Local athletes at Curragh Camp

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IT’S mid-December and although Christmas is just a few weeks away, there’s no early festive distractions for competitive runners as a group of City of Derry Spartans and Foyle Valley athletes prepare to travel south this weekend.

The destination is the Curragh Camp in Kildare for Sunday’s National Juvenile (Uneven Age Groups) and Novice Cross Country Championships.

Success at national level is never guaranteed but there is a quiet belief that medals may be brought home this weekend from both the Juvenile and Novice races.

A group of a dozen young Spartans have qualified via the recent N. I./Ulster Championships and they will compete at U13, U15 and U17 level on Sunday against the best juveniles in the country with Aoife Laverty (U15); Amy Jackson (U17) and Shane MCGowan (U17) perhaps the best medal prospects.

Connor Bradley will front the Spartans’ challenge in the men’s Novice 6K Championship and despite sitting out last Saturday’s big day for the club at the Malcolm Cup, he is primed and ready to have a serious shot at national honours on the country.

His proven track speed should be a major asset when the serious questions are asked come Sunday, he has been impressive in training and will start among the favourites for individual honours in Kildare.

The ‘red vests’ will also challenge for medals in the four to score club team race with Bradley backed up by J. P. Williamson, Noel Logan, Pajo Hamilton, Eoghan Furey, Gary Slevin and Cathal Logue. This is a strong squad and are expected to be well in the up front mix .

The inter county competition is six to score and the seven Spartans will be augmented in the Derry squad by the Foyle Valley trio of Scott Rankin, Cathal McLaughlin and Chris McGuinness.

The traditionally strong counties like Dublin, Cork and North-West neighbours Donegal, will be formidable opposition but the local lads on a good day, could cause a major upset.

The women’s novice squad has suffered a few key defections, losing the in-form Marina Campbell is a big blow but with the Spartans’ Jackie McGinley and Catherine Lilburn being joined by Dolores Quinn of Foyle Valley in the county team, a serious shot at the four to score Inter County 3K is still on the cards. Indeed, as Derry, with no recent pedigree in women’s cross country at national level, are a” B” ranked team, they really do have a big opportunity to shine this Sunday.

Sarah Mahon, Ciara Fraser and late additions Paula McGilloway and Una Gavin complete the travelling party with Sarah and Ciara particularly , expected to step up and deliver big runs for the team.

The Juvenile squad comprises Mark McCloskey making his national debut in the U13 race; seasoned campaigner Aoife Laverty in the U15’s; the Girls U16 squad of Amy Jackson, Tamara Boyle, Blathanad McLaughlin, Fiona Mallett and Shane McGowan leading the Boys U17 team alongside Matthew Folland, Connor Duff, Daniel Cosgrove and Peter Melerkey.

N.W. Cross Country

Saturday week, December 17th, brings the annual City of Derry Spartans’ organised North-West Cross Country Championships to the Gransha Grounds and with a total of four races on the programme a terrific pre-Christmas run out is guaranteed.

There are races for U13’s; U15’s and U17’s at 11.30 a.m., 11.40 a.m. and 11.55 a.m. All these entries will be taken on the day from 10.30 a.m. at race HQ, the U3A Foyle Building in the Gransha Grounds and at a £1/E2 entry fee with ribboned medals for all finishers, a big turn out is anticipated

Secondary Schools preparing for the upcoming District Cross Country Championships and Primary Schools involved in the ongoing local Cross Country League could benefit from participating in the Gransha meeting.

Check out all the details at www.sparta-athletics.co.uk

The Open 6K race at 12.20 p.m. caters for U20’s, Seniors and Masters with males and females all going in the one race. Entries will be taken on the day from 11 a.m. but online entry can be made at fudgelarge@gmail.com - simply send your Name, Gender, DOB and Club and you can pick up your race pack from 11 a.m. on race day at the U3A Foyle Building.

The Open Race entry fee is £5 and there is the usual extensive prize fund for all the various age categories.

Primary Schools’ League

a Huge Success

Another round of the popular local Primary Schools’ Cross Country League was staged last Friday at St. Columb’s Park with the hilly terrain proving quite challenging after the flat expanse of the Templemore Sports Complex.

However, the children as ever thoroughly enjoyed themselves - almost as much as the teachers and parents in fact - and they all can look forward to Christmas and onto the third and final round race which takes them back tro the Sports Complex on Friday, January 21st.

After two rounds, Broadbridge are in front with Long Tower, St. Patrick’s and St. Therese’s chasing hard in the Girls section.

St. Patrick’s top the Boys’ section with Broadbridge and Steelstown not far behind. The top three teams in each section qualify for the N. Ireland finals and the top five individuals - outside the team qualifiers - also travel to Mallusk in February, so it’s still all to play for!