Faughanvale schoolboy, Finn O’Neill, has been hailed “an ambassador” after securing first place in the N.I. Boys’ Cross Country final.
The 11-year-old, who trains with City of Derry Spartans A.C., beat 198 other runners at the event in Mallusk last Wednesday to be crowned the boys’ race champion.
It’s hard to describe, but it was a great feeling.Finn O’Neill
Finn, a pupil at Faughanvale P.S., said it was a great feeling to cross the finish in first place.
“I kept looking behind me to see where the other runners were. It’s hard to describe, but it was a great feeling. I could hear my mum shouting above everyone else,” he declared.
Finn’s achievement is all the more remarkable given he only really started running towards the end of 2015.
It was a combination of teacher Mr. O’Hare introducing cross country at school coupled with inspiration from his friend Matthew who was already training with the Derry city club.
On one of his first big outings, racing against boys a year older, Finn said he didn’t compete very well. However, he was determined to learn from the experience which is exactly what he’s done.
Finn crossed the line in Mallusk after running 1.4 kms. in 5 minutes and 9 seconds.
And his mum and dad, Samantha and Shane were there at the finish line cheering him on.
“Finn never ceases to amaze us both,” Samantha told the ‘Journal’.
“He has really excelled over the last year. This is due to not only his own hard work and commitment to training, but also the support of his teachers, especially Mr. O’Hare, who coaches at COD Spartans and his team mates.
“We are all so proud of him.”
School principal, Anne McGroarty said Finn’s name would be in the school’s history books. She calleddescribed him as an ambassador.
“We’re delighted for him and the effort he puts in.
“He’s definitely taking on all the points that Mr. O’Hare has given him and he is so dedicated to his training. His parents are also very dedicated and supportive.
“It’s the school’s 50th anniversary this year and it’s a fantastic occasion for Finn and a fantastic achievement for us to remember.”
Mrs. McGroarty added: “Finn’s modesty is always there. He carries his win with a real grace and it’s great to see.”
Finn thanked his coaches at school and club; his team mates and “my mum and dad for literally being at every race I’ve ever run,” he said.
The next challenge is the All Ireland Championships. Finn hopes to become a professional runner just like his hero, Eglinton paralympian champion, Jason Smyth.