It was a busy and rewarding weekend for local athletes with clubs represented at major Indoor Championship events at Athlone, Magherafelt and Sheffield.
And there was also success at the inaugural Irvinestown cross country meeting in Fermanagh while a few road runners also made it to the opening Finn Valley Spring series 5K.
The Juvenile athletes from City of Derry Spartans and Olympian, between them, won a total of 26 individual and three Relay medals from the two day NI & Ulster Indoor Championships in Magherafelt with the rampant Spartans grabbing all but three of that total.
Mark McGarvey claimed the 60m Hurdles silver medal in the Irish Universities championships in Athlone on Friday and Connor Bradley posted a season’s best 3,000m at the UK Indoors in Sheffield on Saturday, while the Spartans male and female senior squads were both claiming the respective team honours in Irvinestown, in the penultimate ANI Cross Country League race.
Foyle Valley’s Scott Rankin made it even better for local athletics as he finished an impressive runner-up to race winner Stephen Duncan of Omagh Harriers. Let’s start with the cross country and what a result for the local Spartans who dug deep for a double team success on a testing Irvinestown course and in cold blustery conditions.
The men’s squad victory clinched their successful defence of their Cross Country League title with one scoring race remaining and it was a well deserved win by a seriously depleted squad.
Led home in 5th place by Noel Logan and supported solidly by James Brown, Eddie Quigley who posted his first ever scoring run in a club win, Michael Murphy and Dermot Connolly, the ‘Red Vests’ saw off Clones AC, Sperrin Harriers and North Down among others, to ensure they retained the season long ANI Cross Country League pennant. Their success was preceded by an equally stirring all-round performance by the club’s women runners, who packed brilliantly to squeeze past Omagh Harriers who had two in the top three finishers and League leaders Springwell, to claim maximum points and a magnificent Bellek China trophy to match the one won a little later by their male counterparts.
Sperrin Harriers’ Karen Alexander won the individual battle from Omagh pair Michele Sturm and Julie Butler but strong efforts from Marina Campbell 5th, Hannah Shields 6th and 10th placed Jackie McGinley pushed the female Spartans to a narrow two points win ahead of Omagh’s scoring trio, with Springwell only a further point behind in third. On a day certainly not for the faint-hearted, both local squads delivered the goods big time, securing an early celebration for the men and confirmation that the women are secure in second with only the Stormont race at the end of the month remaining of the eight League fixtures. Once again there were battling back up runs from Ciara Fraser 12th, Janeen Lesse 14th and Karen Cutliffe 16th, with Miriam Bridge getting back into competitive action for 17th.
James Brown picked up the leading M40 prize in the men’s race, Michael Murphy would have done likewise in the M35 category if he only had tied his shoe laces securely, and in the women’s age groups there was success for Una Gavin F50 and Roisin Lynch F60.