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Topi Raitanen: European steeplechase champion earns Armagh Road Races triumph

Finland's European 3,000m steeplechase champion Topi Raitanen won the men's 5km race in Armagh
Finland's European 3,000m steeplechase champion Topi Raitanen justified his favouritism as he took victory in a men's 5km race where the top 17 all finished under 14 minutes despite the wet and windy conditions

Finland's European 3,000m steeplechase champion Topi Raitanen won the men's 5km event at Thursday evening's Armagh Road Races.

Raitanen's anticipated tussle with in-form Irish star Nick Griggs didn't materialise as the Tyrone lad opted to concentrate on a weekend indoor race.

The Finn took victory in 13 minutes and 49 seconds as the leading 17 athletes all bettered 17 minutes.

Sale Harriers' Megan Davies won the women's 3,000m race.

Tokyo Olympics 800m finalist Alexandra Bell went into the women's event as favourite but had to settle for third spot after being outkicked by Davies and Cardiff athlete Cari Hughes in the final 100 metres.

Hughes was given the same time as Davies as they both clocked 9:19 with Bell completing the podium spots a further two seconds back.

The top 10 also finished within 11 seconds of the winner with Almi Nerurkar, daughter of former British marathon star Richard Nerurkar placing fifth, a second behind fourth-placed Sammy George.

Local athlete Fionnuala Ross was the first Irishwoman over the line in ninth spot as she clocked 9:27 as national cross country champion Fiona Everard had to settle for 15th in 9:35..

In the men's 5km, Raitanen, who took the European steeplechase title in Munich in the summer of 2022, produced a strong closing sprint as he pipped England's James Young by one second. Young was running in the colours of north east of England club Morpeth Harriers.

Sheffield & Dearne athlete Alfie Manthrope completed the podium positions as he ran the same time as Young amid a blanket finish.

Sweden's Viktor Johansson was two seconds behind in fourth with long-time Finnish pacemaker Mustafe Muuse taking seventh three second adrift of compatriot Raitanen.

In the men's 3km event, Hercules Wimbledon athlete Charlie Wyllie took victory in 8:32 as he finished eight seconds clear of second and third-placed competitors, Sweden's Simon Berhane and Drogheda & District's Christopher Keenan.

Belfast athlete Fionntan Campbell, who runs for the same Candour Club as Nick Griggs, ran impressively to take fourth spot on another evening of tremendous racing in Armagh despite the cold and windy condition on the Mall.