IN FOGGY and frozen underfoot conditions, Saturday’s Antrim International Challenge Cross Country proved a useful outing for the local contingent in action.
And there was significant success for City of Derry’s Declan Reed, running well in the very classy senior men’s race, to finish as fifth N.I. man home behind a leading phalanx of Africans and top cross channel and Irish representatives.
Colin Roberts was second in a hard fought Men’s Masters tussle and U20’s Amy McDaid and JP Williamson who both finished fifth in their respective championship races.
With Masters Jacqueline McGinley and Gerry Lynch winning their age groups and Aoife Laverty showing well for seventh in the hotly contested Girls U15 event the City of Derry members were prominent indeed.
Kenyan Mike Kigen led home five other African athletes in impressive style to totally dominate the Men’s 9.6K race which concluded the extensive race programme.
The African train led from the front all the way with the final places only settled in a real last lap burn-up as Kigen sprinted home six seconds clear for a great win.
The day long blanket of fog was at its worst during the men’s race, visibility at times less than 50 metres but it was a class event nonetheless.
Last year’s winner and English No.2, Andy Vernon led home the chasers in seventh, Mark Kirwan in 14th was the top Irish finisher just in front of Annadale’s Eddie McGinley who led home the N.I. contingent in 15th.
Declan Reed got caught out by the fierce first lap pace but impressed by working his way through the field for 24th at the line and will have benefited from his first exposure to international competition.
This was a good test in advance of the upcoming NI/Ulster Senior Championships where he is expected to be one of the key men in the Spartans’ challenge for team honours.
Colin Roberts got back into competitive action with the runners-up spot in the Masters 7.4K. Always up with the pace he took the scalp of Annadale’s Paul Carroll who defeated him for individual bronze at the recent NI/Ulster Masters Championships in Stormont but the Northern pair were caught napping by a late surge from the winner, Declan Power from Clonliffe Harriers.
Paul McCafferty was 13th, Philip Donaghy was strong for 22nd and Peter Lilburn in 32nd finished second M55 to add to his Masters Winter League points.
M65 Gerry Lynch was 36th and top in his age group as he finalises his preparations for the National Masters in two weeks time in Dublin, where he will lock horns with clubmate Christy McMonagle as both target M65 individual honours.
Jackie McGinley was in top form winning the F40 age group ahead of North Down rival Stephanie Hambling and is looking good for honours in that age category.
Jackie was in with the International women where two English runners, Charlotte Purdue and Louise Damen out-sprinted Ester Chemtai from Kenya to reverse the honours from the men’s race. Abbey AC’s reigning NI/Ulster senior champion, Gladys Ganiel-O Neill was the leading Irish finisher in an eye-catching 10th spot in this race and Inishowen AC runner Karen Crossan finished two places ahead of McGinley.
JP Williamson produced a brilliant run in the U20 championship, just pipped on the line by Willowfield’s Ryan Holt as they finished a second apart in fourth and fifth.
Top Irish Junior Shane Quinn from Waterford won convincingly from a Scot and an English athlete but the Spartans’ effort was top class, Holt actually beat him by 49 seconds in Stormont a few weeks ago!
Amy McDaid was also fifth in her U20 Championship race and will be looking to raise her game some more at next week’s District Schools Championships.
In the U15 Girls race Aoife Laverty had a good outing for seventh, defeated by a couple of cross channel visitors, three NI and one DSD athlete, but she too will target the upcoming Schools Championships with confidence.
The third and final round of the local Primary Schools Cross Country League will be in St.Columb’s Park this Friday, January 28th at 12.30 p.m and with places still up for grabs in next month’s NI Finals in Mallusk, an exciting finale is expected.
Last Friday at the Sports Complex Ben McCarron of Steelstown P.S. strode to his second win in the boy’s race and Round one Girls runner-up Ella Rae Sainsbury went one better this time with a good win.
There were big turn-outs again at Templemore and the final round should serve up some more terrific action at St. Columb’s Park. The top three Boy’s and Girl’s teams plus the top five individuals not in the qualifying teams, go through to the Mallusk N.I. Finals on Wednesday, February 23rd so this Friday’s action will be crucial.
Hannah Wins Ultra
Hannah Shields was in Herefordshire over the weekend, competing in a 90 mile Ultra Marathon, 45 miles on Saturday and the same again on Sunday.
Just a normal weekend away then for the Everest conqueror and the local dentist turned in a fantastic performance, finishing first lady well clear of the opposition after starting the final day in second place. She broke the course record by over two hours with this brilliant effort and afterwards admitted to being absolutely shattered but delighted with the performance and the win.
Meanwhile, Martin O’Donnell (Olympian AC) claimed silver medal in the M40 over 60 metres in Neenagh at the National Masters Track & Field Championships held at the weekend.