LOCAL athletes mixed it with the best during last Saturday’s North West Cross Country races in a sodden but thankfully rain free Gransha Park.
And Open 6 kms. race winner Allan Bogle, from the promoting City of Derry Spartans club, stormed to a magnificent gun-to-tape victory ahead of local Foyle Valley rival, Scott Rankin, as the two local clubs went one, two, in both the individual and team contests.
Bogle’s big win - he claimed later that he had never previously won a cross country race - will be a major fillip for the Eglinton man who is gearing up for next month’s NI/Ulster Senior Cross Country championships in Antrim where he will be hopeful of helping the Spartans secure a podium team spot in the blue riband of NI/Ulster Cross Country action.
Saturday’s extremely well supported four race programme produced a record 200 plus entry in the featured Open 6K and in excess of 100 runners in the three Juvenile races with athletes from the length and breadth of NI/Ulster making their way to Gransha, a cross country venue which has been enhancing its reputation significantly in recent years.
Spectators too were out in big numbers, like the runners, grateful of some rain free action although the latter did have to cope with a difficult ground and challenging winds.
However, a terrific event and a series of big runs from the large local contingent in action.
Bogle grabbed the headlines with his successful front running as he held off a strong late charge from the chasing group led by Scott Rankin who closed to within three seconds at the line.
The Foyle Valley man finished five seconds clear of North Belfast’s Alan O’Hara who had just one second to spare on the second Valley finisher Chris McGuinness, a hugely impressive run that, with the Spartans duo Emmett McGinty and John Lenehan just a few strides further back, completing the top six in an absorbing three lap thriller.
North Belfast’s Gladys Ganiel was a much more emphatic Women’s race winner finishing about 50 seconds in front of the unattached athlete Lauren Quee who in turn was well clear of the third placer Mary Margaret Meade of North Belfast.
The Spartans Marina Campbell was next and led her clubmates Amy Jackson 8th, Jackie McGinley 11th and Aoife Laverty 15th to a good team victory ahead of North West rivals Springwell and Foyle Valley, fronted by the impressive Martina McMullan 6th and backed up by Sarah Lindsay 10th, Charlene McIntyre 18th and Deirdre Quigg 27th.
Good running from the local women and the points taken from NI League leaders Springwell will close the gap slightly as 2014 beckons.
Back to the Men’s race and the Spartans did the team double with Colin Roberts 8th, Shane McGowan 11th and Pajo Hamilton 12th completing their scoring six for a comprehensive win.
Valley packed better than North Down and North Belfast to keep it local and grab second spot in the male team standings on the day.
Their front runners were supported by Pius McIntyre 10th, Adrian McGowan 13th, Dara McNulty 44th and Darren Wallace 53rd to contribute significantly to a good all round performance from locals.
The results confirm the Spartans as clear leaders in the Men’s Winter League and keep Foyle Valley in the running for a top three finish.
While the leaders were battling away up front the various age group battles and vital NI Masters League points were all happening right down the field and again locals were to the fore.
Amy Jackson had a good day adding the Female U20 prize to her team winnings; Martina McMullan took the F40 win; Jackie McGinley, Bridgeen Byrne and Roisin Lynch made it an all Spartans success in the F45, F50 and F60 categories.
Shane McGowan and Connor Doherty were the top male U18 and U20 finishers; Colin Roberts claimed the M40 award and In the M65 category Gerry Lynch claimed the scalp of key rival Davy Seaton with a strong run to leave both Masters with two wins apiece so far this season.