Stormont proved to be the most successful weekend venue for local athletes as both Gary Slevin and Catherine Whoriskey claimed impressive podium places in their respective races at the final scoring event of the Athletics NI Winter Cross Country League.
And the City of Derry Spartans’ senior squads clinched victory in the Men’s League and the runners-up position in the Women’s League.
Gary Slevin came with a very impressive late surge in the Men’s 5 miler to blow away Mourne Runners’ Andrew Annett and Springwell’s Neil Johnston and take second place behind Alan O’Hara of North Belfast Harriers.
This was an important effort from an improving athlete and with good support from clubmates Chris McPeake 5th, Nick McMenamin 6th and 12th placer Kieran Hurley, the Spartans scoring quartet dug out a narrow two point victory over their nearest challengers for the League title, North Belfast, to confirm the city club’s superiority over the six race Winter League programme.
On the day Spartans finished on 25 points with North scoring 27 and another North West club Springwell, were third on 72 points.
The clubs also finished in that order in the overall League standings as the Spartans relieved their Belfast rivals of League championship status for 2013.
Catherine Whoriskey once again led the local women home in fine style, finishing a strong third in the 3.5 miler behind St Peter’s Patricia O’Hagan and Claire Connor of North Belfast.
Going into the race the city club had to defeat league leaders North Down and produce more finishers than their opponents, to climb to the top of the table.
They produced on the latter but were desperately unlucky to finish just one point behind in the three to score team race.
The emerging Springwell squad won a hotly contested team race, placing 5th, 6th and 9th for a 20 point total, just three ahead of North Down, 4th, 7th and 12th and the Spartans in third spot with 24 points; courtesy of Whoriskey’s 3rd, Hannah Shields and Jackie McGinley, battling performances in 10th and 11th.
Close but no cigar unfortunately for the female Spartans. With Marina Campbell and Miriam Bridge returning to competitive action and finishing 13th and 16th, anything above a three to score format would have produced the required points turnover for the red vests.
However, all concerned since the League began in Rostrevor back in October last, did themselves proud and are to be complemented on taking the end result right to the wire.
Speaking after the Stormont race, Gerry Lynch ANI President and City of Derry secretary, praised the efforts of all the clubs who participated in the Winter League.
“ANI cross country races attracted better numbers and improved levels of competition this season due in large measure to clubs getting more involved in the League,” he said.
“Club runners of all abilities took part, many doing cross country for the first time, and all concerned did themselves and their clubs proud.”