Superb packing saw the City of Derry Spartans women’s squad jump back to the top of the ANI cross country League with an impressive victory over leaders Springwell at Saturday’s Irvinestown Cross Country meeting.
However, despite another classy front running win for Declan Reed in the men’s race, their male counterparts were well beaten by long term leaders Newcastle AC and now trail the doughty Mourne men by seven points with two scoring races remaining.
It’s still all to play for, however, as this weekend’s action moves on to the Stormont grounds where both Spartans squads will look to maximise points before the February 14th showdown at the NI & Ulster Senior championships in Lurgan.
The men in particular will need to assemble a much stronger squad than last weekend to have any chance to claw back some points and set the scene for a League title head-to-head in Lurgan.
Anyway back to Saturday’s races which attracted decent turnouts to the Newcarne Estate where the much improved course and weather from last year produced some excellent action.
The Women’s 4.5K was staged over three undulating laps and featured a couple of challenging inclines for the big field to negotiate.
Perhaps it was appropriate that a noted mountain and trail runner Karen Alexander took the honours ahead of Springwell’s Masters International Soina Knox and Fermanagh based Dutch athlete Martsje Hell.
Now running with the emerging Acorns club Alexander came through towards the end of the first lap to go clear with Knox winning the battle for the minor places.
Behind them the in-form Jackie McGinley, another Masters International was a clear fourth, claiming the leading F45 award and brilliantly leading the Spartans to an easy team success which saw them leap frog runners-up Springwell, to the top of the ongoing and ultra competitive ANI Cross Country League.
McGinley’s brave effort inspired her team mates Angeline McShane 6th, Hannah Shields 7th and Sarah Kivelehan 8th who packed superbly throughout and the red vests quartet notched a 25 point total to win comfortably from Springwell on 45 points and Enniskillen Running Club with 57 points taking third.
Janeen Leese in 14th was the Spartans insurance finisher and the red vests turned out a full 12 woman complement to grab maximum league points and move to the top of the table.
Most of Saturday’s squad had also contributed significantly to the red vests Women’s Masters and Intermediates successes in Coleraine a week earlier and once brought their ‘A’ game to the table.
It’s a real busy period for serious Cross Country runners, races come thick and fast, League events and championship action almost every week at present.
The current schedule is hectic with many runners looking at a race a week since the NI & Ulster Masters/Intermediate just over a week past in Coleraine, up to the Provincial Senior on February 14th. The next three weekends will test everyone.
Foyle Valley’s top class Master Martina McMullan was a good 5th and Sheona McKinney 11th as the Valley girls finished fourth team, Acorns claiming the third spot.
Locals at Raphoe 5k
Omagh Harrier Paul Barbour won Sunday’s Lifford 5K series race in Raphoe with a 15m 39secs clocking and the promoting club’s Claire McGuigan took the women’s honours on 18m 53s as around 300 finishers were recorded at the Donegal venue.
The significant local performances included Derry City Track Club’s Cathal McLaughlin who ran 16m 42s for sixth overall and top M45; City of Derry’s Mark Mullan 8th on 16m 53s and DCTC’s Matt Doherty who was 10th and top U18 on 17m 03s.
DCTC’s Hannah McGowan ran 20m 18s for third in the Women’s race and Malcolm McCausland posted 19m 59s for the M60 prize. Another DCTC man Robert Bigger was the top M55 on 18m 38s.