Ireland’s top cross-country runners descended upon Santry Demesne last Sunday in pursuit of national glory and European selection at the Irish Life Health National Senior, Under 23, Junior and Juvenile Even Age Cross Country Championships. First three home in each of the Senior, U23, and U20 races booked their places on the Irish team set to compete at the SPAR European Cross Country Championships at the Sport Ireland Campus on December 12th.
On a perfect day for cross country running – cool, dry and sunny – a big turnout of spectators was treated to a feast of athletics action featuring Olympians, national champions and European championship medallists. European Under 20 gold medallist Nicholas Griggs of Mid Ulster AC was first across the line in the Men’s Junior/U18 race. Jane Buckley of Leevale, winner at the recent Autumn Open International Cross Country, took the Junior Ladies title. Olympic steeplechaser Michelle Finn won a high class Senior Women’s race notwithstanding a valiant effort by UCD’s Sarah Healy to reel her in. Double National T&F gold medallist Hiko Haso Tonosa of DSD held off the talented UCD student Darragh McElhinney in a super-exciting Senior Men’s 10k with the latter taking the under 23 title.
While there were no podium placings for Wexford athletes young Emma Hickey from United Striders had an exceptional run in the under 14 girls to place 4th. Emma, a newcomer to athletics, only took up running to help improve her equestrian sports. The race went off at a blistering pace with few prepared to match the pace of the early leader. Emma bravely decided to have a go, moving up to 5th place in the running order. Over the last lap she moved up to 4th place and, despite her best efforts to close the gap on 3rd, the finish line came too quickly. Emma’s 4th place was an impressive achievement, particularly as she was running up an age.
The county’s next best result came courtesy of Claragh Keane (DMP) in the Girl’s Under 18 4km race which was run off with the Juniors. Claragh looked like she was not comfortable with the relentless early pace. With selection for the Europeans the big goal of the day, the top contenders were seriously pumped. Never one to panic, Claragh settled into her rhythm in the second half of the race and made her way up through the field. She was rewarded with a good 8th place finish. Róisín O’Reilly (Menapians) withdrew from the race at the midpoint following a heavy fall. Indeed, having succumbed to a bug in the days leading up to the race she had a lethargic look to her from the start which suggested she might have been better to sit this one out.
Myles Hewlett, one of United Striders rising stars, had a good run to finish 9th in the Men’s Under 18 6k. Always doggedly consistent and content to run his own race, Myles is mature beyond his years.
Another up and coming United Striders athlete Max Murphy was the only Wexford representative in the under 14 boys 3k. He started off conservatively on the first of two laps but upped the tempo on the last lap, picking off places to finish in an excellent 15th place. He was rewarded for his effort by being a scorer on the gold medal-winning Leinster team.
SBR’s Joe Byrne, , hampered somewhat by an injury picked up the previous week, placed 19th in the Junior Men’s 6k. Striders athlete Adam O’Connor also ran well in the junior race.
United Striders were hoping for a good result for their under 18 boys team. Unfortunately, those plans went adrift despite Myles Hewlett’s good result when Will Parks pulled up with an injury. Aidan Shannon finished 42nd with Eoin Shannon 90th. Alex Gregg of DMP finished in 69th. Well done also to Croghan’s Daniel Byrne.
United Striders athlete, Sean Lennon, put in a very dogged performance in the under 16 race to place 20th. Aoife Walsh of DMP placed 44th in the Under 16 Girl’s event with clubmate Maria Coone in 50th. Abbey Wolohan of Croghan had a good run to place 73rd. DMP finished up 14th club overall, a great experience for the girls to make a national final, with Cara Kelly 127th and Nicole Lageu in 131th. Well done also to Katie Foley of Kilmore.
Wexford contenders in the Senior Women’s 8k were Ciara Wilson DMP 58th and Elizabeth Egan Bree 106th. In the Senior Men’s event Striders were well represented with Alan O’Connor 143rd, Thomas Moran 175th, Sean Murphy 184th and John Hickey 186th.