meeting in Manchester, her first track race since last September, the Portaferry native crossed the line in second, taking well over half a second off her previous record of 1:59.27, set at the same meeting on this weekend last year.

Mageean finished second in a highly competitive race behind 17-year-old British athlete Phoebe Gill, who took the win in 1:58.08. Two weeks ago in Belfast, Gill ran a European under-18 record of 1:57.86, the previous mark standing for 45 years.

Mageean also holds the Irish 1,500m and mile records, both improved last year to 3:55.87 and 4:14.58 respectively. The 32 year old is also well inside the Paris Olympic qualifying standard of 1:59.30, although it’s unlikely she will double up in Paris.


Also racing in Manchester was Sarah Healy from UCD AC, who finished fourth in the same race. The 23 year old clocked a new personal best of 2:00.86 which moved her to eighth on the Irish all-time list.

Mageean’s performance in Manchester, where she’s been based for the last number of years, also gives her the 800m option for the European Athletics Championships in Rome next month. She won silver in the 1,500m two years ago in Munich.

Sarah Lavin also enjoyed an impressive win over the 100m hurdles at the Continental Tour Silver meeting in Nancy, France, clocking 12.92, ahead of 2022 world silver medallist Brittany Anderson of Jamaica. Luke McCann also had his season opener over 1,500m, running 3:37.27 to finish a close ninth in the 1500m, Jimmy Gressier from France winning in 3:36.50.

In Brussels, Sharlene Mawdsley moved down to the 100m, running a lifetime best of 11.54, the same time as former European under-20 champion Gina Akpe-Moses, who is also returning to good form.

Jakob Ingebrigtsen, meanwhile, also had his first race of the season at the Prefontaine Classic, and his much-anticipated showdown with World 1,500m champion Josh Kerr in the Bowerman Mile did not disappoint.

The 23-year-old Norwegian has not raced since this same meeting last year, staged in September when he won the mile in 3:43.73, although this time he had to bow to the superiority of Kerr, who won in a British record of 3:45.34, breaking Steve Cram’s 1985 record.

After the pacer came through halfway in 1:53, Kerr moved up to the front with 600m remaining, a bold move which aligned the favourites at the front, with Ingebrigtsen and Yared Nuguse behind, and 2022 World champion Jake Wightman in fourth.

Kerr’s tactic worked a treat as he held off Ingebrigtsen all the way to the line, the Olympic champion, coming off an Achilles tendon injury during the winter, second 3:45.60, with the US record-holder Nuguse third in 3:46.22.

“I tried to fight him,” Ingebrigtsen said, “but today for me was more of a time trial. Of course, we’re racing, but it’s definitely some differences in terms of approach into this race because this, for some people, this is their final test, even before the Olympics in Paris. But this is not my final test. I think if anything, this is going to be an exciting summer. For myself.”

Earlier, in a race that was set up as a 10,000m world record attempt, the competitor who initially had no intention of challenging the record became the one ultimately to smash it.

In the end, Beatrice Chebet of Kenya ran 28:54.14, subject to ratification, to become the first woman under 29 minutes on the track. Her performance is also seven seconds faster than the previous world record of 29:01.03 that Letesenbet Gidey set in 2021.

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan

Ian O'Riordan is an Irish Times sports journalist writing on athletics