Adamstown hosts Wexford Schools Cross Country

The fields were white and the frost hard on the fields of Adamstown last Wednesday morning as Ger Forde and his team walked the course for that day’s Wexford Schools Cross Country Championships. Above their heads the skies were blue with blinding sunshine sending down more light than heat. Running on frozen fields is like running on badly laid concrete. Not to be recommended. Getting on towards 11am and the start of the first race of the day, they reviewed the situation and reckoned that it was safe enough to proceed. Game on!

Gathered together in the field beside the church were some 400 athletes from 18 different secondary schools across the county. For the serious ones, this was an opportunity to get a competitive run out before a busy schools cross country season which will conclude with the All-Irelands in early March.  

Loreto Wexford had been the dominant school in Wexford schools athletics in recent years and they were looking to hold on to the Donna Foley perpetual trophy for the third year running. The main challenge would come from St Peters College, St Mary’s New Ross, Wexford CBS and Creagh College, Gorey. As well as competing for best overall school, many athletes came in hope of winning an individual medal.  

The action commenced with the minor girls race run over 1km. Katie Byrne (St Mary’s New Ross) set a blistering pace at the front, pulling Isabel Aspel (Ramsgrange) along in her wake in the early stages. Ultimately, Izzy, one of the county’s top combined events prospects as well as being versatile across a range of track and field disciplines, was happy to let Katie push ahead and run her own race. Gold for the St Mary’s girl with Izzy taking silver ahead of a strong-finishing Faye Barry (Bridgetown) in 3rd. Katie’s school-mate Niamh O’Brien placed 4th and St Mary’s took team gold.
In the minor boys race, another New Ross student, Sam Dowling of Good Counsel, put in a classic front running performance over the one-lap 1km course to win with ease. Behind him, there was a battle for second place between two Wexford CBS students, Tadhg Furlong and William O’Rourke. In the finishing straight it was Tadhg who got ahead to take the silver, William in the bronze medal position. The pair led the CBS boys to a win in the team event.
The junior girls race, the final 1km race of the day, was led out by the talented Saoirse Flanagan with fellow Presentation Wexford girl and talented track athlete Kayleigh Butler secure in 2nd place and Kate Hayden (St Mary’s) in 3rd. St Mary’s, with three in the top six, were top team.  

Aaron Hancock (Bridgetown) led out the junior boys 2km race from the start with Kyle Bolger (Good Counsel) several paces behind him and a larger gap then to Larry Sludds (Coláiste Abbain). The gaps between each opened further on the final lap and, in the end, Aaron trotted home untroubled to win gold ahead of runner-up Kyle, Larry staying on for the bronze. St Peter’s College took the team honours with Leo Sinnott (5th) and Oisín Ennis (6th) leading the Wexford town school home.
The intermediate girls race provided the most excitement of day with Emma Hickey (St Mary’s) and Aoife Walsh (Loreto), two of the top young cross country runners in the country, running side by side for most of the two laps. Behind them, All-Ireland race-walking gold medalist Lily Ryan (Our Lady Of Lourdes, New Ross) was looking strong in third position only for Ruby Gallagher O’Reilly (Gorey Community School) to get ahead of her with a lap to go. Into the closing stages of the race and Emma seized the initiative to put one, two paces between herself and Aoife. Aoife did not crack and turning into the short home straight she gave it everything she had. In the end, she came up just short and they finished like that, nothing between them. Gold for Emma, silver for Aoife. Ruby, meanwhile, had stretched away from Lily and she came home a good third. Loreto’s number two Cora Finn in 6th place helped secure the team title for the school.

The intermediate boys race was dominated by the Good Counsel, and United Striders, duo of Max Murphy and Joss O’Connor, a formidable force. The two ran the bulk of the race together putting plenty of distance between themselves and their pursuers. Just before the final turn for home, Max opened the after-burners and went on to win by a few seconds, Joss taking the silver. Daniel Higgins (Creagh College) secured 3rd place. Unsurprisingly, with top two spots on the podium, Good Counsel won team gold.  

