THE massed spectators at Saturday’s Antrim International cross country meeting were treated to a highly entertaining 11 race programme with local athletes also making their presence felt.
Young Aela Stewart of Broadbridge Primary School finished joint first in the Girls Primary schools race and the City of Derry Spartans men’s squad grabbed team bronze in the NI/Ulster senior championships behind perennial rivals St Malachy’s and Annadale Striders.
Ireland’s and indeed Europe’s cross country queen, Fionnuala Britton, underlined her genuine quality with a gun-to-tape victory in the women’s 5.6K race.
A depleted and disappointed Spartans squad secured a bronze medal after they were led superbly by Declan Reed in fifth spot and Emmet McGinty’s excellent 10th place finish, the red vests could have done with a few of their absent front liners to stiffen up their championship challenge.
However, the squad on duty gave their all on the day, three of the scoring six claiming their first ever senior championship team medals and it’s back to the drawing board in the quest to reclaim that elusive provincial title.
Declan Reed had a very good run, posting his best ever senior championship finish with a gutsy effort to edge out Letterkenny’s Christopher Johnston and claim the North West region bragging rights.
Emmet McGinty too had his best ever run in this race, his determination key to making the top 10.
Arnie Doherty came back from Spain for 15th, he was perhaps not quite at full fitness but put himself on the line for the club; Nick Cassidy’s 23rd place finish was exceptional and he is certainly one to watch and battling runs from James Brown 30th and Cathal Logue 33rd completed the City of Derry bronze medal scorers.
The Foyle Valley boys were also close to the action, the consistent Keith Shields impressing once again in 12th, Scott Rankin and Pius McIntyre were 20th and 21st but the squad lacked the depth to get close to the medal contenders and they finished back in fifth place.
The Junior championships later this month could be a better opportunity for them.
In the Women’s championship there were no medals for the female Spartans, indeed the seriously understrength squad did well for fourth place behind North Belfast, North Down and the emerging Springwell.
Hannah Shields in 16th led the red vests home with Jackie McGinley 18th, Miriam Bridge 19th and Paula McGilloway 31st, the scoring quartet.
North Belfast’s Gladys Ganiel was a clear winner ahead of the promising Danielle Fegan of Armagh and North Down’s Jessica Craig. NBH took the team honours from North Down and a delighted Springwell.
Clodagh and Aoife Laverty did well in the very competitive Girls U13 and U17 races respectively and will now look ahead to the upcoming District Schools championships with these runs under their belt.
Connor Doherty finished well inside the top half of a top quality U17/U20 race and will take a run in the Spartans NI/Ulster Junior squad in Lurgan on Saturday, January 26th next.
Finally on the Antrim races it has to be very well done to Broadbridge PS duo Alea Stewart and Lily Tourish who finished joint first and fifth in Saturday’s Primary schools race.
They will line up again in the third and final round of the local Flavahan’s Primary Schools league race this Friday at the Sports Complex, buoyed up by Saturday’s fine efforts.