Kenyans Kirkirui and Kipruto take titles at the IAAF Antrim International Cross Country
The annual Antrim IAAF International Cross Country event took place today (Saturday 14th January) incorporating the British Athletics Cross Challenge.
Awarded one of only 12 IAAF World Cross Country permits the event is the highlight of the Cross Country calendar in Northern Ireland and attracts many international athletes of note.
Organised by Athletics Northern Ireland and supported by Antrim & Newtownabbey Borough Council, the races where held in the picturesque surrounds of CAFRE at Greenmount Campus in Antrim. $15,000 prize money is once again on offer, with $7500 for each of the men's and women's races.
Primary Races & Age Group
The Flahavan’s Primary School girl’s race was won by East Down’s Lauren Madine, who led a strong 1100m race from start to finish in 5:33. Ciara Nugent of Armagh, took second in 5:38 and closely behind was Willowfield’s Emmy Thornton, who took the bronze in 5:38.
Timothy McCracken of Springwell dominated the Primary School race, taking the lead early on to win in 5:20. City of Derry’s Shea Martin came in second, just 7 seconds behind Timothy. Charlie Curley of St Brigid’s went on to take third in 5:28.
The Flahavan’s Primary School girls winning team went to East Down with 16 points and Flahavan’s Primary School boys went to City of Derry with 11 points.
The U13 girl’s race was won by Fife’s Anna Hedley, who led a strong 1800m race from start to finish in 6:04. Valencia Wright of Victoria Park City of Glasgow, took second in 6:15 and closely behind was Garscube’s Anya MacLean, who took the bronze in 6:23.
Dylan McBride of Willowfield Harriers dominated the U13 race, taking the lead early on to win in 6:44. Ballydrain’s Joel Chambers came in second, just 13 seconds behind Dylan. Victor Esoza of St Joseph’s went on to take third in 7:01.
The U13 girls winning team went to City of Lisburn with 37 points and U13 boys winning team went to Wesport AC with 27 points.
The U15 girl’s race was won by Victoria Park City of Glasgow’s Lily-Jane Evans-Haggerty, who led a strong 3600m race from start to finish in 13:35. Deeside, took second in 13:51 and closely behind was Giffnock North’s Heather Barns, who took the bronze in 13:56.
David Down of Cambridge & Coleraine AC dominated the U15 race, taking the lead early on to win in 12:28. Giffnock North’s Hamish Armitt came in second, just 15 seconds behind David. Miceal McCaul of St Coleman’s went on to take third in 12:47.
The U15 girls and boys winning teams went to Giffnock North AAC, girls (17) and boys (35).
U17 Age Group & IAAF U20 Junior
The U17 girl’s race was won by Dundrum’s Jodie McCann, who led a strong 3600m race from start to finish in 14:09. Abbie Taylor of Ireland, took second in 14:31 and closely behind was Giffnock North’s Charlotte, who took the bronze in 14:46.
Matthew Willis of Wrexham AAC dominated the U17 race, taking the lead early on to win in 18:47. Ireland’s Keelan Kirehill came in second, just 15 seconds behind Matthew. Dominic Smith of Swansea went on to take third in 19:05.
The U17 girls and boys winning teams went to Ireland with 26 points and 15 points.
The U20 Womens race was won by Westbury’s Ellie Wallace, who led a strong 3600m race from start to finish in 14:01. Sophie Burnett, took second in 14:07, followed closely behind North England team mate Katy Whiteoates, who took the bronze in 14:17.
Jonathan Shields of North England dominated the U20 race, taking the lead early on to win in 18:12. Team mate Hugo Milner came in second, just 10 seconds behind Jonathan. James Edgar of City of Lisburn went on to take third in 18:24.
The U20 women’s and men’s winning team went to North England with 9 points in each.
Senior, Master & International Women’s 5600m
As predicted the race was the usual frantic sprint from the gun. The high quality field did not appear to be intimated by the blustery wind and rain or the energy sapping mud. At the end of the first lap there was the usual phalanx of African athletes plus former double winner Fionnuala McCormack fighting a lone battle for European runners.
Former African Junior Champion Caroline Kipkirui of Kenya, Ethiopian Gotytom Gebreslase, team mate Birtukan Adamu plus McCormack were well clear of the field which was led by England’s Pippa Woolvan.
There is was a dramatic change in the second lap, where an inform Kipkirui seemed to glide over the mud and quickly opened a 30 metres gap over the chasing pack. Pippa Woolvan remained in 5th place closely followed by England’s Claire Duck.
In the closing stages Kipkirui extended her lead for a convincing 42 seconds winning margin ahead of Gebreslase. McCormack suffered the misfortune of losing a shoe in the final lap and had to settle for 4th place in a sprint finish behind Adamu, whose 3rd place reflected her position from 2015. England’s Woolvan and Duck were 5th and 6th.
A delighted Kipkirui said “God gave me the strength to win this race. I pushed a bit on the second lap, but nobody followed closely behind. I think my 10,000m time of 31 mins 16 secs from last year helped me a lot over this course. I normally spend 2 months training in California and will be back there again to get another fast time.“
“I am going back to Kenya now to qualify for the world cross country in Kampala, Uganda. My main plan this summer is the world 10,000m in London.”
A somewhat down beat McCormack commented “I am disappointed with my run, mostly because I lost a shoe with 1km remaining. If this hadn’t have happened I would more than likely have obtained second place. I like Greenmount, but I didn’t have a particularly good day.”
“I am aiming for the Marathon in the London World Championships and I am also hoping I might qualify for the 10,000m.”
Senior, Master & International Men’s 8200m
There was yet another hectic pace from the start with the usual African favourites well to the fore. The quality line up included Rio Olympic Steeplechase Champion Conseslus Kipruto of Kenya, Rio 10,000m finalist Abraham Cheroben, Euro-Cross 5th place Andy Vernon, plus former European Silver Medallist Hassan Chahdi all of whom where in the leading bunch at the end of the first lap.
After the completion of the second lap a trio comprising of Cheroben, Kipruto and Vernon had broken clear of England’s Jonathan Taylor, who was running well some 40 metres back.
It was clear on the third lap that victory was the preserve of either Cheroben or Kipruto. They commenced a brutal sprint battle 200 metres from the line, with the Olympic Champion just gaining the verdict by 1 second from Cheroben, in 24 mins 36 secs. Vernon was an impressive 3rd some 19 seconds further back, followed by Chahdi (24.20). Taylor was 5th in 25.27 with Scotland’s Lachlan Oates, 6th in 25.54.
Kipruto said “I had a problem with my back before the race, but I got treatment and it didn’t affect me today. I liked the course and I waited to the very end before I increased my sprint.”
“Being an Olympic Champion has changed my life, I got silver in the World Championships in Beijing and I am determined to make that gold in London this summer.”
A pleased Vernon said “this was my hardest race this season. The course was just a bog and I couldn’t get a rhythm. You just have to live with it. This was much better than Edinburgh last week and I am now getting back to something like the old Andy Vernon. I will be running a cross country race in Belgium, followed by a half marathon.