THE Gransha grounds successfully hosted the National Juvenile Development, Masters and Intermediate cross country championships on Sunday and the comprehensive 12 race programme certainly served up a real feast of athletic endeavour.
And local runners contributed significantly to the up-front action as the weather held up for all but the final stages of the meeting.
Indeed, promoting club City of Derry Spartan’s Michael Melarkey stormed to the Boys U17 title with a brilliant run; Declan Reed took the Masters M35 individual gold as he finished second overall after an exciting duel with DSD’s Peter Matthews; and for good measure he led a strong Spartans Masters squad to inter club and inter county team silver.
Paul McCafferty added to his inter county silver with individual bronze in the M45 rankings and in the Female Masters race, Roisin Lynch was a close up silver medallist in the F60 category.
The Intermediate Men’s race brought the action to an exciting close and while the City of Derry boys missed club team bronze by a mere six points they combined with Foyle Valley duo, Scott Rankin and Pius McIntyre to grab inter county team bronze behind Dublin and Clare.
In the younger age group races there were medal runs also from Clodagh Laverty 5th in the Girls’ U13 race; Sean McIntyre 6th and Kyle O’Reilly 8th in the Boys’ U13 age group; Matt Doherty 7th in the Boys’ U17 and Alea Stewart 11h in the Girls’ U11.
Race of the day probably was the Male Masters 7K as Declan Reed and former National Senior and Masters champion Peter Matthews fought out a race long battle of attrition after breaking away from Ulster champion, David Morwood early in the race.
The local man urged on by an enthusiastic support, took the race to the Dubliner and only lost out in the sprint to the line - a great effort which gave him the runner-up spot and the M35 national title.
Behind him terrific runs from Colin Roberts in 11th, James Brown 19th and Paddy M. Doherty 27th secured inter club team silver medals behind a very strong Raheny squad.
Chipping in with 33rd was Paul McCafferty and in 47th the doughty James Crampsey, who anchored the county Derry six to inter county silver as they edged neighbours Donegal by a single point - gripping stuff! Dublin won the gold medals.
In the Men’s Intermediate the result came from a potent Foyle Valley/Spartans mix as Nick Cassidy 17th, John Lenehan 18th, Scott Rankin 20th, Pius McIntyre 26th, Cathal Logue 36th and Chris McPeake 40th combined to secure inter county bronze behind the ubiquitous Dublin again and with Clare only four points ahead in team silver.
Good strong runs from all the lads in this one and richly deserved National medals to add to the collections.
Letterkenny runner Christopher Johnston was an emphatic individual winner and confirmed his status as the reigning national U23 champion and recent European cross country participant.
Michael Melarkey was a superb winner in the Boys’ U17 3K, hitting the front in the latter stages to hold off strong challenges with an impressive performance, to announce his arrival on the big stage. More will be heard of him!
And more honours from Roisin Lynch who maintained her excellent record at national level with an F60 individual silver medal.
Only two places and nine seconds separated her from winner, Dubliner, Margaret McCreary, and this achieved after a painful collision with another athlete during her warm up.
The splendidly set up Gransha grounds were a brilliant stage for the championships, the athletes enjoyed its challenges and the large attendance of spectators were able to view and appreciate the ongoing action at close quarters.
Overall the verdict from all involved was very positive indeed!