NI & Ulster Age Groups and Bobby Rea Memorial Preview
27 October 2017
This weekend sees the second round of the Athletics NI XC League, with the Bobby Rea Memorial XC Races taking place in Kilbroney Park, Rostrevor, as part of a programme of events which include the Northern Ireland & Ulster Even Age Group XC Championships (Saturday 28th October 2017).
In the opening round of the Athletics NI XC League 2017/18, the Comber Cup XC, Neil Johnston (Springwell Running Club) edged an excellent men’s race, beating Patrick McNiff (Newcastle AC) and Mark McKinstry (North Belfast Harriers) to top honours. All three should line up in this event and will be joined by Craig McMeechan (North Down AC), Neill Weir (Willowfield Harriers), Luke Dinsmore (Springwell Running Club), Francis Marsh (North Down AC), Joe Malone (North Belfast Harriers) and Pius McIntyre (Foyle Valley AC).
The leading ladies from Comber, Breege Connolly (City of Derry AC) and Jessica Craig (North Down AC), should also feature. They will come up against QUB AC’s Sinead Sweeney and Dromore AC’s Rebekah Nixon, as well as Northern Ireland international mountain runner Esther Dickson (Newry AC) and winner of last week’s NIMAA XC Catherine Diver (Beechmount Harriers). Charlene Haugh (Mourne Runners) is an athlete to look out for, as are junior ladies Amy Hamill (Glaslough Harriers), Edel Monaghan (Enniskillen Running Club) and Catriona McGloin (City of Lisburn AC).
The Junior races will cover categories from Under 10 to Under 18, with the Under 10’s kicking off proceedings at 11.30am – with NI & Ulster medals and All Ireland selection up for grabs, it’s sure to be an excellent day of racing.
Finn O’Neill (City of Derry AC), Lauren Ramsey (Loughview AC), Boyd O’Neill (City of Derry AC), Victoria Lightbody (City of Lisburn AC), Enya Haigney (Derry Track Club), Finn Cross (Willowfield Harriers), Rhys McManus (East Coast AC). Kirsti Foster (East Down AC), Rebecca Wallace (Lagan Valley AC), Cormac O’Rourke (Lagan Valley AC), Sean Corry (Omagh Harriers) and Oliver Robinson (East Down AC) are just a few of the up and coming stars who will be out to enjoy the event.
It's worth noting, entries for the Bobby Rea Memorial XC Races may be made from 1pm on the day at the registration area (next to the tennis courts). There will be no on the day entries accepted for the age group races.
Laura Graham & Stephen Scullion go for Gold in Dublin
Also this weekend,
Northern Ireland duo Laura Graham (Mourne Runners) and Stephen Scullion (Clonliffe Harriers) will be aiming for AAI National Marathon gold as hundreds of local athletes join the record breaking 20,000 field taking on this weekend’s SSE Airtricity Dublin Marathon (Sunday 29th October 2017).
Current AAI National Marathon Champion Laura topped the podium last year with a then personal best of 2:41:54. She significantly improved this with a 2:37:05 finish at the Berlin Marathon last month (September 2017). Laura followed this up with impressive wins at the Bangor 10k (34:37) and the Armagh 10 (57:18); the latter was a personal best.
The Kilkeel woman, who this week was announced as an Athletics NI Commonwealth Games 2018 nominee, will face tough opposition, but is excited by the prospect of once again lining up against Ireland’s best athletes. This includes Letterkenny AC’s Irish Olympian Catriona Jennings, who won the Belfast City Half Marathon in 1:15:38; Catriona holds a marathon personal best of 2:36:14 (2012). DSD AC’s Maria McCambridge and Clonliffe Harriers’ Barbara Sanchez are amongst those who should contest podium places. Denise Logue (Ballydrain Harriers) and Judith Lonnen (City of Lisburn AC) will also be in action at the event.
Meanwhile, Stephen Scullion will ensure that there is NI representation at the head of the men’s pack. After a return to competitive action this year, Stephen has impressed over a variety of distances, with his 28:58 personal best for 10,000m and a 2:17:59 finish at the London Marathon being amongst his most notable performances – he also won the Frank Duffy 10 mile road race in 50:36 and claimed a top twenty spot at the Great North Run in 1:05:52.
Stephen will challenge for the National title and should he dip under 2:18:00 and take the gold, it would put him in the frame for European Athletics Championships selection for 2018. In terms of competition for the National title, the NI man will come up against reigning Champion Sergiu Ciobanu, also of Clonliffe Harriers. Other local men who should finish well up the field include Emmett McGinty (City of Derry AC), Kyle Doherty (City of Lisburn AC), Andrew Considine (North Belfast Harriers), Thomas Simmons (North Belfast Harriers) and Stephen McAlary (Springwell Running Club).
Former winner of the Dublin Marathon, Alemu Gemechu (Ethiopia), will start as favourite with fellow countryman Asefe Bekele, a podium finisher in 2015 and 2016, also a contender. Current Belfast City Marathon Champion Bernard Riotich (Kenya) and Walled City Marathon Champion Dan Tanui (Kenya) are also scheduled to compete, as is familiar face Freddy Sittuk (Raheny Shamrock AC).
In the ladies race, experienced marathoner Ashu Kasim (Ethiopia) will come up against previous Dublin Marathon winner Nataliya Lehonkova (Ukraine).