Team titles for local squads

Runners negotiate the Gransha course on Saturday. (DER4513PG150)
Runners negotiate the Gransha course on Saturday. (DER4513PG150)

Local athletes certainly turned in some big performances this weekend at both the McConnell Shield meeting in Ballyclare on Saturday and closer to home in Gransha at the NI/Ulster Juvenile and Novice championships.

There were outstanding individual and team wins for Declan Reed and the City of Derry Spartans, male Spartans in Ballyclare and Sarah Lindsay, who led the Foyle Valley female Novice squad to emphatic Provincial championship success in Gransha.

Competing on Saturday at the Northern Ireland/ Ulster Uneven Juvenile Championships are City of Derry Spartan's runners, from left, Aela Stewart, Lily Toorish, Mary Cait Byrne and Aisling Walsh. (DER4513PG149)

Competing on Saturday at the Northern Ireland/ Ulster Uneven Juvenile Championships are City of Derry Spartan's runners, from left, Aela Stewart, Lily Toorish, Mary Cait Byrne and Aisling Walsh. (DER4513PG149)

A clutch of other impressive performances at both weekend venues made it a very rewarding few days for the local clubs who fielded runners across a wide range of age groups across both venues.

It’s early in the 2013/14 season but it’s looking good for local athletics already.

Sunday’s championship cross country action in a surprisingly dry and sometimes sunny Gransha, saw a very impressive run from Foyle Valley’s Sarah Lindsay in the female Novice 4K championship.

Newcomer Sarah had shown well in recent races but produced a brilliantly mature performance on Sunday to charge through the field in the second half of the race for a clear victory ahead of fast finishing clubmate Charlene McIntyre who grabbed the individual silver medal.

City of Derry Spartan's runners, from left, Caoimhe Walsh and Clodagh Lafferty, U15 competitors, and U13 runner Eimear Stewart pictured after their race at Gransha on Saturday. (DER4513PG147)

City of Derry Spartan's runners, from left, Caoimhe Walsh and Clodagh Lafferty, U15 competitors, and U13 runner Eimear Stewart pictured after their race at Gransha on Saturday. (DER4513PG147)

Supported tenaciously by the 6th placed Denise McElhone the Valley trio were runaway Novice team champions on a score of nine points, well clear of runners-up Rossea AC on 23 and Finn Valley on 26 points.

A great result for the local women and one enthusiastically welcomed by the big local support.

A day earlier in an equally bright and sunny Ballyclare it was Declan Reed who grabbed the headlines with a terrific run to win the annual McConnell Shield five miler and with excellent back up from Emmett McGinty 7th, Allan Bogle 8th and Greg Roberts 11th, led the Spartans to an easy team victory from North Belfast Harriers on 47 and Ballymena Runners on 84 points.

Reed had been recuperating from a recent bug and wasn’t sure of his prospects pre-race but was always prominent in a four man lead group right from the gun.

Just before the last of the five laps he opened a narrow gap which he held to the finish, getting home seven seconds clear of promising Springwell athlete Neil Johnston, North Belfast’s Alan O’Hara and Rostrever winner Benny Teer of East Down, as a mere five seconds covered the chasing trio.

An impressive effort from the red vest who revealed post-race that he is nursing a niggling hip problem and hopes it will clear up to enable him to join the County Derry squad for this weekend’s National Inter Counties championship in Dublin.

Scott Rankin showed well for fifth, getting away to lead home the second chasing group which included Willowfield’s Brian Campbell, Emmett McGinty and Allan Bogle.

All three locals looked good and will join Reed, Connor Bradley, Pius McIntyre and Chris McGuinness in the county squad this weekend.

The Spartans’ team victory and 12 finishers in the race saw them pick up maximum points in the NI XC League and further extend their lead at the top of the table after three scoring races.

Looking good to retain their title!