Leinster Novice & Juvenile (U12-U18) Cross Country Championships

Arctic winds blew across Navan last Saturday for the first of the Leinster Juvenile Cross Country days with races from U12 to U18. The programme also included the Leinster Novice Championships.

The well designed course had two adjoining 1km loops, one containing plenty of twists and turns and a good mix of low gradient ascents and descents, the other flat with plenty of opportunities for fast running.

The programme opened with U10 non-championship races. Lea Bolger of Bree AC ran a great race to take 4th place, and a medal. A little tailwind to push her along and she would have been a place higher. Clubmate Jayden Kenny was in a class of his own as he won the boy’s race. Enda Byrne (SBR), in 9th place, also medalled. 

Enniscorthy’s Sarah Phylan looked strong throughout a tough Girls U12 1000m race finishing in a good 8th place. She will compete on the Leinster team at the All-Ireland’s. Other Wexford placings: 19 Aoife Walsh (DMP), 23 Éabha Keane (DMP), 47 Layla Stafford (DMP), 65 Sarah O’Mahony, 69 Katie Foley (Kilmore), 85 Nicole Lageu (DMP), 96 Heather Costello (US)

In the Boys U12 race Kevin O’Mahony (DMP) finished in 7th place in a very competitive race which had a huge field. Like Sarah he makes the Leinster team for the Nationals. Other Wexford placings: 36 Ronan Shannon (US), 40 Eoin Hannon (US), 66 Tadhg O’Leary (DMP), 73 Sam Myers (US), 81 Keelan Ryan (US).

First Wexford finisher in the Girls U14 race was Kate O’Flaherty (Kilmore) in 42nd. Other Wexford placings: 63 Orlaith Byrne (SBR), 66 Arwyn Thompson (Kilmore), 71 Ellie O’Mahony, 75 Emma Cullen (DMP), 76 Freya Thompson (Kilmore), 81 Isabel Bawden (US), 83 Mary Rowe (DMP), 86 Danielle Stone (DMP), 101 Cara Kelly (DMP), 109 Hazel Hickey (USAC).

The Boys U14 3000m race was one of the best of the day. Wexford’s main hopes in this race were pinned on the slight frame of Myles Hewlett of United Striders. Myles looked very impressive when taking the U15 County title recently at JFK Park and the U14 title a couple of weeks earlier in Davidstown. From the gun, Myles was one of a break-away group of three which also included Luke Duffy (Tullamore Harriers) and Diarmuid Fagan (Mullingar Harriers). The Striders’ lad tested his opponents with his relentless surging pace. 1km into the race he used one of the deceptively tough ascents to open a small gap, with only Duffy able to react and limit the margin to 10 metres or so. Two-horse race. Out onto the outer 1km loop and Myles moved up a gear to stretch his lead. He maintained this pace all the way up the punishing home-straight to take a comprehensive win ahead of Duffy in 2nd and Fagan in 3rd. Eoin Shannon, also of United Striders, came through strongly in the latter half of the race to take 12th spot, one place ahead of clubmate Cosmo Hewlett. In the process he secured for himself a place on the Leinster team. Indeed, Striders strength in depth meant that they had four in the top 20 with Finbarr Kelly in 17th place. No surprise, therefore, that they took the team title, on 43 points, ahead of Mullingar Harriers (59) and St Abban’s (96). Wexford, with 114 points, took the County Team title ahead of Westmeath (124) and Kildare (141). The scoring six, with the four mentioned above, included James Hegarty (DMP) 27th and Sean Lennon (US) 49th. Other Wexford placings: 50 Ben Myers (US), 59 Alex Lafferty (DMP), 62 Caolan Costello (US), 68 Tommaso Hickey (US).

 DMP’s Claragh Keane gave Wexford fans further reason for cheer as she settled in with the early leaders in the Girls U16 4000m race. Running with great ease she stayed out of the battle at the head of the field between Hannah Kehoe (Gowran) and Ava O’Connor (Tullamore Harriers). With 1000m remaining she looked like she was contemplating an assault on the duo who, at this point, had a 30+ metre lead. Around the outer loop, into the home-straight and it looked like it was all settled with Hannah in front, Ava chasing and Claragh in a reasonable safe 3rd place ahead of the talented Thomastown girl Aine Kirwan. Of course, one should know better than to count one’s chickens when the home-straight is also a long dragging ascent. Heartbreak Hill! As Hannah lost momentum with victory in sight, so the wily Ava rallied and tore past her to take the win. And as Claragh dug deep in search of hidden reserves, the leggy Thomastown girl came from a good ways back to firstly close her down and then nip past in the final metres to take the Bronze. What a race! In a top class field Claragh showed that she can mix it with the best. They will certainly know who she at the All-Ireland’s next month. Ciara Dolan of Menapians finished in 46th place, Cara Kelly (DMP) 101st and Hazel Hickey (USAC) 109th.

The Boys U16 4000m race saw not one, but two, Wexford athletes chasing a podium place. When Ben Wall of United Striders and Joe Byrne of SBR met in the County Championships Ben came out on top. Who would cope best with this up and down course and its combination of fast stretches and killer hills, not to mention the big step-up in standard? From the start the pair were very much to the fore, not leading but covering. And ever threatening. In the final quarter, on the fast outer 1000m loop, Tadhg Connolly of St Senan’s took off with Ronan Hyland (Tullamore Harriers) the only one to try and stay in contact, albeit to no avail. The two Wexford boys and Oisin Farrell of St Coca’s were a little further back. Ben and Oisin broke away from Joe with “Heartbreak Hill” drawing ever nearer. With Tadhg appearing to grow in strength as the race progressed he was never going to be caught. He galloped on to take the win ahead of Hyland who stayed on for the Silver. But who would take the Bronze? Joe worked hard to successfully get back up to the pair ahead of him and, with 50 metres to go, it was impossible to call it. The tall St Coca’s boy magicked up a devastating sprint to get ahead and take the 3rd spot with Joe following in his slipstream for 4th and Ben in 5th. Tell you what, these Wexford athletes were giving the audience value for money! Adam O’Connor (US) came through in fine style to take 12th spot and the final place on the Leinster team. Aidan Shannon (US) finished very strongly in 19th place. United Striders took their 2nd team Gold, with the inclusion of 4th scorer Robert Wall’s 29th place giving them 65 points, ahead of Mullingar Harriers (78) and Rathoath (123). Wexford also picked up its 2nd set of Gold team medals well ahead of Louth in 2nd and Kildare in 3rd. Other Wexford placings (with first two listed part of winning County team of six): 28 Ronan Griffin (DMP), 29 Robert Wall (US), 60 Cian Doyle (Kilmore), 61 Senan Murphy (Kilmore), 64 Oisin MacEochaidh (US).

Wexford had two representatives, both of United Striders, in the Girls U18 race: Grace Costello placed 34th and Rebecca Bawden 38th.

In the Men’s 6000m Junior race Aedan Rogers (US) was moving very sweetly in 3rd place when he was forced to drop out through injury. In the U18 race, run off with the Juniors, Conor Keane (DMP) placed 41st and Rory Cassidy (Kilmore) 60th.

In the Novice Women’s 4000m race Katie Wilson (DMP) placed 45th, Christine Stone (DMP) 74th, Jennifer Higgins (St Paul’s) 83rd. 

First Wexford athletes across the line in the Men’s Novice 6000m race were the United Striders duo of Alan O’Connor (24th) and Brendan Lyng (25th). Other placings: 39 George Delaney (US), 45 John Stone (DMP), 71 Pat Murray (US), 85 Michael O’Flaherty (Kilmore), 98 Fabian Flood (US).

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