Omagh hosts NI Championships

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Another massive weekend of competitive athletics will feature road, trail and indoor action at venues in Stranorlar, Omagh, London, the Causeway Coast and Nenagh.

Stranorlar, Omagh and London will definitely feature local road runners, the Causeway Coast will have Allan Bogle and Hannah Shields tackling the gruelling Lost World 100K trail race and the second weekend of the National Juvenile Indoor championships may also see some locals travel south.

Although several local juveniles have qualified for the second weekend of the National Indoors, few if any are expected to make the trip, due primarily to the expense involved for the travel and accommodation.

However, closer to home the fourth and final race in the Finn Valley 5K series gets the weekend action underway tonight at 7 p.m. in Stranorlar with yet another big turnout expected for what has proved to be a hugely successful and competitive series. As usual entries will be taken pre-race at the Finn Valley Centre.

The 2012 NI Half Marathon championship will be hosted at tomorrow’s annual Omagh race which starts at 12 noon and with in excess of 1,000 participants expected, an exciting afternoon’s racing is on the cards at the popular Omagh event.

Athletics NI awarded 2012 championship status to Omagh following a couple of successful years at the local Waterside event and no doubt both sets of organisers will be bidding again shortly for the 2013 championship.

Both events are well established and exhibit a high level of professional organisation so the plans to unveil a new, improved Waterside course for later this year could be significant when the 2013 applications are submitted.

What of the up front action tomorrow? Defending men’s champion, Stephen Duncan of the host club is the likely favourite once again tomorrow.

A hard man to beat most times, he will be boosted by being on home turf and holding an impressive recent winning streak on the road but an old adversary, Greg Roberts is in the starting line-up and is confident of a big run tomorrow.

The Spartan has two recent outings over 10K, finishing runner-up in both to Duncan and then to another Waterside and NI champion, Joe McAlister of St Malachy’s.

However, he ran significantly faster in the St. Patrick’s weekend Jimmy’s 10k in Downpatrick and will start tomorrow with growing confidence.

North Belfast Harriers took the men’s championship team honours last year ahead of the Spartans and both clubs could be up there again this time.

The composition of both squads are unknown at this stage, as indeed is the strength of the opposition but rest assured the championship individual and team medals will be fiercely contested tomorrow.

North Down and City of Derry fought out last year’s women’s championship and both will have athletes in the field again this time with North Belfast and Dromore also likely to feature.

2012 female champion, Julie Balmer of North Down ran second last Saturday in the Larne Half and could be the one to watch again in Omagh.

Inishowen’s super vet, Helena Crossan was third in Larne and probably will not be far away again while Marina Campbell and Sarah Mahon will front the Spartans’ challenge.

Lost World 100K Race

So how are you spending tomorrow? Catching a few rays? Working in the garden? Going for a walk? Well spare a thought or two for Allan Bogle and Hannah Shields who will be tackling the Lost World Causeway Crossing, a 100K - 60 mile plus - challenge on paths, tracks, beaches and coastline of the North Antrim coast.

The City of Derry duo are of course no strangers to Ultra racing and tomorrow will check in around 4 a.m. prior to the 6 a.m. start from Glengarff, before heading off via Ballitoy, along the Causeway Coast Way to Portrush and then returning back to the finish in Ballintoy.

Bogle won a 10K Mountain race in Glenariff a few weeks ago but this time he’ll have to do another nine 10K’s before he and Hannah can put their feet up.

Bay Road 5K

Anyone interested in participating in the Bay Road 5K race which opens the 2012 Furey Insurances 5K series on Wednesday, April 18th next can now enter online by sending, name, date of birth, age on race day and club to fudgelarge@gmail.com

Entries of course will be taken on the day at race HQ in the Magee College Campus Sports Centre on the Rock Road but advance entry is recommended. The race pack can be collected at race HQ from 6 p.m. on April 18th and the entry fee of £7/E8 paid at that time.

Full details of all six races in the popular series will be formally announced next week and the expectation is for another record number of participants in the series which has successfully integrated club runners and joggers of all abilities in a communal effort over the classic 5K distance, at a variety of city and cross border venues.