Lurgan Park presented a welcome back-drop of good underfoot conditions and pleasant weather as City of Derry Spartans’ in-form Declan Reed romped to the individual gold and led his clubmates to team gold in the NI & Ulster Senior Cross Country Championships on Saturday.
The flying Spartan was a class above in the 12K race and became the first Derry male athlete since Gerry Craig - on the same course back in 1987 - to claim the much coveted individual Senior Cross Country Championship crown.
And the icing on the cake was that his battling City of Derry squad also successfully defended their team title ahead of North Belfast Harriers and Newcastle AC.
Saturday’s brilliant run was Reed’s third significant cross country success in recent weeks having already claimed the Provincial Masters title last month and the National Masters honours in Tuam just six days before the weekend victory.
Foyle Valley’s Scott Rankin joined him on the Lurgan podium for the individual bronze, his best ever finish at this level with Mark McKinstry (NBH) separating the two local athletes.
Finn Valley’s Theresa Doherty won the women’s 6K Championship in fine style ahead of North Belfast’s Breege Connolly and Danielle Fagan of Armagh A.C. A very strong NBH quartet took the team title with Finn Valley second and Springwell third.
The City of Derry women were fourth, led by 11th placer Jackie McMonagle and that gave the ANI Cross Country League title to the Co Derry women after a season long battle for overall supremacy between the Springwell and the Spartans squads.
Back to the story of the men’s championship race and, indeed, after the first lap it was already clear that the red vested Reed was the class man in the large field. Poised and prominent in a leading group which included the eventual silver and bronze medallists, he pushed the pace to build a healthy gap and went on to cruise to almost a full one minute advantage at the end of the six laps.
McKinstry and Rankin had their own intense battle going on for much of the race but the NBH man dug out a break late on to secure the runners up position as the Foyle Valley runner held off a late challenge to post his best ever senior cross-country finish.