The senior girls race was dominated by Maria Coone (Loreto), one the DMP girls’ dream team and, like Lily Ryan, a national gold medal winning race-walker. She set an honest, yet unforced, pace from the start which saw her opening up an ever-increasing gap on her closest pursuer Lily Murray, also Loreto. While Maria galloped on for an easy win, Lily was overhauled by Cora Noonan (St Mary’s) who went on to take the runner-up spot, Lily being rewarded for her early efforts with bronze. St Mary’s won the team title, their second of the day.
The senior boys 3km race saw an exhibition of front-running by Callum Barron (Good Counsel). A stylish and economical runner, he pulled clear early in the race from DJ Dempsey (New Ross CBS) and his United Striders team-mate Seán Lennon (Kennedy College). Callum went on to take a good win, while DJ got ahead of Seán in the battle for silver, the latter settling for bronze. Creagh College won team gold thanks to the efforts of twins Jason and Daniel Santos in 5th and 6th positions. 

The race for the best overall school and the Donna Foley trophy was still in the balance after six of the eight races with four schools in contention – St Peter’s, Wexford CBS, Loreto and St Mary’s all tied on five points. In the end it was St Mary’s who prevailed. St Peters, Wexford CBS, Loreto and Creagh College all finished on level pegging, three points adrift of the winners.

Next up on the schools athletics calendar is the South Leinster Cross Country which takes place Tuesday, 30th January in Carlow town.  

Minor Girls
1st Katie Byrne (St Mary’s New Ross), 2nd Isabel Aspel (Ramsgrange), 3rd Faye Barry (Bridgetown), 4th Niamh O’Brien (St Mary’s), 5th Olivia Mullally (Our Lady of Lourdes New Ross), 6th Kate Corcoran (OLOL).
Teams: 1st St Mary’s New Ross; 2nd Bridgetown College; 3rd Loreto Wexford

Minor Boys
1st Sam Dowling (Good Counsel), 2nd Tadhg Furlong (Wexford CBS), 3rd William O’Rourke (Wexford CBS), 4th Dylan Moran (Kennedy College), 5th Eoin Murphy (New Ross CBS), 6th Maitiu Wall (Good Counsel).
Teams: 1st Wexford CBS; 2nd New Ross CBS; 3rd Gorey Educate Together

Junior Girls
1st Saoirse Flanagan (Presentation), 2nd Kayleigh Butler (Presentation), 3rd Kate Hayden (St Mary’s New Ross), 4th Rachel Murphy (Our Lady of Lourdes New Ross), 5th Leah Reville (St Mary’s), 6th Laoise Kehoe (St Mary’s).
Teams: 1st Presentation; 2nd St Mary’s New Ross; 3rd Loreto

Junior Boys
1st Aaron Hancock (Bridgetown), 2nd Kyle Bolger (Good Counsel), 3rd Larry Sludds (Coláiste Abbain), 4th Páidí Griffin (Wexford CBS), 5th Leo Sinnott (St Peter’s), 6th Oisin Ennis (St Peter’s).
Teams: 1st St Peter’s College; 2nd Wexford CBS; 3rd Good Counsel

Inter Girls
1st Emma Hickey (St Mary’s New Ross), 2nd Aoife Walsh (Loreto), 3rd Ruby Gallagher O’Reilly (Gorey Community School), 4th Lily Ryan (Our Lady of Lourdes New Ross), 5th Chloe Wafer (Creagh College), 6th Cora Finn (Loreto).
Teams: 1st Loreto; 2nd Bridgetown College; 3rd Creagh College

Inter Boys
1st Max Murphy (Good Counsel), 2nd Joss O’Connor (Good Counsel), 3rd Daniel Higgins (Creagh College), 4th Paudie Kavanagh (St Peter’s), 5th Conor Hancock (Bridgetown), 6th Jack Barron (Kennedy College).
Teams: 1st Good Counsel; 2nd St Peter’s College; 3rd Creagh College

Senior Girls
1st Maria Coone (Loreto), 2nd Cora Noonan (St Mary’s New Ross), 3rd Lily Murray (Loreto), 4th Sophie Chapman (St Mary’s), 5th Aoife Lyng (St Mary’s), 6th Luna Neville (St Mary’s).
Teams: 1st St Mary’s New Ross

Senior Boys
1st Callum Barron (Good Counsel), 2nd DJ Dempsey (New Ross CBS), 3rd Sean Lennon (Kennedy College), 4th Crann Moroney (St Peter’s’s), 5th Jason Santos (Creagh College), 6th Daniel Santos (Creagh College).
Teams: 1st Creagh College; 2nd Ramsgrange Community School