Mud No Problem For The Flying Africans
The best quality field ever assembled for the International Cross Country at Greenmount on Saturday afternoon in both Men and Women’s races did not disappoint the record crowd which turned to watch out in near perfect conditions writes Joe Quinn.
Apparently oblivious to the soft underfoot conditions the Africans served up a fascinating battle between reigning world cross country champion Japhet Korir of Kenya, team mate Emmanuel Bett and last year’s winner Thomas Akeyo of Uganda. In a frantic dash for the line Korir’s front running was rewarded with a 2 second victory margin over Akeyo with Bett in third.
It occurs to me that the reason they cope so well with soft underfooot conditions is that they don’t leave either foot long enough in one place to sink into, seemingly gliding over whatever terrain they encounter. Ninth place finisher Paul Pollock took the NI and Ulster title ahead of Stephen Scullion with Gary Murray in third.
Megan makes Her Mark
The Women’s race too was dominated by African athletes with the Bahrain couple Mimi Belete and Maryam Jamal taking first and second places ahead of Belgium’s Almensh Belete though last year’s winner Fionnuala Britton was not disgraced in 4th place ahead of her European conqueror Gemma Steel and England’s Charlotte Purdue. East Down’s Megan Wilson ran a superb race to take 38th place overall which, discounting the Internationals and overseas visitors equates to 10th place – a remarkable feat. Club mate Catherine O’Connor also ran very well and with a few more races under her belt and an organised training programme she will be a force to be reckoned with.
Barrie Make The Masters
Not many clubs can come away from the IAAF meeting claiming a win but Barrie Atkinson did just that in fine style for East Down when he led the Masters race from start to finish to cross the line well clear of the fast finishing Peter Neill from Omagh with Larne’s Craig Hutchinson in 3rd.
Not far behind Liam Keenan battled it out with old adversary Ray Curran from Ballymena while Phillip Vint and Francis Tumelty enjoyed each others company in a trial run for more competitive activity in the final rounds of the Cross Country League.
NI Senior Citizens
It was encouraging to see a strong East Down squad take part in the Senior race which incorporates the NI and Ulster Championships. Given the presence of so many international and world class runners in the field the pressure was off the club runners to some extent which paradoxically led to some very good performances.
Brendan Teer was able to abandon his usual front running tactics and looked strong and relaxed throughout, leading the sextet home in 41st place with Martin Willcox and Michael Cultra battling it out for 2nd and 3rd East Down places respectively.
A returning Paul Burns made it into the top 100 with Declan Teague also on the road to recovery just 3 places outside it. As ever Michael McKeown was there and turned in his usual sound performance. Gavin Oakes turned in another well paced run and was just behind Michael at the line.
A very encouraging effort all round and an ideal pipe opener for n assault on the NI and Ulster Masters Team Cross Country Championships in Lurgan in three weeks time.
Primary School And Age Group Races
Natasha Savage was the only East Down girl to take part in the Primary School Girls race, performing well as usual so well done to her.
The Primary School Boys turned out an East Down trio, Andrew McGrattan, Oran Cunningham and Michael O’Connor performing well in the increasingly muddy conditions while the Under-13 Girls squad suffered from withdrawals due to illness and the resultant sympathy symptoms experienced by their friends.
Those who did make it to the venue then managed to miss the start. The Under-13 Boys did well to compensate, Tim Prenter taking an impressive 14th place, followed by Tony Carson 24th, Matthew McGrattan 44th and Philip Doran in 47th.
Laura Gardiner led the Under-15 Girls squad crossing the line in 11th place with excellent performances by Olivia Mooney and Aoife Cochrane, both looking strong throughout, with Laura Green and Elisha Surginor not far behind and Sarah Glover from the Under-13 age group getting a consolation run in the higher age group.
Daniel Atkinson, Owen Edwards and Christopher O’ Connor all seemed to find the going tough in the Under-15 Boys race, over a distance of 3.6K but all finished within 40 seconds of each other and will have another year in this category.
Ellen Erskine made a welcome return to action in the highly competitive Under-17 Girls category and finished well in what was a fast run race. She will improve for that run.
Rollercoaster races At The Racecourse
The next important event is in three weeks time when the NI and Ulster Junior and Masters Championships take place in Lurgan Park with the squad from East Down raring to go. The following weekend on 1 February it’s the Rollercoaster races, at Downpatrick Racecourse beginning at 12.00 noon and climaxing with the Senior race over 25 furlongs (5K or 3.1 miles in non-horse racing parlance) at 2.00pm in this unique setting.
This is not a Cross Country event as all the races take place on the perimeter road so there will be no wet or muddy feet to contend with and while there are neither hurdles nor fences to negotiate they are not flat races either!
Entries for all races will be taken on the day.
JIMMY’S TEN UNIQUE GUARANTEE
Online entry for Jimmy’s Ten is now open on www.athleticsni.org and it is recommended that you get in early as limits will apply and it is unlikely that entries will be taken on the day.
To encourage early entry the organisers guarantee to carry over the entries of everyone unable to run on 16 March for whatever to next year’s race, the only race of its kind to do so. So there’s nothing to lose and no reason to delay – get in early and secure your place now.
As last year’s start time proved popular with both runners and motorists the race will again start at 11am.