Local athletes were out in force at Saturday’s Springwell Cross Country in the University of Ulster Coleraine grounds and made their presence felt with a series of impressive performances from Juniors to Masters.
The host club, Springwell produced an impressive individual and team double in the featured Male and Female races with Ritchie Nicholls and Eimear Mullan posting convincing wins to lead their respective squads to both team titles on offer.
City of Derry Spartans were female team runners-up with Foyle Valley third and the male Spartans finished third behind the hosts and Newcastle AC as the red vests maintained their twin challenge for the ANI Winter League title.
At underage level Fintan Stewart was a convincing winner in the U17 Boys’ race, younger sister Alea and Cara Laverty finished one-two in the U13 Girls’ race and there were fourth place finishes for Michael Houston in the Primary Schools event and Lily Toorish in the U13 race.
At senior level the Women’s three miler saw a runaway win for Springwell’s cross channel based Eimear Mullan who led from gun-to-tape to win from North Down’s Jessica Craig and Cathy McCourt of North Belfast Harriers.
She had an incredible 1min 22secs cushion at the line and with superb packing the Springwell scoring quartet saw off the City of Derry challenge, with the red vests also comfortably clear of Foyle Valley in third, as league leaders North Down with only two finishers, scored zero points and slipped behind Springwell and the Spartans at the top of the League table.
Marina Campbell in eighth place led the City of Derry squad home and picked up the F35 prize in the process, and Hannah Shields 14th, Catherine Whoriskey 15th and Junior, Aoife Laverty 17th completed the scorers.
Gemma McGinty had another good run for Foyle Valley in 22nd and Roisin Lynch was the top F60 finisher, yet another age group win for the peerless Spartan.
Staying with the local Masters, Gerry Lynch and Christy McMonagle took the M65 and M70 honours in their three miler, the mature Spartans impressing in advance of the upcoming Masters International in Nottingham.
Ritchie Nicholls romped to a brilliant win in the Men’s five miler and backed up by excellent packing led Springwell to a surprise team victory over Newcastle by a two point margin with the Spartans edging out North Down for third spot.
Scott Rankin ran strongly for the individual runners-up place and led his Foyle Valley squad to fifth in the team standings.
Nicholls and Rankin were followed by Springwell’s Neil Johnston and North Belfast’s Mark McKinstry with new dad, Allan Bogle heading the Spartans challenge in fifth spot.
Emmett McGinty 9th, Colin Roberts 15th and top Male Junior Michael Melarkey in 23rd completed the scores for the red vests and this gave them third team on the day and with 12 finishers adding valuable extra points they remain second behind Newcastle in the overall League standings to date.
For Valley, Scott Rankin was ably supported by Pius McIntyre 13th, Stephen Connor 25th and Roy McGilloway 60th as the purple vests turned out in good numbers to add more points to their League total.
McConnell Shield Meeting Up Next
Next up is the McConnell Shield meeting in Ballyclare this Saturday, race four in the ANI League and with points at stake it will be important that the local clubs field strong squads.
That will be somewhat of a problem in the Men’s race as the NI & Ulster Novice Championships in Cavan on Sunday will rob the Spartans in particular of several key performers, but hopefully enough resources will be found to properly cover these back to back fixtures.