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Mills hits form with progress in Juniors

JOANNA Mills, the teenage athlete involved in the Irish Olympic 4x400m relay selection controversy, was one of the two Irish athletes who performed best yesterday at the ultra-competitive World Junior Championships in Barcelona.

There was disappointment for world youth race walk champion Kate Veale, who went into the 10km walk final injured and could only manage 18th place.

The West Waterford star needed to pull out a lifetime best because the first six home were faster than her personal best of 46:32 and bronze was won by Columbia's Sandra Arenas in 45.44.

But Veale, who did her Leaving Cert this summer and has been carrying a quad muscle injury for the last six weeks, went into the race heavily strapped and was never in contention.

Despite sweltering 30 degree heat, the final kilometre was covered in 4:09 as Russia's Ekaterina Medvedeva took gold in 45:41 ahead of compatriot Nadezhda Leontyeva (45.43).

Veale finished 18th in 48:50.20, with Kerry team-mate Emma Prendiville (Farranfore Maine Valley AC) 31st in 52:41.51.

But there was much better news for Ballymena and Antrim's Mills (above), who reached today's 400m hurdles semi-finals.

She had a tough outside lane (seven) in the first heat, won by America's title favourite Ashley Spencer in 52.58, but Mills clocked a season-best time 54.17 in finishing fourth and got through as a fastest loser.

Ferrybank's Ben Kiely did even better in his 400m hurdles heats, knocking a sizeable chunk off his old personal best (53:10) when he clocked 52:39, from lane nine, to finish third and clinch an automatic semi-final spot.

As expected, the pace in the blistering women's 800m semi-finals - two of them won by Britons in 2:03.3 - proved too hot for DSD's Siofra Cléirigh-Buttner, who was sixth in 2:06.70 but, at 16, she is exceptionally young for this U-20 event and will be eligible for it again in 2014.

Irish interest today, apart from the hurdlers, will centre on Carlow sprinter Marcus Lawler in the 200m heats.